Lancaster native running against Bunning again

February 03, 2004|JIM LOGAN

Barry Metcalf is back for Round 2 against Jim Bunning. Five years after losing to Bunning in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the Lancaster native will try again in the May 18 primary.

Bunning is an ensconced incumbent who has the backing of the powerful GOP establishment; Metcalf, a former state senator, is out of office and living in Richmond. Why make another run?

"Persistence and determination are my secrets to my success," said Metcalf, 55, who manages property and does construction contracting.

He points out that he received 26 percent of the vote against Bunning in the 1998 primary, garnering 52,498 votes. What he doesn't mention is that his opponent got 151,930 votes, or 74 percent.

But Metcalf believes he has the issues on his side, and is quick to characterize Bunning as a rubber stamp for President Bush and the Republican leadership.


At the top of Metcalf's list of outrages is the high price of prescription drugs in the United States - especially compared with places like Canada and Europe. He points out that Bunning voted against a bill that would have legalized the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

"I think Sen. Bunning is completely out of touch with what's going on," Metcalf said, noting that Bunning said the Canadian drugs "aren't safe," even though they are identical to those sold in this country.

"Two-thirds of our medical costs are for prescription drugs," he said. "The best way to control health care costs in this count is to address this problem. The elderly and people on fixed incomes literally can't afford it. They're making a choice between medical care and having food in the house."

Metcalf also takes exception to the Medicare bill Bunning backed that provides a limited prescription drug benefit to seniors. "That affects one group of people," he said. "What about what I would term the working poor ... with no benefits at all? How does that help? It doesn't do anything at all."

On other issues, Metcalf sticks with conservative themes. He supports President Bush and the war on terror. He is against abortion and believes in the public's right to bear arms. "The one issue criminals fear the most is an armed victim," he said.

As a 20-year veteran of the military who is major in the Kentucky National Guard, he says he will defend veterans programs. He opposes plans to close the Veterans Administration hospital on Leestown Road.

He also wants to prevent what he sees as society's drive to euthanize the elderly. He cites the efforts of the husband of a brain-damaged Florida woman to have her feeding tube removed, and calls it evidence of a "slippery slope" to euthanasia.

On the economy, Metcalf said he would seek to bring businesses to Kentucky by investing in infrastructure. With a strong labor force and the lowest electricity costs in the nation, he said, the state is attractive to industry. But businesses won't come unless there are good roads, water and sewer systems, he said.

He also would also promote "alternative agriculture" in the state. With tobacco farming depressed, he would encourage the commercial cultivation of kenaf, a fiber crop related to cotton and okra.

"We just can't continue to cut down 80-year-old trees to make paper," said Metcalf, who says he would not support commercial hemp farming. "You can get the same thing from kenaf."

Additionally, he would promote the use of genetically modified crops, saying they're the biological equivalents of cross-pollinated plants.

His agenda is ambitious, but is it enough to topple Bunning?

"You've got to get the word out," Metcalf replied.

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