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Sloane Seeks Spark Against McConnell

October 9, 1990 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ Democrat Harvey Sloane has tried to tie Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell into the savings and loan mess and sought to portray the senator as an enemy of the working man.

Sloane even came up with the catchiest slogan of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race: ″Ditch Mitch.″

Nothing appears to be working.

Sloane, a former Louisville mayor, trailed McConnell by 12 percentage points in April. The gap widened to 20 points by mid-September, the largest margin so far in the campaign.

When Sloane blamed McConnell for the costly S&L bailout, McConnell pointed out Sloane’s own ties to a developer with thrift connections.

McConnell deftly sidestepped Sloane’s charges that he has been a non-entity on health care by introducing his own plan. When Sloane blasted McConnell for voting against a bill requiring 60-day notice for plant closings, McConnell said it was because he wanted a longer notice.

When it became clear that Kentuckians were interested in a family leave provision, McConnell pre-empted Sloane’s charges of avoiding the issue by endorsing a plan.

Sloane attacked McConnell’s heavy spending on mass mailings at public expense and accepting piles of money from political action committees. The accusations failed to make an impact.

McConnell has worked at reversing the typical images of Democrats and Republicans, claiming Sloane is the real representative of the rich, complete with a million-dollar inheritance and a vacation cabin in Canada.

″Sloane has been trying to hold himself out as the candidate for working men and women,″ McConnell said. ″I’m a member of that class. I’m the guy who has to struggle to pay tuition for my kids in college, who has to live on what he makes.″

Sloane has had to stay off the campaign trail more than he would have liked in order to raise money. But for the final month of the campaign, he promises, ″I’m hitting the road from here on in ... These last five weeks are going to be taking the campaign to the grass roots.″

Sloane’s campaign also suffered as he fended off questions about his practice of prescribing his own medication for an arthritis condition. Sloane, a licensed but non-practicing physician, was chided for the practice by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure and agreed to stop.

But when it later came to light that Sloane had used an expired Drug Enforcement Administration license for the prescriptions, the board decided to investigate further and will hold a hearing on Oct. 18.

University of Louisville political science professor Joel Goldstein said Sloane has three strikes against him. He has not been able to raise money, there has been no overriding issue in the campaign and his personal problems have overshadowed his campaign.

″Any one of the three could have hurt him,″ Goldstein said. ″The three factors together decimate him.″

McConnell, who won an upset six years ago over two-term Democrat Walter ″Dee″ Huddleston, has run a cagey campaign. He has combined generous television advertising with selected personal appearances.

The only televised debate between the two was acknowledged as a McConnell victory. The second debate was canceled after the death of McConnell’s father.

Sloane, who has lost two statewide races for governor, desperately needs another statewide television face-off with the incumbent before the Nov. 6 election.

Sloane has been clamoring to reschedule a debate, but the McConnell campaign has portrayed it as callousness and accused the Democrat of dirty campaigning and failing to honor McConnell’s grief.

There have been moments of bitter rhetoric.

In their lone debate, Sloane contended McConnell had failed to support Kentucky coal and kowtowed to the oil industry.

McConnell called Sloane a hypocrite because he owns stock in Exxon Corp., which he called ″one of the nation’s principal polluters.″

″I own a little stock,″ Sloane acknowledged. ″They own you lock, stock and barrel.″