He fears Cap and Trade, and he supports a healthy coal future.
He is Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo and he is, on paper, a Democrat, but at heart his own man, running for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat vacated recently by the resignation of Republican Jim Bunning.
“It is time to rid ourselves of the old two-party rhetoric,” he said Monday during an exclusive interview with the Salyersville Independent.
“We have too many serious problems facing our state and our nation and we need genuine leadership. We need solutions and a chicken in every pot isn’t going to fix it.”
Cap and Trade is a major national issue Mongiardo says is a matter that will adversely affect citizens of Appalachia and Magoffin County.
“The Cap and Trade bill that recently passed the house scares me to death,” he said. “It is a massive tax on the backs of Appalachia that we simply cannot afford.
“The Cap and Trade tax might triple our electric bills and I know many people who can’t pay that kind of money just to heat their homes.”
Mongiardo, born and raised in Hazard, says coal is the answer, not the problem, to many of the area’s and the nation’s problems.
“I believe coal has to be the cornerstone of our energy production,” he said. “We have enough coal reserves to last another 250 years so we don’t have to worry about running out in the immediate future and the technology is there to turn coal to liquid and produce a clean burning and affordable fuel.”
Mongiardo isn’t exactly against renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, but admits that the thoughts of it serving areas beyond the west coast and southwestern states is close to impossible.
He does, however, think coal in its proper use, could reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign oil and make the United States a safer country.
“There are two ways to improve homeland security,” he said. “One is to send our young men and women to risk their lives in oil rich countries or create our own energy with coal and Kentucky leading the way.
“If we think China and other countries are going to quit burning coal we are just kidding ourselves. We already have the cleanest emissions of any country in the world, and we are working to improve that. But to eliminate the asset of coal isn’t going to benefit anyone.”
Adventure tourism and health care are also high on Lt. Governor Mongiardo’s to do list all the way from Pikeville to Paducah and all points in between.
“We have the resources so why not use them? We have the largest elk herd west of the Rocky Mountains, our black bear population is returning, and we have more shore lines than any other state except Alaska,” he said.
“I’ve been leading the adventure tourism charge for several years and we are starting to see results. We have to work on it, but we grow up being inventive because we never had help from the outside and I know it is something we could build into a big industry to compliment coal as an economic asset.”
Mongiardo points to an adventure trail in Harlan County that has received over 70,000 visitors from across the nation and as many as three overseas countries.
He thinks adventure tourism would create hotel/motel, restaurant, and many other small business opportunities for east Kentucky, and increase property values throughout the area.
The senatorial candidate wants to not just link every coal producing county with tourism trials, but the entire state.
“This division thing must end,” Mongiardo said. “What’s good for one part of the state is good for other parts of the state and we must come together, work together, and make it happen.”
His health care issue hits hard at home, and a driving force that propelled him into the world of politics after his brother passed away in a Hazard hospital.
“I went into politics to improve the quality of health care, especially in eastern Kentucky,” he said. “Health care will collapse if we don’t do something to fix it, but we have to do something to fix it the right way.
“If we don’t fix health care then our economy will collapse because it is all so intertwined. Most people don’t have a clear understanding of the problem or the solution. We need to get the correct information out there, rid everything of politics, and get people who understand the situation involved.”
Mongiardo is an ear, nose, and throat specialist who still has a practice in Hazard. He also reminds potential voters that he represents the first ever opportunity for an east Kentucky native to be elected U.S. Senator.
Mongiardo is married to Salyersville native Alison Patrick.