Republicans repeat sweep of offices

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 9

COLUMBUS — Ohio Republicans, who swept to state power in a 1994 landslide, will stay there for another four years.

GOP candidates appeared to be holding on to all four down-ticket statewide offices yesterday. Two races, featuring Republican incumbents, were certifiable blowouts.

Leading the charge was Attorney General Betty Montgomery, who was trouncing Democrat Richard Cordray, 875,622 to 512,983 with 42 per cent of the precincts reporting.

Mr. Cordray, a former state solicitor expected to be a formidable opponent for Ms. Montgomery, could muster only 37 per cent of the vote to the Republican’s 63 per cent.

Not far behind was incumbent Auditor Jim Petro, who easily turned back Cincinnati businessman Louis Strike, 849,970 to 504,538 (62.8 per cent to 37.3 per cent).

Ms. Montgomery and Mr. Petro had been comfortably in front throughout the campaign.

In October, they were so far ahead they gave $110,000 in ununsed air time to the Ohio Republican Party for distribution to other, more threatened candidates.

Neither held a campaign press conference, using the standard front-runner strategy of laying low.

Their opponents struggled to get their messages out. Mr. Strike, a CPA, focused on his financial background but ran a low-profile race for this low-profile office. Mr. Cordray, in contrast, led an aggressive campagin, attacking Ms. Montgomery’s record daily.

Meanwhile, the Montgomery campaign was operating in such a low gear last week that it printed a humorous compilation of what staffers call lies Mr. Cordray has told throughout the campaign.

The campaign distributed it to reporters with almost no fanfare, almost as a lark.

The closest race was for treasurer, the post Republican Ken Blackwell is vacating.

Republican Joe Deters, the Hamilton County prosecutor, was leading Summit County Treasurer John Donofrio, 762,137 to 625,887, a 54.9 to 45.1 per cent spread.

Mr. Deters won despite a regular drumbeat of attacks by Mr. Donofrio, accusing the Republican of a lack of experience.

Mr. Deters is a likely candidate for higher statewide office, and Mr. Donofrio accused him of usin the treasurer’s office as a stepping stone.

Mr. Donofrio has been the Summit County treasurer for the last 19 years.

Mr. Deters ran on a platform of protecting Ohio’s money, in particular in the issuance of debt.

He promised to cut down on overhead in lending and to use variable rate bonds to increase returns.

The fourth down-ticket race was for what is arguably the state’s least powerful statewide elected position – secretary of state.

The secretary of state is the state’s top elections officer, and the position has traditionally been used by politicians aspiring to higher office.

That was perceived to be the case with Mr. Blackwell, the Republican who decided not to run again for treasurer. Mr. Blackwell was leading Democrat Charleta Tavares by 795,434 to 603,241 (56.9 per cent to 43.1 per cent).

Throughtout the race, Ms. Tavares focused on a few statements by Mr. Blackwell from 1997, when he was considering a run for governor and challenging Bob Taft in the Republican primary.

At the time, he claimed he was not interested in the office and was quoted in a Dayton newspaper as saying “the only thing worse than running for secretary of state would be being secretary of state.”

Mr. Blackwell and Ms. Tavares, a Columbus state representative, promised to deliver technological reform in the secretary of state’s office.

Mr. Blackwell promised to advocate for lobbyist reform to increase voter faith in the political system; Ms. Tavares focused her campaign on programs aimed at increasing voter turnout.

In all four races, Republicans were able to field candidates with higher name recognition – two incumbents running for re-election, Mr. Blackwell running for his second statewide post, and Mr. Deters, who has prosecuted several high profile cases in the last few years.