Bedinghaus a long way
from Columbus

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

One problem with politics and politicians is that sometimes the people in it tend to think one step ahead.

The other day, when the headlines said Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus is thinking seriously about running for Ohio secretary of state next year, it seemed some were ready to guarantee he was off to Columbus.

The job will be open in 1998; the incumbent - Bob Taft - is the leading GOP candidate for governor; and he followed the same path to the secretary of state's office that Mr. Bedinghaus is on. Mr. Taft, too, was a Hamilton County commissioner.

Once this story came out, we had a conversation with a Cincinnatian of considerable political savvy who is an advocate of putting the new Cincinnati Reds' ballpark at Broadway Commons instead of the riverfront - a decision that county commissioners must make fairly soon.

Those who read political tea leaves are convinced that Mr. Bedinghaus leans toward the riverfront, while his colleague, John Dowlin, is an open Broadway Commons fan. That leaves the fresh-out-of-the-box commissioner, Tom Neyer Jr., as the swing vote.

This savvy and shrewd Broadway Commons advocate suggested that ''since Bedinghaus is going to Columbus,'' the odds for baseball on Broadway would soar.

We were sort of taken aback by this statement. We know that, in Ohio, where the Republicans control all the statewide offices, and the governor, George Voinovich, is more popular than Mother Teresa, the GOP can do most anything. But we still were under the impression that there would have to be an election before Mr. Bedinghaus could go to Columbus.

Wishing doesn't make it so.

Not that Mr. Bedinghaus would not make a good statewide candidate for the Republicans in 1998. He's young, well-spoken and knows lots of deep-pocket people in Cincinnati who could finance a campaign. Since the principal job of Ohio's secretary of state is overseeing elections, he has the right resume, too - as Hamilton County's elections director, he managed to set upright a county elections board that was reeling out of control.

But the traffic for the secretary of state's job is getting rather heavy. The Republican lieutenant governor, Nancy Hollister, has said she wants the job, although she is tempted, too, by a run for Congress against Democrat Ted Strickland. Ed Kasputis, a Cleveland-area state legislator, is a declared candidate for the secretary of state post.

On the Democrat side, Mahoning County Commissioner David Engler has all but declared. And some party leaders would like to see former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Mary Boyle - one of their strongest potential candidates - give up the idea of running for U.S. Senate against Mr. Voinovich and run for secretary of state.

Both parties want to put well-known, well-funded candidates in that slot next year because it is an apportionment board office - one which will have something to say about how new legislative districts will be drawn.

Ohio GOP leaders are hoping for a candidate who has high name recognition around the state and won't have to spend huge amounts introducing himself to voters in the rest of the state.

But Mr. Bedinghaus is convinced that his out-front role in the stadium debate and the fact that many give him credit for keeping the Bengals and Reds in Cincinnati will play well around the state. It will give him an opening to statewide recognition.

Maybe so. But he may want to go easy on that ''I saved the Bengals'' stuff in Cleveland. We're not sure they will want to hear about it.