Monday, November 06, 2000

Bedinghaus, Portune fight to finish

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A dogfight for a Hamilton County commission seat between Democrat Todd Portune and Republican incumbent Bob Bedinghaus didn't let up in the last weekend before Election Day. And it won't let up today or Tuesday.

        The campaigns will use every available minute until the polls close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to woo votes.

        “Even if it's just nervous energy, you always find yourself out in the last few days,” Mr. Bedinghaus said.

        There is plenty for both candidates to be nervous about in this race.

        Mr. Portune, a four-term Cincinnati councilman, is mounting what is thought to be the most serious challenge by a Democrat for a commission seat since Vincent Beckman was defeated in 1968. No Democrat has held the office since Mr. Beckman.

        Mr. Bedinghaus is vulnerable this year because of $46 million in cost overruns at Paul Brown Stadium and because of a generous lease he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.

        Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University, said the last hours of a close race can make all the difference. He said the last-minute campaigning is most important for Mr. Portune, because Republicans vastly outnumber Democrats in the county.

        “They've got to get out the vote,” Mr. Beaupre said. “They start the phone banks, the direct mailing. You go door-to-door — get candidates out and do everything you can.”

        Both candidates are taking the final push seriously.

        Mr. Portune — along with Democrat Joe Wolterman, who is running against incumbent John Dowlin for the other commission seat —

        promised to visit 49 political jurisdictions in 49 hours over the weekend.

        Continuing the theme, Mr. Portune said 49,000 pieces of literature were dropped and he shook 4,900 hands. Today, the Portune campaign will drop the last 13,000 pieces of literature and hold a rally.

        And there are still a few more hands to shake.

        The Portune camp will hit as many polling places as possible on Election Day.

        “We're continuing what we've done all along — reaching out and engaging the voters one-on-one,” Mr. Portune said. “We can't just sit back and allow the paid media spots to dictate the outcome of this election.”

        That's because Mr. Bedinghaus and the Republican Party are outspending him on TV by about 2-to-1.

        Still, the Bedinghaus camp won't be sitting back.

        Joe Deters, chairman of the county's Republican Party, said the party's “get out the vote” effort is unprecedented. Their phone banks, urging voters to pick straight Republican tickets, are larger than ever. There is a downtown rally planned for 5 p.m. today, along with “tons” of direct mail being delivered today and Tuesday.

        “If we turn out our base, I'm convinced the entire Republican ticket has a chance to win,” Mr. Deters said.

        Mr. Bedinghaus said he appreciates the party support, but he's not counting on it. He's got his own campaign to run.

        There was a visit to Xavier University to speak to an adult education class this weekend, high school football games, the Saturday and Sunday youth soccer circuit, direct mail emphasizing his many endorsements and, of course, thousands of dollars of radio and TV spots.

        “You always assume you're in a tight race and that every vote matters,” Mr. Bedinghaus said.

        In this race, they probably will matter.

        “If we don't believe that every vote matters, then why should the electorate?” Mr. Portune said. “In a close race, you can win it or lose it in the last few days.”


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