Saturday, May 11, 2002

Bush brings in $2M for Taft

By Debra Jasper,
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — President Bush swooped into town on Friday to tout welfare reform and raise a quick $2 million for the re-election campaign of his long-time supporter, Gov. Bob Taft.

        The cash infusion put the Republican governor's campaign coffers over the $8 million mark, giving Mr. Taft more than 53 times as much as Democratic opponent Tim Hagan. Last month Mr. Hagan reported he had $147,000 on hand for his campaign.

[photo] President Bush greets Gov. Bob Taft at a Friday fund-raiser for the governor's re-election campaign.
(Associated Press photo)
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        “We're not taking anything for granted,” said Orest Holubec, Mr. Taft's spokesman, explaining why the governor wants to pile up more cash despite his overwhelming financial lead. “We're going to continue to raise the money we need to get Mr. Taft's message out to all Ohioans.”

        Mr. Bush played a key role in Mr. Taft's fund-raising efforts Friday, attracting 1,200 contributors to the downtown Hyatt Regency for a minimum $1,000-a-plate luncheon.

        Organizers who persuaded 10 other donors to pay the minimum got their photo taken with Mr. Taft and his wife, Hope. Those who organized a table of 10 people paying $2,500 each got their photos taken with Mr. Bush.

        Just before the fund-raiser, Mr. Bush also spoke at the St. Stephen's Community House near downtown, where he asked Congress to require more work from welfare recipients.

        “As we reauthorize the welfare bill, it's essential we recognize the importance of work. Work helps people achieve dignity in their lives,” the president said.

        Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, who also spoke to the group, said he's undecided on the president's plea.

        “I'm not taking a position on this legislation until I hear from you,” he told those assembled at St. Stephen's.

        The House is expected to review the issue next week.

        Mr. Bush's Ohio speech was one of several this week in which Mr. Bush focused on the domestic themes of his presidency, which also included health care, tax cuts and the need to be a “compassionate conservative.”

        Mr. Bush said once the bill passes, 70 percent of the nation's welfare recipients must go to work within five years. He said the bill should also cut back on federal red tape and give states more flexibility to provide additional supports for people.

        In a 25-minute speech before a small gymnasium filled with supporters, the president also praised St. Stephen's, which provides day care, tutoring, a food pantry and other services to senior citizens, as well as job training and other services to refugees in the area from

        Somalia. The president also touted programs that foster healthy family relationships, citing the help that Accountability and Credibility Together Inc. (ACT) gave to Cincinnati couple Melvin and Ronda Tuggle in 1999.

        Ms. Tuggle was separated from her husband when she sought job training from the agency, which is funded in part by Hamilton County. The agency also provided her with marriage counseling, and Ms. Tuggle said the communication skills she and her husband learned from ACT allowed them to reunite.

        “It made our communication skills much stronger and we learned about each others' goals,” she said.

        Political analysts say Mr. Bush's ability to raise so much money to keep a Republican in office here re-emphasizes how far behind Mr. Hagan is in the governor's race.

        The Democratic candidate, who is married to actress Kate Mulgrew, was a four-term Cuyahoga County commissioner, recorder and county party chairman.

        He said he's not worried about Mr. Bush's financial boost to the governor.

        “The two of them deserve each other, they are part of the ruling class. Both were born on third base and think they hit a triple,” Mr. Hagan said.

        Robert Adams, associate professor of political science at Wright State University, said the governor is sending a strong message that he has the cash to win.

        “The kind of money Hagan has doesn't give him a snowball's chance in you-know-where of providing a serious challenge to Taft,” Mr. Adams said. “Hagan is a long, long way from being competitive.”


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