Friday, November 1, 2002

Deters' upward track threatened by close race with Boyle

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - As a crowd of union workers and retirees sings "We Shall Not Be Moved," Mary Boyle is on the move, going person to person to introduce herself and shake hands.

Most of the 150 attendees at this Columbus rally for lower drug prices don't recognize the enthusiastic Cuyahoga County Democrat. Nor do they know she's locked in a close race for state treasurer with the GOP incumbent, Joseph Deters.

Mr. Deters, 45, a former Hamilton County prosecutor, has spent $1.7 million on television ads to get his face and message before voters. While the underfunded Ms. Boyle can't win the ad battle, Ohio Federation of Teachers president Tom Mooney said, his members will know her name when they see it on the ballot Tuesday.

"She's the one who's got the best shot to win," Mr. Mooney said of a Democratic state ticket topped by governor hopeful Tim Hagan.

Recent opinion polls show the two treasurer candidates in a statistical dead heat. No other GOP candidate for statewide office is thought to be in danger of losing.

The vote Tuesday is more than a matter of winning re-election for Mr. Deters. The Republican plan is for Mr. Deters to run for attorney general in 2006, an office designated for auditor Jim Petro this year.

But first Mr. Deters needs to keep what he's got - and that's proving a challenge.

In the final days of their campaigns, Mr. Deters and Ms. Boyle are following strategies typical for a close race.

"Candidates tend to do two types of things in the last few days," said Eric Rademacher, director of the University of Cincinnati Institute for Policy Research. "They want to energize their base (supporters). They also go into areas where they feel they are competitive."

Well-known among northeast Ohio voters as a former Cuyahoga County commissioner, Ms. Boyle, 60, is popping up at labor events and lunches in cities all across the state. She's usually in the company of fellow Democratic candidates such as Mr. Hagan.

She recently spent more than $400,000 on television ads targeting the Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown markets. The commercials hammer at a problem dogging Mr. Deters.

She accuses Mr. Deters of taking campaign cash from brokers that do business with the treasurer after funneling the donations through the Hamilton County Republican Party.

"That's brought a lot of attention to this office," she said. "Usually this is a very sleepy down-ballot campaign, but my opponent has given it its 15 minutes of fame, and then some."

There was nothing illegal about the donations. Mr. Deters denies he personally solicited the contributions, but said he did rely on a fund-raiser who also worked for the county party.

Mr. Deters also is spending a lot of time in the markets Ms. Boyle has targeted with her ads. On Tuesday, he made three campaign stops in smaller cities bracketing Dayton. On Wednesday, he was in Columbus talking to schoolchildren.

On Election Day, he plans to spend the early morning hours eating breakfast with members of a Toledo Teamsters local that endorsed him over Ms. Boyle. Although Toledo is considered a Democrat stronghold, suburban areas surrounding the city helped George W. Bush win the presidency in 2000.

Mr. Deters isn't staying away from Cleveland, either. Football fans headed to the Browns-Steelers game this Sunday might run into Mr. Deters as he shakes hands outside the stadium.

"I think that says something about your candidacy when you spend your last hours in your opponent's base," he bragged.

He's also launched his own attack against Ms. Boyle, a television ad that pins the blame for a $100 million Cuyahoga County investment debacle on her shoulders.

"That's Mary Boyle's record," the ad states. "And that's not what Ohio needs."

Ms. Boyle said as a commissioner she was not involved in the decisions over how the fund was run and said she helped clean up the mess after it was revealed.

Attack ads aside, Mr. Deters said his biggest concern is turnout among Republican voters. That's why he spent some time meeting with GOP leaders in Clark County earlier this week to encourage them to get out the vote.

He said he's concerned Republican voters will assume Republican Gov. Bob Taft will coast to a second term and skip voting.

"That's a real issue," Mr. Deters said while on a walking tour of the Clark County Courthouse in Springfield. "We've got to make sure Republicans show up and vote."

Ms. Boyle sounds equally concerned about getting Democrats out for her.

"The other challenge is to show them how important this race is and that they have a choice," she said. "They don't have to live with pay-to-play politics in Ohio anymore."

Will enough voters get that message? Gerald Arnold, a registered nurse who shook Ms. Boyle's hand during the Columbus rally, says he doesn't know enough about her or Mr. Deters and that makes him "a little suspicious" of what either candidate has to say.

"I'd like to have both sides of the story," he said, "I don't think I have that yet."


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