Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Ohio Treasurer

Deters fends off challenge from Boyle

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - Joe Deters was re-elected Ohio treasurer in a down-ballot campaign that was considered to be the Democrats' best shot of taking a statewide office from the Republican-dominated Statehouse.

He defeated Cleveland Democrat Mary Boyle, a former county commissioner.

Mr. Deters gave a short and cautious victory speech that began with a note from his daughter, Mary Elyse, 9. "I think you're going to win, but it doesn't matter if you don't, because I still love you," it said.

"I am very humbled that it looks like Ohio has returned me to a second term to protect your money," Mr. Deters said.

Speaking in Cleveland, Mrs. Boyle said her campaign was underfunded and had a tough time competing with Mr. Deters.

"We didn't have the money, but we had the message," she said. "The Democratic Party is still on its feet."

Once the golden-haired golden boy of the Republican Party, the 45-year-old former Hamilton County prosecutor and county party chairman acknowledged that his re-election campaign against Ms. Boyle was tougher than he had bargained for.

"Mary is a very articulate, good candidate," Mr. Deters said Tuesday, as he voted with his wife, Missy, in Liberty Township.

"With all due respect to my other Republican friends, she's probably the toughest opponent we have," he said.

Ms. Boyle, 60, a former county commissioner from Cuyahoga County, attacked Mr. Deters for a series of scandals that she said plagued his office.

Chief among them: a $50,000 contribution from a convicted Cleveland investment broker to the Hamilton County Republican Party, which found its way to the Deters campaign. Frank Gruttadauria received state contracts from the treasurer's office to invest state money.

Mr. Deters, in a barrage of recent television commercials, shot back.

Mrs. Boyle was a county commissioner during Cuyahoga County's catastrophic investment scandal of the early 1990s, he said. Her lack of oversight of the county treasurer's office led taxpayers to lose $144 million, Mr. Deters charged.

Will voters remember those charges and countercharges in four years, when Mr. Deters will presumably run for the Attorney General's Office - or higher?

"I think people pay attention," Mr. Deters said. "When I was the prosecutor, I used to say the same thing about juries. Juries are smarter than people give them credit for. They can see frivolous attacks, and 99 percent of the time, they do the right thing."

The attacks may not end with Tuesday's election.

Lauren Worley, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Democratic Party, said Ms. Boyle wants to reform the way the treasurer's office does business.

Mr. Deters welcomed the challenge, but said any objective watchdog of his office would conclude that it's well run.

"We have elections to decide who's going to run things," he said. "People say things in a campaign that can excite the media, but the fact is that we run a very clean, ethical office, and we will continue to do that."

The treasurer's job was never Mr. Deters' first choice. His first ambition was the Attorney General's Office.

In a compromise to head off a possible primary battle with Jim Petro, Mr. Deters agreed to postpone his ambitions and run for a second term as treasurer.


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