Sunday, May 18, 2003

Dems hope for inspiration from mayors

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Democratic Party, trying to resurrect itself from the Republicans' capture of every statewide executive office since 1994, invited two of its success stories to speak at its annual dinner on Saturday.

Democrats hold the mayor's offices in all of Ohio's major cities. Among the guests invited to speak were Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell. The keynote speaker was Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Last November's election was particularly hard on the party. Tim Hagan, running at the top of the ticket against Republican Gov. Bob Taft, was hammered by 20 percentage points.

The closest race for any Democrat was the election for treasurer, where incumbent Republican Joseph Deters beat Mary Boyle 53 percent to 47 percent.

It was Boyle's third trip to the statewide ballot in eight years. She lost a primary for U.S. Senate to storefront lawyer Joel Hyatt in 1994 and lost to Republican George Voinovich for U.S. Senate in 1998.

The other Democrats on the statewide ballot last year were making their first runs for statewide office, but some in the party want to take advantage of the winning mayors, whom the party refers to as its "farm team."

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken was unable to get to Columbus because of scheduling conflicts, said his aide, Brendon Cull. The mayor attended the opening of Friendship Park and the new wing of the Cincinnati Art Museum, he said.

In her introduction of presidential candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Campbell rattled off the names of Ohio's big city mayors and what they've been able to accomplish as Democrats.

"We know we can take the story of success of balancing budgets ... and win elections with that," Campbell said.

In his speech, Dean said he recognized the qualities of Ohio Democratic mayors.

"I'll tell you my history of getting you to run for governor," Dean said to Campbell. "It's still not too late: Campbell for governor and Coleman for senator. How about it?"

Next year, Ohio has only one statewide election besides President Bush's campaign. Voinovich is expected to seek another term.

So far, the only Democrat to announce a candidacy for the Senate is state Sen. Eric Fingerhut of Cleveland. Jerry Springer, the talk show host and former Cincinnati mayor, has been traveling the state gauging his support. He says he'll run "if I can be helpful" and will decide by July.

Neither Fingerhut nor Springer was scheduled to speak Saturday.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a former Cleveland mayor and Democratic presidential candidate, brought his message of national health insurance, labor rights and trade protections to the crowd that had dozens of union members.

The party sold 1,300 tickets for the dinner and brought in $225,000, party spokesman Todd Rensi said.

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