By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - A few months ago, flipping through TV channels at his house, Sen. George Voinovich saw something that he'd never seen before - something that shocked and horrified him, he said.
The Jerry Springer Show.
"I saw it once," Voinovich said Wednesday. "It was incredible. I don't even want to talk about it. It was obscene. I honestly said afterward: How could people allow this to be on television? It was horrible."
Springer, a Democrat who filed papers this week to run for Voinovich's Senate seat next year, has dismissed his own show as silly entertainment.
"If you really want to see something obscene, you ought to watch C-SPAN when you watch some of these votes that occur that hurt Ohio families in a major way," said Dale Butland, Springer's spokesman and adviser.
"Jerry's show did not underfund one school in Ohio. It didn't shut down one plant in Ohio. It didn't deny one family health insurance," Butland said. "George Voinovich, on the other hand, has been the highest elected official in this state for 14 years (as governor and U.S. senator). It's his votes and his policies that have sent this state into a tailspin."
Though Springer is raising money, running a half-hour infomercial (not yet in Ohio), and filed a statement of candidacy this week with the secretary of the U.S. Senate, he still has not decided whether to run, Butland said Wednesday. That will depend on whether he can shake the stigma of his controversial daytime talk show, which airs at 11 a.m. weekdays on WLWT-TV (Channel 5).
Topics last week included "Sneaky Sex Affairs" and "I'm Pregnant By My Brother, Part 2," according to The Hotline, a political newsletter that has been running a daily update on Springer's shows. It also tallies the number of instances of nudity and fighting.
Voinovich, R-Ohio, said he had paused to watch the show because Springer was contemplating a campaign against him.
"Jerry Springer is a problem for the Democratic Party," Voinovich said. But he said he didn't want to comment on any opponents until the Democrats select one. Springer would face state Sen. Eric Fingerhut of Shaker Heights in a primary.
Fund-raising figures out this week show Voinovich has $3.4 million to spend on his re-election, compared with just $233,000 for Fingerhut.
Springer's campaign did not file a report because he is still "testing the waters," Butland said. He did not file his statement of candidacy until after the June 30 deadline for reporting fund-raising.
Springer is willing to spend $4 million to $5 million of his own money, Butland said, and will raise money as well if he decides to run. Springer is a former Cincinnati mayor who ran for Ohio governor in 1982.
Voinovich, 67, is a former Cleveland mayor and two-term Ohio governor who won his Senate seat in 1998. He has said he would limit himself to two terms and said Wednesday that he thought his next term would be his last.
"Unless something unusual would happen," he added.
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