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Published: Saturday, 10/12/2002

Boyle for Ohio treasurer

When Ohioans elect their state treasurer Nov. 5, they'll be choosing between a challenger with energy and drive who clearly wants the job, and an incumbent who in his heart would rather be doing something else.

Incumbent state treasurer Joseph Deters has two troublesome anchors dragging him down in his bid for reelection.

For one thing, he has had to address nagging questions of conflict of interest with regard to political contributions, and for another, he wanted passionately to run for attorney general this year, finally deferring to fellow Republican and state Auditor James Petro.

It's all part of the game that the Ohio Republican Party plays in order to perpetuate its total domination of the state's six constitutional offices - governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, attorney general, and treasurer.

All six seats are held by Republicans, and have been since Democrat Lee Fisher relinquished the attorney general's office in 1994.

We have supported Mr. Deters in the past and still respect the toughness he displayed as Hamilton County prosecutor before moving on to the statewide political stage.

But we respect even more the concept of a viable two-party system, something sorely lacking in Ohio politics the last several years. Accordingly, we are pleased and impressed by the aggressive pursuit of the state treasurer's job by Democrat Mary Boyle of Cuyahoga County, who may have the best chance to win among the Democrats on the party's statewide ticket.

Ms. Boyle is a former state legislator and Cuyahoga County commissioner who served as the commission's president for three terms. Not only does she want the job of state treasurer, she makes no secret of the fact that she currently has no aspirations to greater and grander things, like the governor's office.

That wasn't the case in 1998, when she ran for the United States Senate and lost. But she got 48 percent of the vote, and out-polled George Voinovich in his home county of Cuyahoga. That statewide exposure is helping her now in terms of name recognition.

Perhaps given the competitive closeness of this race, each candidate has found something nasty to say about the other's financial stewardship of public funds. The state treasurer, after all, is the custodian, protector, and investor of the state's money.

Ms. Boyle contends that Mr. Deters has systematically rewarded his financial backers with state business. Mr. Deters has tried to connect Ms. Boyle to the loss of millions of dollars by Cuyahoga County in the mid-1990s when she was a commissioner. Mr. Deters denies any fund-raising quid pro quo, and Ms. Boyle insists that the Cuyahoga County commissioners

On such issues do tight elections sometimes turn. Mr. Deters argues that it was just a coincidence that bankers and brokers doing business with the state treasurer's office donated almost the exact same amounts to the Hamilton County Party's operating fund.

That may be so, but the Ohio Ethics Commission found the circumstances troubling enough to call it a conflict of interest. Even giving Mr. Deters the benefit of the doubt, the episode bears the appearance of conflict, and often that can be as harmful to a political career as the real thing.

We like Joe Deters. But we would like a reinvigorated Ohio Democratic Party even more.

Mary Boyle has accumulated abundant experience setting financial policy as a state legislator on the House Finance Committee and tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, and as a commissioner in a major urban county.

She also has shown her determination to be an excellent state treasurer. She has earned the chance to serve.



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