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Published: Monday, 3/20/2000

Vote totals give Republicans a boost

At once it means nothing and everything that the three Republicans running for Lucas County offices this year each won more votes in the March 7 primary than their Democratic opponents.

It means nothing because the election, after all, was simply a primary. The Democrats were not running against Republicans, and no local candidates had challengers from inside their own parties.

But in this county dominated by Democrats, the Republican vote totals meant everything in terms of credibility and fund-raising for the GOP candidates. Lawyer Mark Berling, running against Democratic incumbent Judge James Bates for a seat on the county Common Pleas Court bench, reports campaign contributions have spiked since the election.

In the primary, he won 94 more votes than the judge, and now is seen by contributors as a serious challenger.

In the race for county engineer, Republican Roger Baker easily outdistanced his Democratic opponent, Keith Earley, winning 23,041 votes to Mr. Earley's 20,330 votes.

There may be several reasons for the wide Baker margin. He is appearing on the ballot for the second time, having run for the same post four years ago. The primary marked the first political effort for Keith Earley in Lucas County.

Mr. Earley moved to northwest Ohio about a year ago to take the No. 2 slot in the office of Lucas County Engineer George Wilson, who was looking for someone to take his place. When Mr. Wilson retired Jan. 1 (breaking a promise he made to voters during the last election to stay until his term was done), Mr. Earley took his place.

While there were people in Mr. Wilson's office who were qualified, the Democrats went shopping outside the county for his replacement. Look for Republicans to make Mr. Earley out to be a carpetbagger in the course of the campaign.

Not that Mr. Earley will be defenseless. He has worked as a county engineer in Ohio before, and while he has never had to face an opponent, he has local operative James Ruvolo and others working to hold his hand.

The race for one of the county's dullest elective offices promises to be exciting this time around, at least for political insiders.

In what will likely be the highest-profile race in the county this year, Republican Rob Ludeman is challenging Democratic county Commissioner Bill Copeland. In the primary election, Mr. Ludeman won 26,445 votes to Mr. Copeland's 24,138.

Democrats discount the vote totals, saying Republicans had more excitement in their presidential primary election, and so had an advantage. But figures from the county board of elections show that line of thinking is flawed - more Democrats than Republicans went to the polls on March 7. They just didn't finish voting the entire Democratic ballot.

Figures from the board of elections show 42,058 Democrats cast votes, but less than half voted for Judge Bates. Mr. Berling's situation was similar: A total of 41,829 Republicans cast ballots, but only one in two voted for Mr. Berling.

Voter fall-off could be as dramatic in the general election this November - everyone wants to vote for president, and some leave the booth after voting only for president. These local elections may turn on the ability of candidates to educate their supporters to keep pulling levers until they get to the end of the ballot.

WORD OUT OF Washington: Congressman Paul Gillmor of Old Fort is one of the co-sponsors of a bill designed to help reduce the price of oil. The measure has been approved by the House International Relations Committee.

The Oil Price Reduction Act of 2000 calls on the White House to suspend, reduce, or terminate foreign aid, assistance, and sales of military arms and equipment to each country determined to be engaging in oil price fixing to the detriment of the U.S. economy. The bill now goes before the full House of Representatives for its consideration.

Sounds like a bill President Pat Buchanan would sign in a heartbeat. President Clinton is probably less inclined.

Fritz Wenzel covers politics for The Blade. Questions? Comments? Tips? He can be reached via e-mail at Fritz@theblade.com.



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