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Published: Monday, 3/5/2001

Ford (unofficially) poised to challenge Kest for mayor

This is the week we should see the beginning of the unofficial tidal wave for Jack Ford, say Democratic Party insiders who are very familiar with his deliberations on whether to run for mayor.

The operative word here is: unofficial. Sources say he will use surrogates to begin talking about his decision to enter the race before he comes out and says so himself. Such a process builds interest in his candidacy to a climax, a useful tool for someone who would enter the race against an opponent as well-known and well-financed as Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest.

Perhaps to build intrigue, Mr. Ford, now the Ohio House minority leader, has told reporters recently he does not have interest in the office. But interest in a race is something that can change quickly in the mind of a politician. Apparently, it has for him.

“Jack is doing all the things a cautious man would do to prepare for this race,” said Paula Ross, chairwoman of the county Democratic Party. “Certainly he has had conversations with us about what would be an appropriate budget for this race.”

That budget should be at least $200,000, Democratic insiders said. Mr. Kest already has that much in the bank. Mr. Ford's latest campaign finance report, filed Jan. 19, shows $34,591.17 cash on hand.

Should he enter the race, Mr. Ford will be able to take advantage of his work over the years to remain in close contact with local party officials.

“Jack is the one elected official who, as long as he has been in office, has called every week to ask if we had everything that we need,” she said, adding that he has brought together workers from the heavily Democratic 49th District to help the party in the weeks before Election Day.


Campaigns stink and candidates lie more than ever.

That's the bottom line opinion of Ohio voters in the wake of the 2000 election, according to a new poll commissioned by the Institute for Global Ethics, which has been working for three years to improve the nature of political campaigning here and in Washington state.

“Citizens are more upset than they used to be,” said Brad Rourke, the vice president of public policy for the institute.

The poll results from Ohio make that painfully obvious:

  • 81 percent believe negative campaigning makes people less likely to vote.

  • 53 percent believe that all candidates lie.

  • 58 percent think all or most candidates make unfair personal attacks.

  • 60 percent think all or most candidates will say or do anything to get elected.

  • 52 percent strongly agree that their local politicians have a different set of values than they do.

    These numbers hold troubling implications for our government. Mr. Rourke said the poll shows what he has long suspected - that most people believe that if candidates run corrupt campaigns and win, they will govern in a corrupt manner. Gaining public confidence under such conditions is next to impossible, he contends.

    For the 1998 and 2000 elections, the institute operated a project in Ohio and Washington that encouraged candidates for a variety of offices to sign codes of conduct that ruled out negative tactics. Despite their success in signing many candidates to their cause, the public perception of trouble with campaigns has worsened.

    Mr. Rourke said the declining public confidence in politicians is actually a sign the institute is doing its job.

    “People are noticing the issue more. It's more on the radar screen,” he said. “In 1998, it took a lot of energy just to get the idea into people's minds, just to convince them that this is something they should think about.

    “At first, there were a lot of people who thought `Well, that is a cute issue that someone ought to care about,' ” he said. “Now candidates and consultants know these things resonate with voters and are important.”


    Other interesting findings from their survey:

  • 80 percent believe it's a good idea for candidates to sign a code of conduct (43 percent rate it an “extremely good” idea).

  • 69 percent believe codes should require opportunities for public forums with the candidates.

  • 67 percent said codes should require candidate debates.

  • 63 percent said codes should discourage candidates from engaging in personal character attacks.

  • 72 percent of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who signed and followed a code.

  • 70 percent said they would be more likely to vote in an election where both candidates signed codes.

    Fritz Wenzel covers politics for The Blade. Email him at fritz@theblade.com.



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