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Published: Monday, 7/28/2003

TPS levy has voters' attention

Requests for absentee ballots for the Aug. 5 special election - which includes an important Toledo Public Schools levy - have poured into the county elections office at a steady rate, said Joe Kidd, director of the Lucas County Board Of Elections. More than 3,000 people had requested them as of late last week.

“It shows a strong interest in this particular ballot issue,” Mr. Kidd said. “Special elections in the past have had turnout in the low to mid teens” in terms of the percentage of voters who cast ballots.

Three other issues are on the ballot in some Lucas County communities. Richfield Township is again asking voters to pass a measure that would pay for a new fire station. The request was turned down by a single vote in the May special election.

Also before voters is a proposed income tax to help schools in Swanton, and a school construction measure in the Otsego School District. Both districts are only partially in Lucas County.

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Lucas County Auditor Larry Kaczala made an appearance before reporters last week at the invitation of TPS Superintendent Eugene Sanders to let voters know how, should they approve the 6.5-mill operating levy, their property taxes would be computed.

The money request is to renew a levy that expires at the end of the year.

“Not a new tax” is the mantra of school district officials, who seem to exhale the phrase with every breath. Mr. Sanders said this is in part because a recent poll conducted by the pro-levy campaign showed that more people than not believed their taxes would go up if the levy passed.

In the meeting with reporters, the superintendent reiterated his concern that voters will react badly to the teachers' union refusal to change their insurance as a cost-saving measure for the district.

Tax burdens and cushy teachers' benefits may be among the biggest “perception” problems facing levy supporters as Election Day looms. But Mr. Sanders remains optimistic. He said the fact that their internal poll showed supporters and opponents evenly split - before the pro-levy promotional campaign began - is a positive because they won't have to sway too many people to get the levy passed.

It doesn't hurt, he said, that they plan to dump $125,000 into the promotional campaign.

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After the TPS news conference, Mr. Kaczala addressed another issue that has been simmering for months: the question of whether he would enter the race for U.S. Congress against incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur.

The Republican auditor came close, but made no news.

“I have made a decision, yes,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Asked if the Federal Elections Commission in Washington would have paperwork on file from him, either declaring the formation of an exploratory committee or a candidate committee, he replied: “You would find nothing on file - yet.”

He said we may know more this week.

Miss Kaptur, a popular representative who has served Ohio's 9th District since 1983, has $766,828 cash on hand, according to her latest campaign finance filing with the FEC.

She has raised $73,153 so far in the current election cycle.

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Word from Des Moines last week was that Ohio's entry into the sweepstakes for the Democratic Party's nomination for president - Dennis Kucinich - had decided to purchase what is known there as the Iowa Democratic Party voter file. It's a compilation of basic information about every registered Democrat in the state that is sold by the state party, said Mark Daley, spokesman for Iowa Democrats.

This is no small step - the list costs $65,000 - but the purchase is the latest proof that Mr. Kucinich is serious about contending for the hearts and minds of the early-caucus Iowans.

“It gives you access to all the Democrats,” Jeff Cohen, Kucinich campaign spokesman, said of the list. “It gives you data on all the Democrats, whether they voted in this and attended that.”

Mr. Kucinich became the seventh of nine candidates to buy the voter database, Mr. Daley said. Only Carol Mosely-Braun of Illinois and Al Sharpton of New York have not.

Mr. Cohen said the campaign also tripled its paid staff in Iowa last week “because we raised all this money in June.”

The Kucinich campaign reports cash on hand - as of June 30 - of $1,063,508, according to the FEC.



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