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Published: Thursday, 11/9/2006

Tom Noe helps paint Ohio blue

Election day proved many things, one of which is that Tom Noe remained - on Tuesday, anyway - one of the most powerful people in the state of Ohio.

As irony would have it, on the day Ohioans went to the polls the former suburban Toledo GOP heavy-hitter sat in a Lucas County courtroom.

Noe listened quietly as defense attorneys and prosecutors made their final appeals to the jury, which is even now deciding his criminal theft trial.

For a guy whose face can alternate between a "hail-fellow-well-met" grin and almost smug "What, me worry?" expression, it was interesting to watch an uncharacteristically somber Noe in court Tuesday.

His humiliating fall from grace means his phone number is no longer on the speed dials of powerful Columbus political figures. It also means that for the first election cycle in years, Noe wasn't strategizing, fund-raising, or orchestrating any Ohio campaigns.

Ah, but let no one say Tom Noe was without effect on statewide elections.

All across Ohio this campaign season, Democrats turned the phrase "culture of corruption" into a campaign crutch, uttering it, oh, I dunno, let's say maybe every 10 minutes or so.

The shorthand version of that phrase, of course, was simply "Noe."

For who-knows-how-many Ohioans - even, I'm sure, those who couldn't tell you the first thing about Noe's legal tribulations - that surname was a big Buckeye building block in the statewide plan for political re-assembly.

Since the spring of 2005, the name "Tom Noe" has been sprinkled constantly in news reports about political wrong-doings in Columbus.

His name is the drip-drip-drip of the leaky Ohio GOP faucet. So it is that the redrawn national political map yesterday painted Ohio a new shade of blue.

No, Tom Noe didn't lift a finger (or raise a dollar) for the 2006 midterms. Yet even as voters hammered his party, and the President he worked so hard to elect, Noe left his sticky political fingerprints.

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Well, hallelujiah!

I'm either optimistic, pessimistic, or just plain nave, but for whatever reason, I really didn't expect state Issue 5, which bans nearly all public smoking, to triumph at the polls.

Especially not when Issue 4 - brought to you in great part by the R. J. Reynolds tobacco folks and their deep pockets - offered what was alleged to be the "common sense" alternative to the smoking ban.

The whole exercise made me nostalgic, and got me thinking about our collective smoky past. Do you remember, for example, when the city of Toledo's various smoking measures were the subject of much heated debate?

(You'll recall the city first enacted a strict measure, which was subsequently relaxed to the point where it became a lingering blue haze.)

And one of the arguments offered by municipal smoking-ban opponents back then was that Toledo was better off waiting for such regulation (if any had to occur at all) at the statewide level - and only then as the will of voters, not politicians.

Well, here it is.

So please, now will you put that thing out?



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