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Published: Friday, 5/11/2001

Cuyahoga County Democrat might challenge Taft

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Democrat Tim Hagan, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner who acknowledges his reputation as an “unreconstructed New Dealer,” said last night he is “80 percent” sure he will run against Governor Taft next year.

Mr. Hagan, 55, said he will make a final decision by July 1.

“I'll run unless somebody who is a major candidate decides to get into that race. I don't want a contested primary among those who share the same philosophical approach to government,” he said.

Mr. Hagan was a Cuyahoga County commissioner for 16 years, his term ending in 1998 when he did not run for re-election. He said he began thinking about running for governor about a month ago.

“The real question about Bob Taft is a failure to lead in any direction. I know Bob Taft. He is a very nice guy. This is not personal. This is political,” Mr. Hagan said.

State Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) said Mr. Taft has had favorable ratings in polls, at a time when the state faces a tight budget and a June 15 deadline to submit a new school-funding system to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Mr. Taft's most recent display of leadership occurred when he repeated his vow to veto a state budget bill if it included a provision to legalize video gambling machines, said Mr. Gardner, who in 1998 was chairman of Mr. Taft's campaign in Wood County.

Married to the actress Kate Mulgrew, who plays Starfleet Capt. Kathryn Janeway on television's Star Trek: Voyager, Mr. Hagan is a township trustee in Cuyahoga County and works as a consultant. His brother, Bob, is a state senator representing the Youngstown area, and the Hagan family has long and deep ties to the Kennedy dynasty.

In fact, Mr. Hagan said he has been raising campaign contributions for Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is running for governor. He said he will expect her to help him if he enters the Ohio governor's race.

To be competitive with Mr. Taft, a Democrat will need to raise at least $7 million, he said.

Mr. Hagan is among several Democrats who have expressed interest in challenging Mr. Taft. They include U.S. Reps. Sherrod Brown (D., Lorain) and Ted Strickland (D., Portsmouth), and former Cuyahoga County commissioner Mary Boyle.

Mr. Hagan said he is opposed to capital punishment, is “pro-choice” on abortion, and supports gun control. But he said he believes most voters will choose a candidate who will “make a difference and stand up on the issues, the bread-and-butter issues of jobs and the future of their kids.”

He noted that Ohio ranks 40th in per capita state support for higher education.

“Are we in Alabama? Where are we?” Mr. Hagan said.

Mr. Hagan said he believes that Ohio Democrats, who were swept by the GOP in the statewide elections of 1994 and 1998, are “ready to be united” because by next year Republicans will have ruled the governor's office for 12 years.

- JAMES DREW



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