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Published: Saturday, 1/3/2004

Newcomers to challenge 3 area congressmen

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Three northwest Ohio congressmen will face challengers making their first runs for the U.S. House of Representatives this year.

Republicans Mike Oxley and Paul Gillmor will face first-time candidates, while Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur will wait for the outcome of a three-way Republican primary election on March 2.

First elected to Congress in 1982, Miss Kaptur will face the winner of a three-way primary election battle between Lucas County Auditor Larry Kaczala and two opponents - Ed Emery and Luis Thomas Jacob Leal. Mr. Kaczala has won the GOP endorsement for the race.

Should he win the primary, Mr. Kaczala would be the most experienced political opponent Miss Kaptur has faced in her 22-year congressional career representing the 9th Congressional District.

“I have to make sure that I can win the primary first. That is my primary focus. Then I am going to turn my attention to Miss Kaptur,” Mr. Kaczala said.

The race is “going to turn on the economy. It s going to turn on the number of jobs lost and the high unemployment rate we have here in Ohio,” Mr. Kaczala said. “Both of my parents were 30-year UAW members. The factories that both of my parents worked at are closed. Where are the jobs?”

Filing his nominating petitions yesterday at Government Center downtown, Mr. Kaczala said he believes the campaign will cost more than $1 million but predicted he would raise enough money to compete.

Mr. Kaczala began his fund-raising efforts recently. Miss Kaptur has more than $800,000 in campaign cash on hand, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

She is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Democrat Ben Konop, a Washington lawyer with northwest Ohio roots, is challenging Mr. Oxley, who resides in Findlay, for the right to represent the 4th Congressional District.

Mr. Konop, who was born and raised in northwest Ohio, has practiced law in Washington for three years. “I felt compelled to run for Congress in order to give a voice to the people of the district. I believe in democracy and the idea of people having the power, instead of special interests. I intend to listen to the concerns of my constituents and act on them,” Mr. Konop said.

He said he moved to Ada, Ohio, and rented an apartment about three weeks ago. He is a member of the Ohio Bar Association and the Washington bar association.

“My priorities are good jobs, affordable health care, a strong Medicare system, and quality public schools. People should vote for me if they re interested in pocketbook issues and the health and education of their family,” Mr. Konop said.

Mr. Konop is the son of Toledo lawyer Alan Konop and nephew of former Lucas County Commissioner Sandy Isenberg.

He said he was recruited to run for the seat by Miss Kaptur.

Mr. Oxley, first elected to Congress in June, 1981, is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Mr. Gillmor, whose official residence is listed as Old Fort, will be challenged by Robin Weirauch of Napoleon.

“I am stepping up to the plate because I believe there is a better way to represent, communicate, and work with the people of Ohio s 5th Congressional District. We need a stronger advocate for our concerns in our nation s capital.”

“Too many of our small towns and rural communities, the lifeblood of this district, are fighting for survival,” Ms. Weirauch said. “We must address the unique needs of rural communities, and also protect the environment as we build prosperity.”

A former emergency medical technician, Ms. Weirauch offered what she calls “CPR” for the 5th district. In this case, CPR stands for “Communication and Proactive Resourcefulness,” she said.

Ms. Weirauch is assistant director of the Center for Policy Analysis and Public Service at Bowling Green State University.

Mr. Gillmor was first elected to Congress in 1988. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Financial Services Committee.

Miss Kaptur, Mr. Oxley, and Mr. Gillmor did not respond to calls seeking comment. The challengers each submitted at least 50 valid signatures from registered voters in their districts and paid an $85 filing fee to enter the race.



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