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Published: Wednesday, 4/21/2004

GOP chairman asks for Kerry war records at Lucas County event

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Ed Gillespie told 500 people attending the Lucas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner at The Pinnacle that Mr. Kerry has so far reneged on a promise made Sunday during an interview on NBC's Meet The Press television program to open his war documents, including evaluations by commanders, to public inspection.

"When President Bush committed to release all his military records on the same program, he kept his word. John Kerry should do the same," Mr. Gillespie said. "Voters aren't stupid, and he shouldn't treat us as if we are."

Mr. Kerry's campaign was swift to react.

"We will do it. We are happy" with the challenge, Kathy Roeder, a Kerry spokesman, said. "If the Bush administration really wants to have this happen, we are happy to lay down John Kerry's military service next to George Bush's military service and let the American people compare."

The Kerry for President Web site, www.johnkerry.com, began posting the documents last night, Ms. Roeder said.

Protestors offer a chilly reception as RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie arrives for the GOP's anual Lincoln Day dinner. Protestors offer a chilly reception as RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie arrives for the GOP's anual Lincoln Day dinner.
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Mr. Kerry served two tours in Vietnam, winning a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts, all in his second tour.

Mr. Bush served during the war as a fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard.

Demonstrating why he is known as "the President's pit bull," Mr. Gillespie spent much of his speech hammering Mr. Kerry on a wide variety of issues. He criticized Mr. Kerry's vote against the first war against Iraq more than a decade ago, and against an $87 billion measure to pay for ongoing war costs in the current war.

"If Senator Kerry were in the White House, Saddam Hussein would not only still be in Baghdad, he would still be in Kuwait," Mr. Gillespie said.

He also said the Democratic candidate, if elected, might harm the economy.

"Mr. Kerry's policies would only reverse the gains we are beginning to see now," the national chairman said, a reference to the candidate's pledge to raise taxes on the wealthy.

He criticized Mr. Kerry for his statement on the Sunday program that, if elected, he would sign an international environmental treaty on global warming. Mr. Gillespie said it would have disastrous economic consequences.

"Signing the Kyoto treaty would drain $4.4 billion from the Ohio economy and kill 60,000 Ohio jobs," the chairman said. "John Kerry was on television for less than an hour, and yet his proposals would cost 610,000 jobs in Ohio," Mr. Gillespie said.

Those attending the dinner encountered a gauntlet of more than 100 protestors standing along the road who waved signs, shouted, chanted, and, at times, blocked vehicles from entering the dining facility's parking lot. Inside, the national chairman said they are the new symbol of the opposition. "The Democratic Party has become the party of protest and pessimism," Mr. Gillespie said, "and we saw it outside again this evening on our way in."

Gov. Bob Taft introduced Mr. Gillespie, emphasizing the importance of Lucas County in the campaign to win the state's 20 electoral college votes in November.

"I don't need to tell you that Ohio will be the epicenter of the presidential campaign. You here in Lucas County, you hold the power to help the President carry the state, and therefore the nation. The President needs your help. This truly is America's number one turnaround county because of you," he told the GOP audience, "and this year we will need you as never before."

Mr. Taft understands the county's propensity for reversal better than most. In his first gubernatorial run in 1998, he won just 40 percent of the Lucas County vote. In his 2002 re-election bid, he coasted to victory, in part by winning 59 percent of votes cast for governor in Lucas County.

Four years ago, Mr. Bush received 39 percent of the vote, while Democrat Al Gore got 58 percent. The last Republican to win Lucas County was Ronald Reagan in 1984. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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