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Lennex drops out of Bedford board race

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Steven Lennex, the controversial Bedford school board member who opposed Sen. John Kerry's plan to speak at its June 6 graduation, said yesterday the Kerry uproar led to his decision to withdraw from the race for re-election to the school board.

Mr. Lennex said his family was upset by what they considered "a lot of personal attacks and innuendos" when 80 people addressed the board on the issue May 18.

"It was pretty much three hours' worth of bashing that I took," he said of the meeting that drew 250 people. The next day, he and his wife and daughters decided he should pull out of the race, he said.

Mr. Lennex, a commercial real estate agent, was running against Roger Zahm, a supervisor of air traffic controllers, and Dale Barton, an electrician with Ford Motor Co., for two seats in the June 14 election.

The ballots were printed when Mr. Lennex called the Monroe County clerk's office, asking how to drop out of the race. But he said he is taking down his campaign signs and telling people he's no longer a candidate. His term ends June 30.

Both remaining candidates said they were disappointed that Mr. Lennex had withdrawn.

"I guess it's not much of a run anymore - more of a walk," Mr. Zahm said.

"I think there should be choices out there for the voters," Mr. Barton said.

The dispute over whether Mr. Kerry should speak at Bedford's graduation at the University of Toledo's Savage Hall was one of several controversies in which Mr. Lennex had become immersed during his eight years on the board. He once referred to fellow board members as "bobble-heads."

"There didn't seem to be a lot of support for him," Mr. Barton said.

But Mr. Lennex said he had much support and Bedford Township Republican Club President Alec Byrne has called Mr. Lennex one of the school board's best members . Mr. Lennex is a member of the Republican club.

Both Mr. Zahm and Mr. Barton live in Lambertville and have children in school.

Mr. Zahm, 47, who works for the Federal Aviation Authority at Toledo Express Airport, said he has been "a fairly vocal and steady presence at school board meetings" since 1998.

But it wasn't until this year that he thought the timing was right for a run. He said he now has more time because his children are older and he has sold an aerial advertising business that he operated on weekends for 23 years.

Mr. Barton, 40, is employed at Ford's Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, and moved to Bedford Township from Toledo five years ago. His wife is a crossing guard and latchkey program employee at the district's Douglas Road Elementary.

He is a registered Republican, but like Mr. Zahm, he said he considers himself an Independent. Both said their biggest concern is about school finances. Mr. Zahm said contract negotiations with eight of the district's nine unions are to be held this year and the district is seeking a superintendent.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6102.

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