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Published: Thursday, 7/29/2004

Ohio takes the limelight as delegates put Kerry over the top with 159 votes

BY FRITZ WENZEL AND JIM PROVANCE
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

BOSTON - Ohio put John Kerry over the top late last night. And John Kerry is counting on the Buckeye State to put him over the top again on Nov. 2.

In yet another sign that Ohio is considered the chief battleground state in this year's presidential campaign, Minnesota's convention delegates gave their voting turn to Ohio's delegation to allow it the honor of putting Mr. Kerry over the magic number of 2,162 delegates - the number needed to hand him the Democratic nomination for president.

"Ohio takes great pride tonight in being the state to put this voting over the top and making John Kerry's candidacy official, as we cast 159 votes for the next president of the United States, John Kerry!'' shouted former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn.

George W. Bush took Ohio in 2000 by less than 4 percentage points. Democrats are banking that the defection of its 20 electoral votes to Mr. Kerry will be the difference in this year's run for the White House.

Delegate Louis Escobar, Toledo City Council president, hopes the Kerry-Edwards ticket is a sign of things to come. Delegate Louis Escobar, Toledo City Council president, hopes the Kerry-Edwards ticket is a sign of things to come.
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"Ohio is that crucial,'' said Jim Ruvolo, a political advisor from Toledo and Mr. Kerry's Ohio campaign chairman. "We wanted to put him over the top tonight and we're going to put him over the top on Nov. 2.''

Among those casting votes in the Ohio delegation for Mr. Kerry were several delegates from Toledo, include Mayor Jack Ford, Lucas County Democratic Party Chairman Sandy Isenberg, and Lloyd Mahaffey, president of United Auto Workers Region 2.

They and other convention delegates from Northwest Ohio say they are ready to come back home and energize their fellow Democrats to help elect Mr. Kerry president.

"In order for Democrats to win in Ohio, we have to get our base committed to the election. Not just committed to vote, but to work to get others to vote," said Mr. Ruvolo. "The people who are here, I think, are enthused with a sense of enthusiasm and a sense of optimism that we can win."

Mr. Ruvolo - a past adviser to President Clinton and Vice President Gore - said the convention was "going to get Democrats excited."

Mr. Mahaffey, an established political figure who hobnobs with big names all the time, said political conventions are special because they offer a concentrated dose of political celebrity.

Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley and his wife, Ruby, are here, though they are observers, not delegates. It is their first trip to a national convention.

Toledo Mayor Jack Ford is scheduled to address the convention this afternoon. Toledo Mayor Jack Ford is scheduled to address the convention this afternoon.
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"I'm sort of in awe, you know?" he said. "A lot of it registers when you get back home, and start to think of it. I'm still sort of like a kid sometimes, walking around with your eyes wide open."

"It's certainly an important election. We want to be a part of it," he said. "There are a lot of Ohioans. A lot from northwest Ohio."

Most impressive is "how approachable a lot of the big people are. They're just normal people," he said.

The Democratic National Committee uses the delegation breakfasts and meetings of special caucuses to cycle through the party's luminaries, so that almost everyone gets to hear from someone in person that they might otherwise see only on television.

Former First Lady and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton was particularly impressive during her speech to the Women's Caucus, Mr. Earley said.

Mayor Ford has been here since Sunday, and will address the convention this afternoon, just after 4 p.m.

"I'm going to talk about the manufacturing situation in America, how health-care costs keep going up, and how these things affect cities - nuts and bolts stuff," he said yesterday.

Also here, among others, are U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, state Sen. Teresa Fedor, state Reps. Edna Brown and Peter Ujvagi, and Toledo Councilman Frank Szollosi, who came in several days early to catch the Red Sox-Yankees baseball series.

Ms. Isenberg agreed the convention helps to pump people up.

"I just think this group of conventioneers are much more energized, compared to the Gore convention in L.A.," Ms. Isenberg said. "We have had four years of George Bush and Dick Cheney, and I think that all of us coming together are extremely concerned for the future of this country and what the rest of the world thinks of us.

"Northwest Ohio is a very important part of Ohio as it plays into the general election in November. A lot of people were interested in coming and voicing their opinions and being a part of something that will make history," she said.

Jane Wilde of Toledo, a Kerry delegate from the 9th Congressional District, and her alternate, Laura Thomas of Port Clinton, said they have had a great time in Boston - their first trips to a national political convention.

"It's overwhelming. There is so much happening, and so many important people," Ms. Wilde said. "I'm learning a lot. I am seeing how everyone is getting excited to go home and make the big push."

"It is a very different way to participate in the electoral process," Ms. Thomas said. "Sometimes you get very different calls to do civic duty, and this was a very different call. It takes a lot of time and effort and money, but it is certainly well worth it."

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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