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Published: Monday, 8/23/2004

Oxley challenger visits Lima's black churches

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
District 4 congressional candidate Ben Konop follows Toledo Mayor Jack Ford into the sanctuary at Second Baptist Church in Lima yesterday where he sought votes for November's election. District 4 congressional candidate Ben Konop follows Toledo Mayor Jack Ford into the sanctuary at Second Baptist Church in Lima yesterday where he sought votes for November's election.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

LIMA, Ohio - Church hopping in Lima, Democratic congressional challenger Ben Konop pointed with pride to his dented 1999 Mercury Sable as the car to follow.

"I'm the car with the big scrape on the side that looks like it went through a demolition derby," Mr. Konop said yesterday morning. "That differentiates me from my opponent. My opponent would not be driving that car."

Mr. Konop's opponent in the race for Ohio's 4th district seat, incumbent Mike Oxley, (R., Findlay) - who was first elected to Congress in 1981 - reported more than $1 million in his campaign bank account on March 31.

Mr. Konop, a 28-year-old lawyer who quit his practice to campaign full-time, had $33,000 at the time. By June 30, the next reporting cycle, the amount he had raised for the campaign had climbed to $100,000, of which he had $37,000 on hand.

His message to predominantly black churches in Lima, where he was introduced by Toledo Mayor Jack Ford, centered around money, too.

"In the Pledge of Allegiance we say it's one nation, under God, indivisible," he told about 80 people at the Second Baptist Church. "Not the top 1 or 2 percent get all the good health care and the rest of us scrounge around to go see a doctor or get prescription drugs."

Mayor Ford had introduced Mr. Konop, saying, "I've known him since the day he was born. His daddy is the pre-eminent lawyer in Toledo."

Mayor Ford said Mr. Konop's father, Alan Konop, has represented - without charge - many people in trouble he has taken to him.

"That's the kind of family he comes from," Mayor Ford said.

He described Mr. Konop to the church as well-educated and energetic.

"I just wanted you to hear from the mayor of Toledo that I'm behind him," Mayor Ford said.

Mr. Konop, Mayor Ford, and their aides were led from church to church by the civil rights spokesman for the Lima Black Ministerial Alliance, Cleven Jones. Mr. Konop, who is Jewish, said as he traveled between churches, "We all believe in God, a higher power, something bigger than ourselves."

He gave $5 to ushers at services he left before the offering was collected. At Community Baptist Church, where he arrived during the sermon, he went to the front with the rest of the congregation of about 40 people, holding hands in a circle around the minister.

Lima, which has a Democratic mayor, might give Mr. Konop one of his best shots on Nov. 2. The other sizeable cities in the 4th district are Mansfield, Marion, and Findlay. Findlay has historically voted Republican, and Mr. Oxley calls the city home. But Mr. Konop said he was encouraged by his own polling results in Hancock County this summer.

He said he hopes that his message of jobs recovery resonates throughout an area that has lost many office, factory, and prison positions. His solution, he said as he traveled between churches, is two-fold.

He wants to reform U.S. trade policies such as NAFTA, which he said does not allow countries with different environmental and social policies to compete on a level playing field. And he wants to give tax credits to small businesses that provide health care for their employees.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-724-6102.



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