FOSTORIA - Several times during campaign stops at two local bowling alleys yesterday, Ben Konop's ball hit right in the "pocket" ideal for getting strikes, yet two pins remained standing on the left side of the lane.
That occurred because Mr. Konop, a Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Michael Oxley (R., Findlay), doesn't put any hook on the ball when he bowls.
But what's bad in bowling is good in politics, Mr. Konop quipped after one of those shots: "I'm a straight shooter."
The 28-year-old lawyer, who quit his Washington job and moved to Ada in January to launch his campaign, bowled one game each at Seneca Lanes and Dunn's Lanes yesterday during the third day of a six-day, 23-city, 28-bowling-alley tour intended to drum up grass-roots support for his candidacy against Mr. Oxley, an 11-term House veteran.
In Fostoria, at least, his timing was not conducive to maximum handshaking. At Seneca Lanes south of town, only one bowler was present, and he turned out to be from Wood County - not part of the 11-county district Mr. Oxley now represents. At Dunn's Lanes, on Fostoria's north side, no one was bowling when Mr. Konop and his campaign aides showed up, although several people were at the bar.
"You want our vote, you'd better start buying us some alcohol," bellowed Steve Shaull,
a Findlay resident who later conceded he has never voted and is not particularly fond of politicians.
More amenable to Mr. Konop's presence was Larry Brown of Arcadia, who works at a Honeywell plant near Dunn's Lanes that recently moved some of its production to China.
"I'm not too worried about myself, because I'm almost ready to retire," Mr. Brown said. "But my son works over there too. I don't know if there's a future for him there or not."
And Tony Swartz, who lives in Fostoria's southwest corner - the only part of the city actually in Ohio's 4th District - said he welcomes Mr. Konop's candidacy, though he questioned its viability.
"That would be great if he could knock Oxley off," Mr. Swartz said after remarking, "It's an impossible task to get that moron out of there."
But Mr. Konop said he considers himself the strongest opponent Mr. Oxley has faced since the congressman won his seat in a special election in 1981 by 341 votes. He filled the vacancy created when the district's previous representative, Republican Tennyson Guyer, died.
"People are of a mindset that he can't be beaten. There's an inertia about it," Mr. Konop said. "But no one is really happy with him. Now we've given them a real alternative. I think we're going to do quite well."
Mr. Konop, who was raised in Ottawa Hills in suburban Toledo, took a 154-mile walking tour in June through 20 communities in the district. He portrays himself as an advocate for local residents, in contrast with Mr. Oxley, whose lives year-round in McLean, Va., and whom Mr. Konop portrays as being in the pocket of big business.
Mr. Oxley did not take Mr. Konop up on a challenge to bowl a game against him back in his district.
"It must be fun to go out bowling all day, but most people, including Mr. Oxley, have to work," press secretary Tim Johnson said when reached at Mr. Oxley's Washington office.
Mr. Johnson said his boss is looking forward to discussing issues with Mr. Konop. A debate is scheduled for Oct. 20 in Urbana, Ohio, and candidate-forum events are planned in Wapakoneta and Mansfield.
"This is a pretty conservative district, and our conservative issues have a lot of resonance here," Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Oxley is to make a campaign appearance today at the Kenton Rotary Club. Mr. Konop's bowling tour, which visited Upper Sandusky before Fostoria yesterday and Findlay afterward, is scheduled to hit three Marion alleys this evening and wind up Saturday in Ada.
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