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Published: 10/20/2004

Oxley ad blitz signals concern, Konop contends

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Oxley Oxley
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Konop Konop
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U.S. Rep. Mike Oxley doesn't anticipate that he'll have any trouble getting voters in Ohio's 4th Congressional District to send him back to Washington for another term.

But Mr. Oxley's opponent, Democrat Ben Konop, said the 11-term Republican from Findlay doesn't seem so confident on the campaign trail. Democrats say the evidence of Mr. Oxley's angst is apparent by his busy campaign schedule and a $500,000 advertising blitz.

Mr. Oxley (R., Findlay) and Mr. Konop (D., Ada) will debate at 7:30 tonight at the Champagne County Community Center in Urbana. It'll be a warm-up for a televised debate in Lima in a week. The candidates face off at the polls Nov. 2.

"We are going to win. That's the bottom line," said Bob Holmes, the general chairman for Mr. Oxley's campaign. "Mike was born and raised in this district; he knows the district well. He has been supported by the people, and he will be again."

That confidence, however, doesn't mean the congressman is taking the election lightly, Mr. Holmes said.

Mr. Oxley has spent about $1.125 million during this election cycle, more than 12 times the $96,000 spent by Mr. Konop's campaign, according to campaign finance statements filed Friday. Mr. Oxley has plugged more than $500,000 into advertising, far surpassing the $1,200 he spent during his 2002 re-election bid.

"Mike always runs a hard campaign, no matter who is running against him," Mr. Holmes said.

"Mike's always spent enough money in the campaign to get to the people and let people understand where he stands on the issues."

Mr. Konop, an attorney, is banking on voters in the heavily Republican district who might be looking for a change on Nov. 2. Democrats contend that Mr. Oxley, the chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, is more interested in serving big business interests than the residents of the district.

"This is an unprecedented amount of campaigning that he is doing," said Mr. Konop, adding that his opponent seems "offended" by having to justify his work to voters. [He's] "a dollar short and a day late."

In the 2002 election, Mr. Oxley was re-elected with about 68 percent of the vote. This time, Mr. Konop said polls show candidates running a close race. A recent poll from the Lima News of voters in Allen County showed Mr. Oxley with 45.3 percent and Mr. Konop with 39.4 percent, and 15 percent undecided.

"We've definitely gotten his attention," said Mr. Konop, who campaigned by canvassing the district by car and on foot, and bowling a game at every bowling alley in the district. "He hasn't been challenged for a long time. He isn't used to having to campaign and defend his record."

As the race enters its final two weeks, political oddsmakers don't expect that Mr. Oxley will have trouble defending his Congressional seat.

The D.C. Political Report, which publishes online campaign forecasts, gives the race two stars on its five-star scale for political drama. Campaigns & Elections, a monthly Washington-based political magazine, gives Mr. Oxley an 80 percent chance of being re-elected.

"We don't really see any drama in this," said Daniel Sachs, founder of the D.C. Political Report. "We expect Oxley to be serving in the next term of Congress. It doesn't look like Mr. Konop has gotten any traction in the race."

Jerome Armstrong, a Democratic-leaning blogger, gives Mr. Oxley less of an edge and predicts it could be a "sleeper race." In the mid-October outlook published on his Web site, MyDD.com, he classified the race as competitive

By effectively campaigning on the ground and using the Internet to drum up support, Mr. Armstrong said that Mr. Konop is well-positioned to spring a surprise on Election Day.

"That's the way you take a House seat - face-to-face contact," said Mr. Armstrong, who worked on Howard Dean's failed presidential bid. "[Mr. Konop] is gaining momentum. That's the important thing. Many candidates don't get that much buzz."

Mr. Holmes said Mr. Oxley's campaign acknowledges Mr. Konop is working hard to make the race competitive. The congressman's campaign, though, estimates its so-called "liberal" opponent won't be able to overcome the district's generally conservative voter base.

And Mr. Konop believes voters will realize it is time for a change.

"The people who know him and know his record, know it is time for a change," Mr. Konop said.

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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