Robin Weirauch knows taking on a career politician and incumbent is quixotic at best, futile at worst. But she just can't help herself.
The Napoleon Democrat is running against Paul Gillmor for Ohio's 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Gillmor, a Republican from Old Fort and a 38-year political veteran, was elected to the seat in 1988 and has held it ever since.
"Is this realistic," Ms. Weirauch asks of her quest, but never quite answers. "It is a heck of a place to start. It's been an honor to go for it."
She is assistant director of the Center for Policy Analysis and Public Service at Bowling Green State University.
The animal advocate - she co-founded the Henry County Humane Society - says she has long wanted to run for office, and her instincts say this is the time to run, that people are ready for a change.
"You think, 'What am I doing?' It's a risk. You jump off the cliff," she says at her campaign headquarters in Bowling Green. "But if you've got that feeling, you have to honor it."
She contends the main difference between Mr. Gillmor and herself is that she has spent far more time in the district, helping her understand what people need and want.
Meanwhile, her opponent maintains that his lengthy record demonstrates that he's the best candidate.
"I'm running on my record, which is a good record," he said in a telephone interview from his Washington office. "The best campaigning is the job you do while you're doing the job. That is more important to getting elected."
Mr. Gillmor has a lengthy resume.
He is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and chairs its subcommittee on environment and hazardous materials. In addition, Mr. Gillmor is assigned to the subcommittee on capital markets, insurance, and government sponsored enterprises, and the subcommittee on financial institutions.
The 5th District stretches from the Indiana border to Huron County. It contains farmland, factories, university towns, and some of Toledo's southern suburbs.
The diversity of the district reflects the variety of its needs, both candidates say.
Ms. Weirauch has distilled her areas of focus into what she calls the four E's: economy, education, environment, and energy, particularly energy independence.
"It could solve so many other problems," Ms. Weirauch says. "If we look to create alternative energy, we can create a new economy."
The region has several crucial elements, she adds: wind to run turbines, and soybean and corn to be converted into fuels, for instance.
"Legislation in the House heavily subsidizes fossil fuel," Ms. Weirauch says. "The world is eventually going to run out of oil. We take for granted that everything's going to be OK."
The environment also plays a part in the economy, with farm runoff pollution being a "huge issue" in the area, Ms. Weirauch says.
"We have a responsibility to do our part to keep the Great Lakes clean," she says. "Farmers understand better than anyone the need to keep the land fertile."
Mr. Gillmor agrees that the economy is important. "One of the principal concerns is always the economy," he says. "Your job at the national level is to try to create a climate conducive to job growth."
Another aspect of that, he adds, is international.
"I don't think the federal government has been as vigorous as it could have been in enforcing trade agreements," Mr. Gillmor says.
He sees the job as broader than just the day-to-day doings of the district. A representative, he says, must have a broader view, especially in times of conflict.
"A growing issue is the issue of the war on terrorism," Mr. Gillmor says. "That's going to be a long war," and one that will be "hugely expensive."
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