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Published: Wednesday, 3/23/2005

Petro taps Heimlich as gubernatorial running mate

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Nineteen months out from the election, Attorney General Jim Petro last night became the first major candidate for Ohio governor to announce a running mate.

In addition to providing geographic balance - Mr. Petro is from suburban Cleveland -the addition of Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich adds conservative weight to a ticket led by a candidate who once favored abortion rights and last year fought passage of Issue 1, the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Ohio.

He also brings a household name: His father invented the anti-choking procedure referred to as the Heimlich Maneuver.

"[Phil Heimlich] is willing to pursue bold ideas," said Mr. Petro. "He's a risk-taker, looking for ways to change government to make it better, cheaper, and faster, which is something I've spent 10 years trying to do with two agencies."

Mr. Petro made the announcement last night at a Heimlich fund-raiser at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

Mr. Petro, Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, and Auditor Betty Montgomery, all GOP heavyweights, are seeking their party's nomination in 2006. Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman is the only announced candidate so far on the Democratic side.

"[Mr. Heimich's] fiscally conservative, particularly against taxes and for lowering them," said John Green, director of the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.

"My sense is this is an attempt by Mr. Petro to build a broader ticket, lining up a running mate from the other end of the state and also, in some sense, the other wing of the party," he said.

A former Cincinnati councilman and assistant county prosecutor, Mr. Heimlich is halfway through his first term as county commissioner.

"This Heimlich maneuver will not stop the last-place Petro campaign from choking," said Mark Weaver, Ms. Montgomery's campaign strategist.

The Blackwell camp accused Mr. Petro of attempting identity theft. "He's trying to re-create himself as a conservative by borrowing someone else's credentials," said spokesman Gene Pierce. "He isn't the conservative in this race. Ken Blackwell is. Republicans know that."

- Jim Provance



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