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Brown defends intelligence votes

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U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown visits the Toledo Seagate Food Bank and gets input from Irene Campbell, a recent retiree, about planned budget cuts for the food bank. Mr. Brown is a congressman from suburban Cleveland.

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U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown defended his 1990s-era votes to cut intelligence funding yesterday and vowed to take the campaign fight on national security to Republican incumbent Mike DeWine.

Mr. Brown is a congressman from suburban Cleveland and the likely Democratic Senate nominee. He spent the afternoon in Toledo, on the same day The Blade reported that Mr. Brown voted a dozen times to cut intelligence budgets before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Researchers for former Democratic Senate candidate Paul Hackett, who quit the race last week, believe those votes would hurt Mr. Brown in a general election.

After blasting President Bush's budget at a food bank and talking health care and free trade with social justice activists, Mr. Brown said he would not change his past votes on intelligence.

"Part of it was we wanted more oversight of what was happening," Mr. Brown said. "Intelligence gathering, they had a lot of money and were not using it well. And clearly in 9/11, the Bush Administration had intelligence they didn't use. We needed internal reforms in intelligence gathering."

The Ohio Republican Party touted Mr. Brown's votes yesterday in a press release titled "Sherrod Brown's intelligence problem," which said Mr. Brown was on a "mission to undermine national security."

At an evening meeting of young Democrats, Mr. Brown criticized Republicans, including Mr. Bush and Mr. DeWine, for not spending more on homeland security; for the Iraq war, which he said has made Americans less safe, and for a recent report that the Bush Administration will allow a Dubai-based company to manage U.S. ports.

"When they go after me on defense and intelligence and all that, I'm going right back at them," Mr. Brown said. Later, he added: "These guys are failing at [national security] every day. They're not going to get away with saying we're soft, because we're not."

Mr. Brown devoted most of his time in Toledo to domestic policy. He toured the Toledo Seagate Food Bank and denounced the President's proposed elimination of a federal program that sends boxes of food to low-income senior citizens.

Seagate officials said they serve 2,800 Lucas County seniors through the program. Mr. Brown called its fate a "moral question." Several volunteers who gathered to chat with him agreed.

"Every cut that they've done [in Congress] is on the back of the poor people," said Irene Campbell, a retired school security worker. "The poor people we're losing out."

In the brief interview, Mr. Brown said he expects Republicans to attack his national security credentials because "they have nothing else."

He drew the largest crowd - about 20 - meeting with young Democrats at a Beaner's coffee house at Cricket West, where he said his record on trade and other economic issues made him a stronger candidate in Ohio than John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who narrowly lost here in 2004.

"John Kerry couldn't carry a populist message to the people of Ohio," Mr. Brown said, adding: "If he windsurfed, he should have done it on Lake Erie."

Contact Jim Tankersley at:

jtankersley@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.

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