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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Irked Wagener stresses value of 'life experience'


It was only a line in Monday's debate among the Democratic candidates for Lucas County commissioner - that Ben Konop is a college graduate - but it still rankles Tim Wagener.

Mr. Wagener, who is a high school graduate, accused Mr. Konop yesterday of insinuating that a college degree matters more than "real-life experience," the dominant theme in both Mr. Wagener and Toledo City Councilman Phil Copeland's commissioner campaigns.

"I deeply resent that," Mr. Wagener said. "After graduating high school, I worked in construction and at age 23 started my own business."

Mr. Konop, a lawyer and visiting professor at the University of Toledo law school, considers his maternal grandmother, a Polish immigrant with an eighth-grade education, the smartest person he has ever known. He said Mr. Wagener's statement was a "desperation shot in the dark."

"I was in no way saying that only people with college degrees can be smart or responsible," said Mr. Konop, a graduate of Emory University in Georgia and the University of Michigan law school. "My grandparents worked their fingers to the bone so that I could have the opportunity to get a college degree. I'm not going to apologize for having an education."

Mr. Copeland, who did not graduate from high school but received a GED, was unavailable for comment.

Mr. Wagener's comments represent a key difference between the candidates. He believes voters should support a candidate with a track record as an elected official, pointing to development of the Maumee Indoor Theater, Arrowhead Park, and the Dana Tech Center as reasons why he should be commissioner.

In contrast, Mr. Konop, who does not hold an elected office, has discussed ways to promote the county among creative professionals, establish a regionalized tax for a cultural district, and encourage residents to buy local.

Mr. Wagener has said these ideas are impossible and illegal.

A recent Blade-Zogby International poll showed 25 percent of likely voters intend to support Mr. Copeland in Tuesday's primary. About 20 percent of respondents planned to vote for Mr. Konop. Mr Wagener received 12.5 percent. Hoping to jump ahead of Mr. Copeland, Mr. Konop said he is running new television ads through the election.

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