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Published: Thursday, 11/9/2006

Dann's corruption fight gets him elected attorney general

BY STEVE EDER AND JAMES DREW
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Marc Dann, center, and family, from left, son David, wife Alyssa Lenhoff-Dann, daughter Jesse. Marc Dann, center, and family, from left, son David, wife Alyssa Lenhoff-Dann, daughter Jesse.
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COLUMBUS - Democratic State Sen. Marc Dann, a chief critic of Ohio's Republican leadership, will be the state's next attorney general.

On election night, it was too close to call. But by yesterday afternoon, it was clear that Mr. Dann had pulled off the biggest upset in Ohio's 2006 election, beating state Auditor Betty Montgomery.

With most of the ballots counted, Mr. Dann led Ms. Montgomery by about 167,000 votes yesterday.

Mr. Dann emerged on Ohio's political scene last year as he seized on the state's "Coingate" scandal to call for a change in leadership. He spent much of the past year chiding Ms. Montgomery, Attorney General Jim Petro, and Gov. Bob Taft's for their ties to Tom Noe, the GOP fund-raiser at the center of the scandal.

"My race was clearly decided on the issue of wanting someone who was willing to stand up to other office-holders when corruption exists in state government," Mr. Dann said. "It was somebody who wants to end the pay-to-play system against somebody who was representative of the status quo."

Ms. Montgomery, in a statement yesterday, called it "a very difficult election season."

Betty Montgomery, in a brief speech after the election, said in a campaign where voters wanted new faces, her experience may have worked against her. Betty Montgomery, in a brief speech after the election, said in a campaign where voters wanted new faces, her experience may have worked against her.
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"I realize that in a campaign where voters wanted new faces, my experience may have worked against me," Ms. Montgomery said. "I respect the decision Ohio's voters have made."

Mr. Dann's victory leaves the GOP with one last hope of holding on a statewide executive post - state Rep. Mary Taylor's bid for state auditor. Ms. Taylor appeared poised for victory in her race against state Rep. Barbara Sykes, a Democrat.

With nearly all votes counted besides provisional and absentee ballots, Ms. Taylor yesterday led Ms. Sykes by about 76,500 votes. Ms. Taylor said yesterday she was confident the margin would hold up after all the votes were counted, but Ms. Sykes had not conceded the race.

With some counties slow to tally their votes - and with about 145,000 provisional ballots and overseas absentee ballots still to be counted - Ohioans went to sleep Tuesday night without a clear picture of who would be Ohio's next attorney general and state auditor. By law, provisional ballots and overseas absentee ballots are not counted until 10 days after the election.

Vote totals arrived especially late Tuesday night in places like Cuyahoga County, where a judge ordered that polls remain open for an additional 90 minutes to compensate for delays.

Last night, Athens County still wasn't reporting its results because of problems with a broken ballot scanner, according to the secretary of state's office.

The speed of the results wasn't a problem for Catherine Turcer, the legislative director of Ohio Citizen Action, which monitors election issues.

"I would almost prefer that voters get accustomed to waiting," Ms. Turcer said. "I would rather have them [the results] right then do it quickly."

Considering that precincts were equipped with new machines and procedures, Ms. Turcer said she thought the election went better than expected.

"That doesn't mean there weren't problems," Ms. Turcer, noting she heard about issues with provisional ballots and instances where precincts were not accessible to the disabled.

Peg Rosenfield, an elections specialist with the League of Women Voters of Ohio, who worked an election day phone bank fielding voting complaints, said some voters were "confused and angry."

"Of course people who went in, voted, and were happy as clams don't call the phone bank," Mr. Rosenfield said. "But we were getting way too many people who were being given bad information by poll workers."

James Lee, a spokesman for the Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, called it a "pretty smooth election."

"We were taking calls all day yesterday from boards of elections and voters and the media, everyone with a slightly different issue," Mr. Lee said. "It is nothing unusual to be taking a lot of calls on Election Day."

Jim Provance of The Blade's Columbus bureau contributed to this report.

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com or

419-724-6272.



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