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Published: Friday, 9/21/2007

2 more join race for U.S. House seat

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

WAUSEON - A Republican and Democrat hoping to succeed the late Paul Gillmor in Congress announced their candidacies yesterday in ways that sharply contrasted the importance of tradition with the need for change.

State Sen. Steve Buehrer (R., Delta) casually walked into a Fulton County courtroom with his family. Looking at the fresh haircuts of young sons, he asked his wife if the barber charged by the pound.

He then stood before the judge's bench and promised to honor the values of the settlers who founded the farm towns dotting Ohio's 5th Congressional District.

"Living within those communities are the children and grandchildren of these brave conservative families who want the same things their ancestors sought years ago: freedom to worship their God, to have individual freedoms, and to seek opportunity to improve their lives," Mr. Buehrer said.

Democrat Robin Weirauch, the party's nominee in 2004 and 2006, announced her candidacy in a video posted on the Web site YouTube.com. She said industries must retool for an innovation economy and American troops ought to withdraw from Iraq.

"Ohioans are demanding change, but Washington isn't listening," Ms. Weirauch said. "It's time to hold our leaders accountable and it is time to open up the U.S. House - the people's house - to the people it is supposed to serve."

The Sept. 5 death of Mr. Gillmor, a 10-term Republican, launched a once-in-a-generation makeover of politics in northwest Ohio.

There is a primary on Nov. 6 and a runoff election on Dec. 11.

Democrats see opportunity, noting that Gov. Ted Strickland and Sen. Sherrod Brown carried the GOP haven in 2006. And Republicans who spent years in the statehouse now have a shot at Capitol Hill.

Mr. Buehrer issued a subtle challenge yesterday to State Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), who declared his candidacy last week. Mr. Latta's father, Delbert, was Mr. Gillmor's predecessor in Congress.

"This congressional seat should not be a birthright," Mr. Buehrer said. "It should not be filled or influenced by schemers miles from our home who seek their own agenda."

Mr. Latta said yesterday that he is focused on running his own campaign, instead of dealing with comments made by opponents.

Both Republicans want to enforce immigration laws to deal with border security issues. They have similar positions on the Iraq war, saying the Democratic-majority Congress needs to respect the guidance provided by the military.

"That is the appropriate role of Congress, not to armchair quarterback on Monday morning or withhold the funds necessary to support our troops," Mr. Buehrer said.

While Mr. Latta might benefit from years of name recognition, Mr. Buehrer has an intact campaign network after a dominant run last year for the state Senate in which he raised more than $450,000.

Mr. Buehrer, a 40-year-old lawyer, graduated from Bowling Green State University. He attended Capital University law school at night while working in Columbus for the administration of Gov. George Voinovich. In 1998, Mr. Buehrer was elected to the Ohio House. He won re-election three times.

In her announcement, Ms. Weirauch emphasized remedies to address the loss of manufacturing jobs, a message that draws on her experience as assistant director of BGSU's Center for Regional Development.

Ms. Weirauch, 50, is a full-time candidate. The Napoleon resident graduated from BGSU, where she received a bachelor's in business administration and a master's in public administration. Her husband of 30 years, Bruce, recently retired from the Napoleon Police Department.

Unlike the two Republicans, Ms. Weirauch favors setting a schedule for bringing American troops back from Iraq.

"The time has come for us to have a carefully planned and comprehensive exit strategy," she said. "It's clear our presence in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not fighting it."

Despite her calls for change, Ms. Weirauch said the region must protect "priceless treasures." She noted that being a congressman "takes having leadership and a commitment to those things that make our communities special, like historical courthouses."

Among the 16 counties in the 5th District is Seneca County, where preservationists are fighting a 2-1 decision by the board of commissioners to demolish the county's historic 1884 courthouse.

Contact Joshua Boak at: jboak@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.



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