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Published: Wednesday, 9/26/2007

Neophyte in 5th District race for Gillmor's seat


A man who is aligned with the Libertarian Party and has no significant experience in politics will seek Ohio's vacant 5th Congressional District seat as a Republican.

Mike Smitley, 30, of Van Wert, said he intends to file his candidacy with the Wood County Board of Elections by Friday's deadline.

Though a Libertarian in philosophy, Mr. Smitley said he is running as a Republican in the GOP-dominated district because the Libertarian Party does not have ballot access in Ohio.

And if Mr. Smitley were to run independent from any party affiliation, he would need to collect 2,300 valid signatures to file, instead of the 50 required for aspiring Republicans and Democrats.

"I consider myself to be an older-guard Republican," Mr. Smitley said. "I'm going to embrace the Republican Party, but I will be sharing messages of liberty."

Mr. Smitley will join state Sen. Steve Buehrer (R., Delta) and state Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) as well as retiree Michael J. Reynolds in the race for the Republican nomination.

But Mr. Smitley, a business consultant with the Cobalt Group, which is based in Seattle, said he has never held a political office and has only dabbled in politics through a few political action committees.

Despite the backgrounds of his competitors, Mr. Smitley said he still thinks he can win the nomination "with the right campaign support and strategy, I can win," he said.

Joe Spoor, who is the chairman for the Libertarian Party of Ohio's northwest chapter and is helping with Mr. Smitley's campaign, said the Libertarian Party can't officially endorse Mr. Smitley.

But Mr. Spoor said he thinks his candidate can garner support, regardless of his party affiliation or lack of political experience.

"I'm not too sure voters are enthralled with either major party right now," Mr. Spoor said. "There's an outside shot Mike's lack of experience being in politics could actually help him."

There is a primary on Nov. 6 and a runoff election on Dec. 11 for the District 5 seat vacated by Paul Gillmor (R. Tiffin), who held the seat for 18 years but died on Sept. 5.

Democrat Robin Weirauch, the party's nominee in 2004 and 2006 in District 5, announced her candidacy in a video posted last week on the Web site YouTube.com.

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