DEFIANCE - Filing through the food line at the Defiance County Democratic Party's chicken dinner last week, Robin Weirauch asked for two plates of baked beans, rolls, and salad, but no chicken.
Mrs. Weirauch and her husband, Bruce, are both vegetarians, so the chicken-dinner circuit that often dominates political campaigns can leave the married couple of 30 years with some difficult menu choices.
"I don't really come to these things to eat. I'm here to get people motivated to go vote," said Mrs. Weirauch, the front-runner in the Democratic primary for Ohio's vacant 5th District congressional seat.
Mrs. Weirauch's competition from within her own party is Norwalk resident George Mays, a political novice who owns a karaoke and disc jockey business.
While Ohio Sen. Steve Buehrer (R., Delta) and state Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), the Republican front-runners, are fighting tooth and nail to win their party's nomination, Mrs. Weirauch is quietly gearing up for an ensuing brawl against the victor of the GOP primary.
Mr. Buehrer and Mr. Latta repeatedly have attacked one another, be it through paid advertisements or the press.
Mrs. Weirauch and her supporters know those attacks, and the money used to launch them, likely will be turned against her on Nov. 7 - the day after the primary.
And she wants to be prepared for battle.
"We certainly think about it," Mrs. Weirauch said of the possibility of a messy special-election race. "We're just trying to focus on what the voters care about, things like the war in Iraq, the economy, and health care."
But like the process of combing through a fund-raising buffet to adhere to her diet, Mrs. Weirauch has to choose how she's going to get her message out, and hopes she has the funds to do it.
While the Weirauch campaign refuses to offer updates on its fund-raising efforts, the Buehrer camp last week said it has raised more than $260,000. The Latta campaign said it expects to report more than $230,000 in contributions when the first official campaign finance filing deadline arrives on Thursday.
Not only do both of the top Republican candidates appear capable of raising large sums, Mr. Buehrer is endorsed by Club for Growth, a Washington political action committee that has spent more than $100,000 of its own on ads against Mr. Latta.
Mrs. Weirauch's receipts for her failed 2006 congressional bid totaled $117,478, according to the Federal Elections Commission, and she raised $78,798 in 2004.
The financial numbers don't seem to add up for Mrs. Weirauch, but Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said they don't have to.
"It's how you spend the money you have," Mr. Redfern said. "Special elections show us that money isn't everything."
Mr. Redfern said with an expected low voter turnout for the Dec. 11 run-off, and with the negative primary campaigns waged by Mr. Buehrer and Mr. Latta, Mrs. Weirauch has a chance to win over voters.
Mrs. Weirauch received 43 percent of the vote in her 2006 loss to late U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Tiffin), and Mr. Redfern said the Ohio Democratic Party is working with her campaign to establish the most effective strategies for reaching unmotivated and undecided voters.
But if the election does come down to money, Mr. Redfern said, "We'll spend the resources necessary to win."
Defiance County Democrats were trying to add to those resources at last week's dinner by selling envelopes of undisclosed, loose gemstones for $10 a piece.
David Pardo, a Defiance man who helped run the small fund-raiser, said all of the stones were donated and the proceeds were going toward Mrs. Weirauch's campaign.
"She's a small-town girl and she doesn't have a lot of money," Mr. Pardo said. "She needs all the help she can get."
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