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Published: Friday, 12/7/2007

Weirauch gains money, momentum in 5th race

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Democratic Congressional candidate Robin Weirauch has been a daily fixture at large events across northwest Ohio speaking to factory workers and retirees, honing an appeal based on economic issues.

Her focus - middle-class families and their bread-and-butter woes.

It's a strategy that her supporters, not only in Ohio's 5th Congressional District, but around the country, hope will contribute to a third-time's-the-charm victory next Tuesday.

Mrs. Weirauch of Napoleon is running against state Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) to fill the year remaining in the term of the late U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Tiffin), who died in a fall Sept. 5.

The district has an historic Republican lean. In addition, Mr. Latta has been elected repeatedly to the state House of Representatives district in Wood County, the center of the 16-county district that stretches from Indiana east to Ashland County.

But with a low turnout of perhaps 20 percent expected on Tuesday, Democrats are hoping a strong get-out-the-vote effort behind Mrs. Weirauch could upset tradition.

"She's tapped into some of the deep and abiding concerns the American middle class is feeling - uncertainty about jobs, health care, pension retirement, education, taking care of kids and the elderly," Joe Regula, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, said yesterday. "I think the American people are ready for a serious conversation about that."

Mrs. Weirauch ran in 2004 and 2006 against Mr. Gillmor, gaining only 32 percent of the vote the first time and 43 percent the second time.

Mike Zickar, chairman of the Wood County Democratic Party, said Mrs. Weirauch's 2004 and 2006 candidacies were lost in the spotlight focused on the national and statewide elections.

"She wasn't on TV at all. Her campaign has been very different this time with all the resources she's had," Mr. Zickar said.

Yesterday, she spoke to UAW General Motors retirees in Defiance.

Mrs. Weirauch has aimed many of her comments at the North American Free Trade Agreement, which she claims has resulted in the loss of manufacturing jobs from northwest Ohio to Mexico.

Mr. Latta and his supporters, also from around the country, are spending even more money in an effort to expose what they say is a left-wing orientation on the part of Mrs. Weirauch that is out of touch with a firmly conservative district.

Today, the Republican committee plans to issue a statement accusing Mrs. Weirauch of being backed by left-wing organizations and individuals, including U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Emily's List, a pro-abortion rights political action committee.

"Robin Weirauch is the darling of left-wing, liberal extremists nationwide," said Jessica Boulanger, NRCC Communications Director.

Matt Parker, spokesman for Mr. Latta, said Mrs. Weirauch's views on guns, taxes, and abortion don't mesh with the district.

He said her prescription for solving economic problems is based on big government solutions.

"Bob Latta's idea to solve economic problems is to slow the growth of the federal government, cut taxes, and get government out of the way of entrepreneurs who are trying to create jobs," Mr. Parker said. He said NAFTA has had the opposite effect to that claimed by Mrs. Weirauch.

Two of the events on Mr. Latta's schedule today are a news conferences on "family values" in Bowling Green and Ottawa, and a rod and gun club banquet in Kalida.

Mrs. Weirauch's campaign has tapped into support from national committees and campaigns that would like to see Democrats claim the longtime Republican seat.

Yesterday, the Barack Obama campaign organization issued a letter urging his supporters to support Mrs. Weirauch with money and phone calls.

The e-mail, obtained by The Blade, and addressed, "Dear Friend," referred to the 5th District as "a traditionally Republican stronghold that is within reach for Democrats."

The Daily Kos, a leading liberal Internet blog, also is featuring appeals to its readers to support Mrs. Weirauch.

The Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees in Washington are both dumping large amounts of money into the race.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $172,718 in the last week. The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent twice as much since the end of last week - $380,547, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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