After a short, but intense political contest for the seat vacated by the untimely death of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Tiffin), voters in Ohio's 5th Congressional District have the final say today.
Polls open at 6:30 a.m. in the 16-county district and close at 7:30 p.m.
Democrat Robin Weirauch, 50, of Napoleon, and Republican Bob Latta, 51, of Bowling Green, are vying for the 12-plus months remaining in Mr. Gillmor's term.
Mr. Latta, a lawyer, represents state House District 6 in the Ohio General Assembly.
Mrs. Weirauch is a former assistant director of Bowling Green State University's Center for Regional Development.
The district stretches from the Indiana line to Ashland County in north central Ohio. There are 420,559 registered voters in the district, of whom 98,334 are Republicans and 65,446 are Democrats. Other than 6,317 registered members of the Natural Law Party, the rest are unaffiliated.
Turnout is expected to be 20 to 25 percent. A similar special election in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District in August, 2005, drew about 25 percent.
Although the district's boundaries have been adjusted over the years, it is considered solidly Republican. President Bush received 61 percent of the district's vote during his 2004 re-election bid.
Giving Democrats reason for hope, 5th District voters last year went for Democrats Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown, helping them win as governor and U.S. senator, respectively.
The district includes Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Huron, Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams, and Wood counties, and parts of Ashland, Lucas, Mercer, and Wyandot.
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Mr. Gillmor, who was first elected to the seat in 1988, died Sept. 5 of an accidental fall down a staircase in his Arlington, Va., townhouse.
The special election for the late Mr. Gillmor's seat has attracted national attention, especially in blogs and online news outlets.
The blog www.Politico.com stirred up comment over the weekend with the report that U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R., Ohio) had not come to campaign in Mr. Latta's district, without suggesting a reason.
Brad Bauman, spokesman for Mrs. Weirauch, declared, "Representative Latta couldn't even convince John Boehner, the leader of House Republicans and congressional district neighbor, to come campaign with him."
The report drew outrage from Republicans, who said Mr. Boehner has helped raise money and provided volunteers to help with Mr. Latta's race.
"John Boehner has been extremely helpful. His staff has been supportive," said Matthew Parker, a spokesman for Mr. Latta. "He's been nothing but helpful to Bob's campaign."
Mr. Parker said the rising role of electronic media has had a mixed effect. "There are some blogs that are supportive. There's some that try to cause controversy," Mr. Parker said.
Numerous bloggers have used the platform of the Internet to comment regularly on the campaign.
Videos created by the campaigns, or by independent supporters of the candidates, can be found on youtube.com.
The election has attracted substantial spending on mailing and television advertising from the Republican and Democratic congressional campaign committees in Washington.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $243,745 in the effort to pry the seat out of Republican hands; the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent $427,998 to keep it, reports filed yesterday said.
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