Lucas County campaign season kicks off with Biden


According to Ohio political lore, election campaign season officially begins on Labor Day.

Although that's merely a quaint fiction for the politicians and their campaign staffs, it still may be true for voters.

Vice President Joe Biden will help launch the official political season when he and Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland participate in the Toledo Labor Day parade that steps off at 9 a.m. today at Summit and Monroe streets downtown.

David Jackson, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University, said political campaigns have been hard at work raising money, shoring up their bases, and crafting and testing messages to put in their advertising.

"There's something that changes after Labor Day: the public attention. Summer's over, kids are back in the school, people are focused more," Mr. Jackson said. "The campaigns have been hitting it hard already."

Jason Mauk, executive director of the Ohio Republican Party, said a noticeable uptick in public interest and volunteerism occurs after Labor Day.

But he said the campaign schedule for political campaigns is accelerated by early voting that starts Sept. 28.

"Our challenge is try to make sure our very intense and fired-up base doesn't take anything for granted and start to slack up before voting begins," Mr. Mauk said.

Chris Redfern, the Democrats' Ohio chairman, said his party too is ready to reinvigorate voters.

"We believe we're going to be able to get out our vote and overcome what has historically been a tough time for the incumbent party," Mr. Redfern said, referring to the midterm elections.

A poll by the Columbus Dispatch reported in The Blade Sunday showed that Republicans have double-digit leads in the races for Ohio governor and the U.S. Senate.

Voter enthusiasm was running nearly three times higher among Republicans than among Democrats.

Mr. Strickland is being challenged by Republican John Kasich, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher is facing Republican Rob Portman for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat.

Voters are not likely to be able to ignore the unmistakable signs of political conflict in the air after today.

George Sarantou (R., Toledo) and Carol Contrada (D., Sylvania Township) have been campaigning for months at festivals and in door-to-door visits for a seat on the Lucas County Board of Commissioners.

Soon, county residents can expect a surge of "Sarantou" and "Contrada" yard signs, as well as opportunities to hear the two candidates face off.

They are running for the seat held by Democrat Ben Konop, who chose not to run for re-election.

Mr. Sarantou said he pulled many of his yard signs after the May 4 primary and soon will set them back out.

He said he's hearing two distinct messages as he goes door to door.

"People tell me there needs to be balance on the board of county commissioners, there needs to be a Republican involved," Mr. Sarantou, a Toledo councilman, said.

"Secondly, there needs to be a businessperson to develop more jobs in the county - not only to preserve the jobs we have but to work on getting new ones."

Ms. Contrada said she's been going to places where voters congregate all summer.

She believes voters are paying attention. She said the post-Labor Day period "is the kickoff of the home stretch."

"Now there will be a focus on issues and where candidates stand," Ms. Contrada, a Sylvania Township trustee, said.

She said that the key issue for voters is "jobs and how the government can bring jobs to Lucas County."

The commissioner race is one of several that may be toss-ups at this stage of the election season.

In the 11th state Senate District, state Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) is facing Republican Toledo Councilman Tom Waniewski for the seat being vacated by state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D, Toledo).

The district, composed of the cities of Toledo and Oregon, plus Washington and Jerusalem townships, has a Democratic edge. That favors Ms. Brown. But Mr. Waniewski defied conventional wisdom by winning the 5th District city council seat in 2007.

Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez (D., Toledo) was a virtual shoo-in for election to a second term when write-in candidate Norm Witzler of Waterville won the Republican primary in May. That changed Aug. 5 when Mr. Witzler bowed out and Gina-Marie Kaczala was substituted as the Republican nominee.

Ms. Kaczala is the widow of the late former Auditor Larry Kaczala.

Last week, Ms. Kaczala accused Ms. Lopez of hiring inexperienced political cronies and friends.

Ms. Lopez responded by saying she has brought inflated property values back into line, and that she has moved away from the kind of spending Mr. Kaczala did when he preceded her in that office.

Another hard-fought race features Sixth District Appeals Court Judge Keila Cosme (D., Toledo), who was appointed to the court by Governor Strickland, and Stephen Yarbrough (R., Sylvania), a visiting Common Pleas judge and one-time Toledo councilman.

Republicans hope that a Republican tide will swamp U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who is seeking her 15th term. Her opponent, Rich Iott (R., Monclova Township), a businessman, has committed more than $800,000 to his first run for office.

Not all elections have Democrats on the defensive.

In House District 46 in western Lucas County, incumbent Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) is challenged by Harry Barlos (D., Maumee), a former county commissioner and clerk of courts and mayor of Maumee.

Also on the ballot in Lucas County are new school levies in the Oregon, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Springfield, and Toledo school districts.

Contact Tom Troy at:

or 419-724-6058.