STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - Republican challenger John Kasich continued to rally and pump up supporters in counties across northern Ohio Wednesday in preparation for a get-out-the-vote effort on Tuesday, while he was criticized for his stance on education by supporters of Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
Mr. Kasich headlined the tour of GOP statewide candidates beginning with a meeting in Port Clinton, for which about 200 people paid $10 for breakfast and the chance to hear from the political hopefuls.
Terry Lowe, chairman of the Ottawa County Republican Party, said the people who come to events such as a political breakfast were already likely to support those candidates. "If each one of them goes out nice and excited and talks to 10 more people, maybe we'll get 10 more people to vote," Mr. Lowe said.
The tour included an event in Strongsville, Ohio, in Cuyahoga County, where the group was endorsed by retiring U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) and former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar.
"We're on the offense. It's good to have Bernie here to direct that offense," said Rob Portman, the Republican candidate for the seat Mr. Voinovich is vacating after this term. Mr. Portman's Democratic opponent is Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.
The group of statewide candidates also stopped in Avon Lake, Medina, and Akron, where groups met the group in each location.
Meanwhile, in Tiffin and Bryan, state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) and Bill Phillis, a state advocate for constitutional school funding, accused Mr. Kasich of planning to consolidate school districts.
They also criticized Mr. Kasich's stated intention to do away with the "evidence-based model" for education funding and reform passed under Governor Strickland.
"Congressman Kasich wants to hurt our communities with his support of school consolidation,'' Ms. Fedor, a former Toledo Public Schools teacher, said.
She and Mr. Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Advocacy of School Funding, said that school consolidation would rob communities of their local identities.
Allison Kolodziej, a spokesman for the Strickland campaign, said, "Unlike Congressman Kasich, Ted opposes forced school consolidation, which strips local districts and communities of their identities, especially in our rural areas. Ted believes that districts can work together to save important resources by encouraging practices such as shared purchasing between districts."
Mr. Kasich cited the criticism as typical of what he has called lies and smears about him.
"In the short term the answers for school districts are more dollars in the classroom, and it's shared services and do our transportation together rather than separately," he said, saying his rivals are using "the Halloween approach: make things up and scare people."
His spokesman, Rob Nichols, said, "John has never talked about consolidating schools. John has talked about sharing services."
Mr. Nichols said that Mr. Strickland's staff signed off on the idea of school-district consolidation as part of the Greater Ohio Report by the Brookings Institution released in February.
"That's their document and that says consolidate school districts," Mr. Nichols said. The report advocated cutting the 613 Ohio school districts by at least one third.
As evidence that Mr. Kasich plans to consolidate schools, Strickland supporters cited a comment he made in a televised debate Oct. 7.
"You know, you have some counties where you have six school districts. You don't need six superintendents. How many principals? How many administrators? How many curriculum coordinators? We need to operate the schools more like a business," Mr. Kasich said in that debate.
The Ohio School Boards Association said in this month's publication that: "Kasich believes that we need to consolidate schools in Ohio and share services to reduce duplication of effort and to lower costs."
Mr. Nichols said Mr. Kasich's statement referred to sharing services, even the services of superintendents, not merging districts.
Mr. Phillis said that scrapping the Strickland model would return Ohio to an unconstitutional system and shift the burden of school funding back onto local communities.
The Strickland campaign says the evidence-based model reform earned Ohio a ranking of fifth in the country from the publication Education Week and helped Ohio secure $400 million in federal Race to the Top funds.
Mr. Kasich continued to complain about his opponent's negative tenor and warned about the political effort that he believed is being mounted against him.
"They're shipping 500 paid workers into Cuyahoga County to get out the vote, that Barack Obama's paying for," he said.
Chris Redfern, the Ohio Democratic chairman, scoffed at Mr. Kasich's prediction as a made-up number. "John Kasich is producing his own version of the Twilight Zone," Mr. Redfern said.
At the rally in Port Clinton, Mr. Kasich said he would lower taxes, reform workers' compensation, and make better use of regional assets, such as universities and medical centers, to make the state more attractive for employers.
"We're going to restructure Ohio," he said. "If you want to move in the direction of a more prosperous Ohio to preserve our legacy, you got to vote for our guys."
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