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Published: Wednesday, 10/16/2002

Taft touts record in targeting senior votes

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

Shifting its attention to a bloc of Ohioans who vote in big numbers, Gov. Bob Taft's campaign has begun to air its fifth TV ad. Although Mr. Taft referred to seniors in his second spot, this is the first that focuses solely on his track record for the elderly.

Producer: Stevens Reed Curcio & Co., based in Alexandria, Va.

On the screen: The ad is a stream of images of Mr. Taft with elderly residents. The governor shakes hands with a woman at a park bench and a man at a physical therapy center. A man orders prescription drugs, and there's a shot of pills being counted by a pharmacist. There are images of a woman sniffing a flower, a couple at a white picket fence, and on the front porch with their grandchildren. The ad ends with perhaps the most striking image in what has so far been a campaign season devoid of them - veterans moving by in a parade.

Script: Mr. Taft says: “I have just enormous respect for the senior citizens I meet across the State of Ohio.” A male narrator says: “That's just one reason why Governor Taft worked hard to expand the Passport Program allowing more seniors to live independently, in their own homes; start a discount drug program that will cut costs for seniors 10 to 25 percent, and increase the Homestead Exemption, cutting property taxes for seniors. Mr. Taft says: “Many of them have given so much and not just to their families but to their community, to our country.”

Accuracy: Mr. Taft, who took office in 1999, has continued the expansion of Passport, a Medicaid program which provides low-income seniors with health care, meals, and other help. The budget has increased from $103 million in 1995 when it served 5,000 people, to $247 million this year and it serves about 25,000. At Mr. Taft's request, the legislature in 1999 increased the homestead exemption and indexed it to inflation, which allowed an estimated 41,000 more elderly and people with disabilities to qualify for a reduction in real estate taxes. Last week, Mr. Taft announced that the state had chosen MemberHealth to manage a program, starting in January, to offer prescription drug discounts through the Golden Buckeye card for those 60 and older, and citizens with disabilities. Mr. Taft and his campaign have used several different numbers for the potential savings: 10 to 30 percent in his Feb. 5 State of the State address, 13 to 20 percent off “normal cost at pharmacies” in a Oct. 9 written statement, and 10 to 25 percent in this ad.

Scorecard: It's another sunny look at Mr. Taft's four-year track record, but critics say citizens should look at what Mr. Taft's campaign doesn't discuss. Consumer groups have complained that Mr. Taft signed a bill into law this year that pre-empts cities, like Toledo, from protecting the elderly against “predatory lending.” Those groups also say he backed legislation to protect nursing home operators by treating civil claims alleging abuse the same as medical claims and setting a one-year statute of limitations. Also, Mr. Taft's opponent, Democrat Tim Hagan, has endorsed a proposal to give the state the power to negotiate prescription drug savings for roughly 2.2 million uninsured and underinsured Ohioans. Mr. Taft has said he's willing to look at it down the road, but not now.



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