WARREN - If kids could vote, Tim Hagan might be a lock to win today's gubernatorial race against Gov. Bob Taft.
Yesterday, the final day of a campaign that began 13 months ago, found him visiting the 5th-grade class of his sister, Maggie Hagan, at Warren Reserve Middle School. As Mr. Hagan made his way to the classroom, where he gave a brief lesson on state government, the pupils surrounded him, hugged him, and treated him as if he were Harry Potter. Leon Calbert announced to anyone who would listen that he was not washing his hands anytime soon after touching Mr. Hagan.
It was a good day for the 56-year-old, road-weary candidate, who waged a long-shot race against an incumbent governor with superior name recognition and was out-spent 10-1. Waking after four hours sleep, he greeted commuters at a Cleveland train station with U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) before speaking to GM plant retirees at UAW Local 1112 in Lordstown near his native Youngstown.
Mr. Hagan, son of a steelworker who worked in the mills himself, reminded them of the significance of the labor vote.
"If you and your families had not fought so hard this state would have no conscience," he said.
As he has throughout the campaign, he criticized Governor's Taft performance on jobs and education and his proposed prescription-drug plan that promises savings of up to 25 percent, called the Buckeye Gold Card.
"You can already get that card by paying $10," said Mr. Hagan, whose drug plan calls for drug discounts of up to 60 percent.
Mahoning County is overwhelmingly Democrat, but Local 1112 President Jim Graham warned members of some close area races and urged a strong turnout for Mr. Hagan.
"If Tim Hagan and his slate can get 70 percent, then we can win this thing. But if the wrong people get in office, we will lose big," he said.
At the middle school in Warren, Mr. Hagan's brothers, Chris and state Sen. Bob Hagan (D., Youngstown), took over the class while the candidate did a radio talk show by cell phone in an adjoining classroom. Soon Mr. Hagan was heard debating with a caller over a proposed concealed weapons law that Mr. Hagan opposes.
"Look, I don't believe every Ohioan should have access to a gun. If you're for [it], go vote for Taft," said Mr. Hagan. Standing nearby, Cleveland TV newscaster Bob Cerminara, who covered Mr. Hagan during his four terms as a Cuyahoga County commissioner, chuckled at the scene.
"You might think he's speaking his mind because he's losing, but that was the way he was all the time in Cleveland," he said.
By late afternoon, Mr. Hagan had moved on to a shopping center in East Cleveland, where he was widely recognized and warmly greeted.
At a Subway, where Mr. Hagan ducked in for a coffee, he ran into Greg Brown, whom Mr. Hagan helped find a summer job 12 years earlier.
"I appreciated that," said Mr. Brown. "He seems honest and fair, and that's what I like in any individual I'm dealing with."
The reception in East Cleveland 12 hours before the polls opened clearly lifted his spirits
"It's always good to go to your base. It makes you feel good," he said.