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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

Springer uses Hicksville in pitch for political aid

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
The infomercial includes a bio of TV talk show host Jerry Springer, posing near Hicksville, Ohio, and criticism by a writer that Mr. Springer wants to use to rally voters. The infomercial includes a bio of TV talk show host Jerry Springer, posing near Hicksville, Ohio, and criticism by a writer that Mr. Springer wants to use to rally voters.
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COLUMBUS - TV talk-show host Jerry Springer is putting Hicksville, Ohio, on the national stage over the next two weeks - at least for those who are awake to watch infomercials.

Mr. Springer, a Democrat and former mayor of Cincinnati, plans to file his candidacy as early as today for the U.S. Senate race next year in Ohio. Aides said Mr. Springer won't decide until later this month whether to challenge Republican incumbent George Voinovich, a former governor and mayor of Cleveland.

Yesterday, aides to Mr. Springer debuted a 30-minute infomercial that will air in New York City; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; New Orleans; Memphis; San Antonio; and perhaps in Ohio.

The infomercial weaves a flattering bio of Mr. Springer around several appeals to viewers to donate from $15 to $2,000 to Mr. Springer's campaign fund and offers T-shirts, bumper stickers, and a CD of Mr. Springer singing rockabilly tunes in exchange for the money.

For $100, contributors will receive a personally signed picture of Mr. Springer in front of the Hicksville sign and a T-shirt.

In the picture, Mr. Springer displays a quote from Jonah Goldberg, a writer with the conservative magazine National Review.

On CNN's Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer, Mr. Goldberg said: “If Jerry Springer shows up, he'll bring all these new people to the polls. They will be slack-jawed yokels, hicks, weirdos, pervs, and whatnot.”

Mr. Springer posed for the picture when he spoke May 15 at the Defiance County Democratic Party's spring dinner.

He is using the quote as a rallying point if he decides to run for the U.S. Senate, saying it smacks of the elitism of the Washington establishment toward common people.

Hicksville Mayor Janis Meyer, a Republican, said she did not know what Mr. Springer's motives were in selling pictures of himself in front of the Hicksville sign.

“It is wrong to make our town the butt end of the joke. If he intends to represent the small people, that is fine. But it is too bad he had his picture in front of our town sign,” the mayor said.

Asked if Mr. Springer would receive support in the village of 3,649 people, Mrs. Meyer said: “I have no idea.”

State House Minority leader Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island), who also spoke at the Defiance County Democratic Party's spring dinner, said Mr. Springer received loud applause and a standing ovation from about 250 people in Hicksville.

“Here is someone who is going to present a voice for them. I don't think a member of the Washington press elite should dismiss someone,” Mr. Redfern said.

Mr. Goldberg yesterday described Mr. Springer's decision to use his quote as “hilarious.”

“It sounds to me he is running against the pointy-head elites in Washington, and shame on anyone who buys it. This is a multi-, multimillionaire who got rich off exploiting all sorts of damaged people and now he is claiming he represents them. He is only trying to bilk and exploit these people.

“I personally have a lot more faith in the people of Ohio to be smarter and see through that sort of silliness,” Mr. Goldberg said.

The decision to file Mr. Springer's candidacy for the U.S. Senate race is intended to ensure that there won't be a legal challenge as the 30-minute infomercial began to air yesterday, said Mike Ford, who has managed Mr. Springer's previous campaigns.

State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, a Cleveland area Democrat who is seeking the nomination for the U.S. Senate, said Mr. Springer is in the race and should stop playing games. He pointed out the title for The Jerry Springer Show yesterday was: “I'm Pregnant By My Brother, Part 2.” Today's show is billed as “Sneaky Sex Affairs.”

“He's making Ohio a laughingstock. One infomercial doesn't wipe out what he's been doing over the last 10 years. It tragically identifies Ohio with his level of entertainment,” said Mr. Fingerhut.

Scott Milburn, Mr. Voinovich's press secretary, said Mr. Springer's infomercial is “an issue for the Democratic Party.”

“It is for them to work out. Senator Voinovich is focused on the economy, health care, and homeland security,” he said.

Mr. Ford said before Mr. Springer makes a decision whether to run, he must determine if he can overcome his controversial talk show and raise money from small donors, which is imperative under the new federal campaign finance law.

Mr. Springer's infomercial tells viewers that they can donate up to $2,000 and they do not have to live in Ohio or be a registered voter.

“You do need to be fed up with politics as usual,” the narrator says.

Mr. Ford said he and Mr. Springer anticipate they will be accused of hucksterism.

“You bet your life we're selling T-shirts,” said Mr. Ford. “We're not selling hot dogs for two-grand like the President. We'll do anything we can within the law to win this fight.”

In the infomercial, Mr. Springer recalls how his parents fled Nazi Germany for London and seeing the Statue of Liberty as a boy.

“What makes America special is we're an idea,” Mr. Springer says as an American flag waves in the background. “What the world thinks of us is important.”

A crew member who shot the infomercial, Kristin Morgente of Rochester, N.Y., tells Mr. Springer she is having a tough time getting past the show and considering him as a political candidate.

Mr. Springer tells her his “silly show” is what is called “baggage,” and highlights people that some Americans don't want to know about.

“That discussion is irrelevant to whether our schools will stay open in Ohio, whether people have good health care. What I say to people is, `I'll take the heat on the show,'” Mr. Springer says.

Mr. Ford said the infomercial initially was not going to air in Ohio because of concerns that it could trigger equal time provisions for other candidates, but those questions have been resolved and it may air in Ohio within two weeks.

Mr. Springer lives in Chicago, but he would buy a home in Cincinnati if he runs for the U.S. Senate, said consultant Dale Butland, a former aide to U.S. Sen. John Glenn.



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