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GOP scandals hurt, Ludeman says

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It s never easy to run as a Republican in Toledo, but this year s election looks like a golden GOP opportunity: The Democrats who dominate city politics have split into three factions, behind three mayoral candidates, with a lone Republican challenger.

Yet that lone Republican told a live television debate audience this week that, in retrospect, maybe he shouldn t have run at all.

Asked why a recent poll shows him trailing a Democrat, former mayor Carty Finkbeiner, among Republican voters, city Councilman Rob Ludeman blamed the highly publicized troubles of former Lucas County GOP chairman Tom Noe and Gov. Bob Taft.

He said if someone could have warned him they d dominate the news this summer, I probably would have rethought my decision to run.

Mr. Ludeman ended the answer by declaring himself the honest Republican.

Mr. Taft was found guilty and convicted last month of four misdemeanor ethics charges after failing to report gifts from lobbyists and others including free golf games from Mr. Noe.

And Mr. Noe is accused of stealing up to $4 million that state officials gave him to invest in his rare-coin business. He has since left Toledo for the Florida Keys, leaving other local Republicans to rebuild their underdog party after him.

Mr. Ludeman and other local GOP candidates said this week the scandals have affected their campaigns but not derailed them. In some cases, candidates said the events have spurred a few changes or actual improvements.

This is obviously not an ideal environment for a Republican to be running any race right now, said Doug Haynam, the interim chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, particularly in the city of Toledo with the steady drumbeat from our local paper about Republican misdeeds and missteps.

But, he added, there s clearly an opportunity here for new leadership in the city.

Republican City Councilman George Sarantou, running for re-election to his at-large council seat, said the local party has not mailed advertisements supporting GOP candidates this year, a contrast to past elections. He said the bad news also appeared to be hurting fund-raising.

There s a fair amount of people in my party and I will

say also outside of my party, even Democrats who are discouraged by these events, Mr. Sarantou said. People say, I don t want to get involved, I don t want to write a check, I don t want to have anything to do with it.

Mr. Haynam said he did not know whether the scandals were hurting fund-raising for Republican candidates.

Neither did Mr. Ludeman, who reported yesterday that he d raised less than 10 percent of any of his Democratic opponents: Mr. Finkbeiner, Mayor Jack Ford, and attorney Keith Wilkowski.

Three Republicans Mr. Sarantou, Councilman Betty Shultz, and council challenger Dave Schulz yesterday reported raising several thousand dollars each for the Toledo city council primary election, placing them near the top of the field.

Mr. Schulz and Mr. Sarantou said yesterday they hear few concerns from voters about Mr. Noe and Mr. Taft while campaigning. They and Mr. Ludeman have taken pains to distance themselves from Mr. Noe; Mr. Ludeman noted yesterday that he often clashed with Mr. Noe s wife, Bernadette, when she chaired the local party.

Ms. Shultz, who earlier this year testified before a federal grand jury investigating whether Mr. Noe illegally laundered campaign contributions to President Bush s re-election campaign, finished first in a recent Zogby International poll of the at-large city council race.

Some of the candidates, including Mr. Ludeman, wondered yesterday whether the scandals might depress Republican turnout in the Sept. 13 primary election or steer partisans to Democrats such as Mr. Finkbeiner, who has enlisted some prominent Republicans to co-chair his campaign.

Mr. Haynam pledged the county GOP would target Republicans with a better get-out-the-vote effort than ever. He offered his own explanation, which did not include Mr. Taft or Mr. Noe, for Mr. Ludeman s apparent failure to lead among Republican voters.

I don t believe the polls, Mr. Haynam said. I think Republicans are smart enough to tell pollsters things that may or may not be accurate. I expect Republican voters to turn out hard to vote for Rob in the primary.

Contact Jim Tankersley at:jtankersley@toledoblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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