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Published: Saturday, 6/21/2008

Democrats crown their candidate for attorney general

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Democrats crowned their candidate for attorney general Saturday while Republicans let their initial target date to name their candidate pass without action.

It came as no surprise as the Ohio Democratic Party's central and executive committees ratified Gov. Ted Strickland's choice of state Treasurer Richard Cordray to carry the party's banner to replace the disgraced Marc Dann, whom the party has tried to disown.

Mr. Cordray said Democrats have "turned the page on Mr. Dann, who resigned last month after less than 17 months in office following a sexual harassment scandal that had him admitting to his own consensual affair with an office employee.

"My race this year will be about my priorities for the attorney general's office and how I plan to put that office on the side of the people of Ohio, Mr. Cordray said. "I'm not looking to make comparisons to any of the prior attorneys general living or dead.

As Democrats presented a united front in downtown Columbus, Ohio Republican Party leaders met a bit to the north near Delaware, but no potential candidate's name was presented for consideration as scheduled.

The committee initially named to screen potential candidates has been turned into a search committee to find a candidate after one big name after another, as well as a few second-tier possibilities, have taken their names out of contention.

The field of known potential candidates has largely narrowed to former Attorney General Jim Petro, who found himself out of statewide office after unsuccessfully seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2006.

Kevin DeWine, the party's deputy chairman, said a number of people have expressed interest in making a run, but some have been unwilling to do so publicly yet.

"We're committed to finding the right candidate rather than someone in the quickest fashion possible, he said.

He disagreed with the suggestion that the GOP pool of candidates appears to have run dry less than two years after statewide Republican officeholders were falling over one another to run for office.

"There is a very small group of people who are qualified to run for attorney general, and we're going to make sure we don't make the same mistake that Democrats did when they put Marc Dann on the ballot 18 months ago, said Mr. DeWine. "I don't buy the argument that the bench is empty. There's a great bench of next-generation Republican leaders.

The list of some of the better known names that have taken themselves out of consideration includes former Attorney General Betty Montgomery, former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, state Sen. Tim Grendell (R., Chesterland), retiring U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce of suburban Columbus, and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien.

The party must name its candidate by Aug. 20 for the Nov. 4 special election.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com, or 614-221-0496.



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