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Published: Wednesday, 11/1/2000

District 2 race for Senate is a 1-man affair

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

BOWLING GREEN - State Rep. Randy Gardner has won his race for the state Senate.

That is because the Bowling Green Republican does not have an opponent, so even absentee ballots can put him over the top.

Senate Democrats this year lined up Eric Klinger, a Bowling Green State University graduate, to fill the ballot slot until another candidate could be recruited.

The Democrats tapped Linda Cook, who ran unsuccessfully in 1999 for the Sylvania Township board of trustees. But the Lucas County board of elections rejected Ms. Cook's placement on the ballot because the Democratic district committee that endorsed her did not comply with signature and oath requirements.

Ms. Cook would have had an uphill battle against Mr. Gardner in Senate District 2 - which covers Wood and Ottawa counties, and the parts of Lucas County outside the city of Toledo.

But failing to field a candidate robbed the Democrats of the opportunity to accuse the GOP of violating the spirit of term limits by Mr. Gardner and state Sen. Robert Latta (R., Bowling Green) seeking to switch seats.

Mr. Latta could have run for re-election this year to Senate District 2.

Mr. Gardner, who was barred by term limits from running for re-election this year to House District 4, jumped into the Senate race when Mr. Latta decided to jump from the Senate to the House.

“People of Wood County saw the opportunity for both of us to continue to represent Wood County,” Mr. Gardner said.

During this two-year legislative term, Mr. Gardner said he has worked with other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to “enhance the efforts to make northwest Ohio a real player in the Statehouse.”

In the state capital budget approved earlier this year, projects pushed by Mr. Gardner and the northwest Ohio's delegation included funding for the Fallen Timbers battlefield and the purchase of the former Lonz Winery.

“The best measure of the legislature is not how much money can be spent,” said Mr. Gardner, who has served in the House since 1985. “That is not my primary purpose as a legislator, but there is an issue of fairness, and a fair share of attention is important.”

Mr. Gardner and then-state Rep. Darrell Opfer, an Oak Harbor Democrat, worked together last year to amend the state budget to include $4 million to pay farmers to plant trees, restore wetlands, or agree to leave an unplanted swath between their crop fields and waterways.

The state funds, combined with federal dollars, boosted a program expected to offer $201 million over 15 years to farmers in 27 northwest Ohio counties.

Mr. Gardner said the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority supported the program because it is expected to reduce sediment and pesticide runoff into the tributaries of Lake Erie. Over several years, that effort will reduce dredging costs, port authority officials said.

“This program will improve the water quality, which is helpful for the wildlife and fishing industry, and sport fishing in northwest Ohio in the lakes and rivers,” he said.

Mr. Gardner introduced a bill at the request of Governor Taft that establishes an appeals process for consumers who want to challenge decisions by their managed-care companies. The bill, which Mr. Taft signed last year, gives women direct access to gynecologists and obstetricians without referrals from primary-care physicians and allows Ohioans to deduct some medical and long-term care expenses from their income taxes. Mr. Gardner estimated that potential tax cut at $100 million over two years.

Several Democrats criticized the bill because a provision was removed to allow patients to sue HMOs for failure to live up to their obligations. Mr. Gardner said health care will continue to be a major issue, and the liability provision could be revisited. “Governor Taft supports it. George W. Bush supports at least a limited liability provision,” he said.

Mr. Gardner introduced a bill that became law to allow students to carry asthma inhalers in school. He introduced the measure at the request of Dr. Wayne Bell, a Bowling Green physician.

Mr. Gardner said the legislation was needed because students who have asthma problems often were barred from carrying their inhalers and using them when they needed relief becuase of school policies against drugs.



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