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Published: Friday, 1/5/2001

O'Connor touted for deputy job at Justice


COLUMBUS - For the second time in 14 months, there's talk that the Taft-O'Connor ticket may be splitting up.

U.S. Sen. George Voinovich has joined Governor Taft in urging President-elect George W. Bush's transition team to pick Lieutenant Governor Maureen O'Connor as deputy attorney general.

“Maureen's professional demeanor and thorough knowledge combine to make her truly an excellent candidate for Deputy Attorney General,” wrote Mr. Voinovich, to Clay Johnson's executive director.

Ms. O'Connor didn't return phone messages yesterday, but Mr. Taft's press secretary said she approached the governor recently about her interest in a high-level post at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Mr. Taft wrote a letter to Vice President-elect Richard Cheney on behalf of Ms. O'Connor, who also is director of the state Department of Public Safety.

Taft aides acknowledged that the bid is early, given that Mr. Bush's choice for attorney general, John Ashcroft, has not been confirmed yet.

“Time will tell whether there is a good fit,” said Kevin Kellems, Mr. Taft's press secretary.

David Leland, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said he believes Mr. Taft is trying to get Ms. O'Connor a job so she won't be around when he runs for re-election next year. “There's been a lot of controversy surrounding her,” Mr. Leland said.

In 1999, Ms. O'Connor received a warning for speeding on I-71 in Ashland County and accidentally bumped a state trooper's car. She also paid a ticket in Columbus after her state-issued Jeep Cherokee struck another vehicle.

Last month, her 21-year-old son, Alex Kipp, pleaded no contest and was found guilty of two misdemeanor charges after a felony possession of cocaine charge was dismissed against him. An Athens County judge gave Mr. Kipp a suspended 30-day jail sentence and ordered him to pay $275 in fines and court costs.

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