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Published: Tuesday, 5/7/2002

5th District race tops area issues on ballot

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A GOP congressional race, a pair of school levies, and a seven-contestant commissioner race highlight today's primary election in northwest Ohio.

The most widely anticipated race pits U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort) against fellow Republican, state Rep. Rex Damschroder, 52, of Fremont, in the reconfigured 5th Congressional District, a 16-county area that stretches from the Indiana border to central Ohio and north to the Michigan line.

Mr. Damschroder, who has to give up his Ohio House seat because of term limits, covered about 6,000 miles in a 25-year-old RV in a grass-roots effort to unseat Mr. Gillmor, who has never faced a GOP challenge in his seven terms.

While politically aligned with his opponent, Mr. Damschroder has called Mr. Gillmor an absentee congressman because he lives out of his district in a Columbus suburb and claimed he does not spend enough time with his constituents.

He also has criticized Mr. Gillmor for the congressman's spotty attendance record at congressional meetings and said Mr. Gillmor has been in public service too long and has lost touch with real-world problems facing his constituents.

Mr. Gillmor, 63, refutes Mr. Damschroder's claims, saying he spends plenty of time in the district, that all his meetings are covered, by himself or by his staff, and that his constituents are better off with a congressman with seniority.

As for the residency issue, Mr. Gillmor says the residency factor only is a concern with voters who won't support him anyway.

Voters in eight school districts - Defiance, Bryan, Patrick Henry, Ottawa Glandorf, Liberty Center, Sandusky, Gorham Fayette, and Edgerton - will be asked to support levies. Defiance, Bryan, and Patrick Henry schools, in particular, face tough challenges.

In Defiance, an 11-mill levy that was twice-defeated last year has been trimmed to 7.1 mills. The levy, if approved, will generate $1.58 million a year for five years. Already this year, the city school district has trimmed about $450,000 from its budget. About $800,000 in additional cuts are planned if the levy fails.

In Bryan, where the city school district faces a $9 million deficit in four years, voters are being asked to approve an emergency 6.8-mill levy over five years. If the levy is defeated, jobs will be lost, cuts will be made in busing and extracurricular activities, and school hours will be cut, officials have said.

In Patrick Henry, where a new middle school is needed, voters are being asked to support a 2.85-mill levy that will generate $3.6 million over 28 years. A similar measure has been defeated four times since 1998.

One mill equals $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

In Seneca County, seven Democratic and Republican candidates are vying to unseat GOP incumbent Ken Estep. Among the candidates in the GOP primary is former sheriff H. Weldin Neff, who was defeated in 2000 for re-election as sheriff. Also vying for the GOP bid are Robert Lee and Dave Sauber, Sr.

Democratic primary candidates include Dennis Brady, David Gross, and Joe Schock. The winners of the Democratic and Republican races will face off for the seat in November.

For the second time in eight years, Findlay businessman James Stahl is attempting to unseat 4th District U.S. Rep. Michael Oxley (R., Findlay). In 1994, Mr. Oxley won about 67 percent of the vote. Mr. Stahl, who has lost two Findlay city council bids since 1999, argues that Mr. Oxley lives outside the district and is not spending enough time with his constituents.

Mr. Oxley, an 11-term House member and chairman of the prestigious Committee on Financial Services, dismisses the charge and has chided Mr. Stahl for failing to raise any serious campaign issues.

In a noteworthy race, Rex Damschroder's 80-year-old father, Gene Damschroder, is competing against Jeff Wagner, Charles Knight, and Jay Thatcher for the GOP bid to face unopposed Democrat James Melle in the race for the Ohio House District 81 seat. The seat will be vacated in January by Rex Damschroder, who must step down after serving four terms.

Meanwhile, in the Toledo area, five candidates are vying for the District 4 city council seat vacated by Edna Brown, who was appointed to fill the Ohio House seat vacated by Toledo Mayor Jack Ford.

The victor among Democrats Michael Ashford, who was appointed to fill the seat until the election, and Perlean Griffin, Republican Dennis C. Lange, and Independents Rick VanLandingham and Mansour Bey will serve the 20 months left on Ms. Brown's term.

A 0.5-mill, five-year levy, known as Issue 3, could raise $3.8 million for the Lucas County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services board if passed.

The issue was narrowly defeated in the November election.



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