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Published: Tuesday, 2/14/2006

Analysts: Local GOP may feel fallout in November

BY JIM TANKERSLEY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Think you're hearing a lot about Tom Noe's indictment today? Wait until November, political strategists say, when Democratic candidates across Lucas County will likely flood the airwaves with attempts to tie their Republican opponents to Mr. Noe - fairly or not.

Democrats, Republicans, and independent analysts disagree which local Republicans could suffer at the polls from the charges against Mr. Noe, which include racketeering, forgery, and grand theft. But nearly all say they expect Democrats to wield the indictment as an electoral weapon in Lucas County, where Mr. Noe built his political influence.

"It seems like politicians and people that advise politicians always try and paint the competition with a bad brush," said Mike Hart, president and CEO of the advertising firm Hart Associates. "I would be kidding you if I told you different. I'm sure there's some tactician, some PR guy, already out there thinking how they can use this in November against somebody."

Local Democrats indicated yesterday they'll try to use the 53-count indictment against any Republican on the fall ballot.

"This is going to have a serious negative effect" on Republicans, said Domenic Montalto, executive director of the Lucas County Democratic Party. Later, he added, "Anybody who puts that R next to their name is carrying the water for Noe, as far as I see it."

Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz called Mr. Noe "death to Republicans. Anyone who had any sort of personal or financial relationship with Tom Noe is badly damaged."

Some relationships are more personal than others. In Mr. Noe's case, Republicans and political analysts said Mr. Noe's legal woes, which also include federal money-laundering chargers, are potentially most damaging to Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber.

A federal affidavit has identified Ms. Thurber as one of 24 "conduits" who allegedly passed money from Mr. Noe to President Bush's re-election campaign in violation of campaign finance laws. Mr. Noe also wrote a $40,000 check in 2002 that helped the local GOP buy television ads to help Ms. Thurber's commissioner campaign.

Ms. Thurber has not said if she will seek re-election this fall. She declined comment on Mr. Noe's indictment yesterday.

Another Republican eyeing the commissioner's race said Ms. Thurber should not run again because of the "serious charges" related to her and Mr. Noe.

"It's going to be an enormous burden to carry and an enormous collar around her neck," said George Sarantou, a Toledo City Councilman who will decide this week if he'll run for commissioner, auditor, or nothing next fall.

Mr. Sarantou said he took about $700 in campaign donations from Mr. Noe and would give the money away as soon as prosecutors direct him where to send it.

GOP State Rep. Mark Wagoner of Ottawa Hills said he's given away $1,600 in Noe contributions.

"I hope [voters] understand that not all Republicans are Tom Noe," Mr. Wagoner said, "and we're taking steps to fix the problem."

Democratic consultant Mark Luetke, who sits on the Sylvania City Council, said the Noe scandal might hurt Republicans such as Mr. Sarantou or Mr. Wagoner only slightly in November.

"Unless you can draw it up to the doorstep of a specific candidate," Mr. Luetke said, "the effect is diminished."

Contact Jim Tankersley at:

jtankersley@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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