Politics Extra
Enquirer reporters give the scoop on what your politicians are doing

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...

After spending more money than anybody else in last fall's Cincinnati City Council campaign ($293,782, to be exact, or $10.36 pervote), it's little wonder that Councilman Jeff Berding doesn't have two nickels to rub together.

But, like any good Cincinnati politician, Berding doesn't want to miss the St. Patrick's Day and Findlay Market parades, which he says will cost about $1,000 in entrances fees and other expenses.

So, next Thursday, when the freshman Democrat turns 39 years old, he's throwing a birthday party for himself at the Federal Reserve bar downtown. Invitations, which went out via e-mail to friend and supporters, listed a "suggested donation of $25,'' with proceeds going to the Berding campaign account's spring parade fund.

"That's just if you want to,'' Berding said. "I'm not going to throw anybody out of my birthday party if they don't give $25.''

Berding is billing this as his "first annual'' birthday bash. The "first annual'' part would have driven Dru Riley Evarts, our copy editing prof at Ohio University many years ago, absolutely crazy, because she would have barked that an event can't be "annual'' until it has happened at least two years in a row.

But Berding says he intends to do it again next February, when he will be turning 40 and actually running for re-election.

"Next year, we'll probably drop the 'suggseted' part,''' Berding said.

I'm staying, give me your money

Just weeks after Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich announced he was withdrawing as the lieutenant governor candidate, he is hosting a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser -- and hosting big names.

Citizens for Heimlich, the commissioner's re-election committee, announced today that the March 21 fundraiser will be held at the upscale Queen City Club.

The announcement also specifically notes the planned attendance at the fundraiser of financier Carl Lindner, Cintas Corp. founder and chairman Dick Farmer, developer Robert Rhein and George Vincent, head of the Hamilton County Republican Party.

Rhein sits on the Hamilton County Economic Development Task Force.

The money goes toward Heimlich's re-election effort as commissioner.

Heimlich was the lieutenant governor candidate for Ohio Attorney Jim Petro who is running for governor. Heimlich dropped out of that race last month to seek re-election as commissioner.

Heimlich was elected Hamilton County commissioner in November 2002 to a four-year term.

Home Sweet Home

Charles Sanders, the former mayor of Waynesville and perpetual congressional candidate, is trying something different this year.

He'll run in a district he actually lives in.

Sanders is running in Ohio's 3rd Congressional District, which includes part of Warren County and most of the Dayton area; and is represented these days by Republican Mike Turner, the former mayor of Dayton, who was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote in Nov. 2004.

Sanders ran against Rob Portman in the 2nd District no less than four times, never getting more than 28 percent of the vote. The last two times, he wasn't even a resident of the 2nd - his home town had been drawn out of the district by the Republicans, a piece of gerry-mandering Sanders believes was directed at him.

Fortunately for Sanders, there is no requirement that a congressional candidate live in the district where he or she is running, although it probably helps. Ask Bob McEwen if you don't believe it. They must merely be residents of the state.

Last year Democratic party leaders in the 2nd District - Hamilton County chair Tim Burke and Clermont County chair Dave Lane among them - cringed at the thought of running out Sanders as their candidate; and lined up behind Paul Hackett.

"The blunt reality is that Charles Sanders can't win the 2nd District seat,'' Burke said last May.

Sanders is still fuming over that, blaming Burke, Lane and others for sinking his candidacy.

"If I had won that primary, Jean Schmidt would not have been able to beat me,'' Sanders said Friday. "No doubt in my mind.''

Happy days are here again

About 250 Democrats walked under the marquee and into the 20th Century Theater in Oakley Square Thursday night for a Hamilton County Democratic Forum pep rally and walked out two hours later pretty well fired up.

And not just because there was an open bar.

The Forum had two of the better stump speakers in Ohio Democratic politics as their keynoters - Jerry Springer - ex-mayor, ex-anchor, host of a low-rent TV slimefest, now reincarnated as a liberal radio talkmeister - and Chris Redfern, the state representative elected six weeks ago as the new Ohio Democrtic Party chairman.

Springer handled the serious message Thursday night - how Democrats need to make sure the Ohio elections of '06 and the presidential election of '08 is about something more than partisan politics - while Redfern provided comic relief.

Redfern poked fun at a list of Republican politicians, including Phil Heimlich, Bob Taft, and the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Blackwell, Redfern said, likes to find issues that divide people; "he's probably cooking up something like a ban on gay illegal immigrant right now.''

Springer's run as a host of an over-sexed, under-brained TV show that even he will tell you is pretty stupid has all but dismantled his chances of ever becoming a serious candidate for public office again. But he has done his share to help Ohio Democrats raise money. If you are the chairman of the Putnam County Democratic Party and you need to sell tickets to your annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, having an internationally-known TV star as your keynote speaker can help; and Springer does his share of that sort of thing.

Thursday night, though, he was in front of a crowd that knew him when, and were less impressed by his celebrity than his rhetorical skills.

"If we go out this year and tell people, 'vote Democrat, because the Republicans are bad' and turn this into an argument about which party is best, then we are going to lose,'' Springer said. "The selling point is this - we have to say to people who vote Republican, 'please love your country more than your party. It's time for change; one-party rule is not a good thing.

"People in Green Township will understand that, even if they usually vote Republican,'' Springer said. "Love your country more than your party. Green Township will get it.''

Springer said he hoped that in the 1st Congressional District, where John Cranley is trying to knock off six-term incumbent Republican Steve Chabot, voters would get that message and "and say, 'Steve, we like you, but we love our country more. You've got to go.'''

"Don't worry, Steve, we'll help you find another job,'' Springer said. "I will hire him personally. I will let him be audience coordinator for my TV show.''

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Malia Rulon on C-Span Friday

Enquirer Washington Bureau reporter Malia Rulon will be on C-Span's "Washington Journal" - by phone - between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Friday morning.

She will be talking about Rep. John Boehner's election as House Majority Leader.

Boehner Wins! Next House Majority Leader!

Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, has been elected the new House Majority Leader, the No. 2 post.

Read more on Cincinnati.com and stay tuned.

Blunt, Boehner in runoff

Enquirer Washington Bureau reporter Malia Rulon reports from outside the doors of the Republican conference meeting that Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri and West Chester's Rep. John Boehner are in a run-off to be majority leader.

This may be good news for Boehner; it means Blunt did not have the outright majority of votes, as he had declared.

Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona has dropped out. His supports may be more inclined towards Boehner than Blunt.

Stay tuned at Cincinnati.com

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cranley's not-so-secret plan

Last night, John Cranley, the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District, detailed his plan for how he is going to accomplish what no Democrat (including himself, in 2000) has been able to do in the last six congressional elections - defeat Steve Chabot.

Cranley showed up in Clifton Wednesday night at a meeting of Democracy for Cincinnati, a group of about 20 activists who supported Howard Dean for president two years ago. He argued he could win - using the John Kerry-George Bush contest of 2004 as evidence.

In the last presidential race, Cranley said, the 1st District gave Bush the lowest winning percentage of any congressional district in Ohio held by a Republican. Bush edged Kerry in the 1st District by only 3,441 votes out of about 300,000 cast. If it hadn't been for the fact that the sparsely populated portion of Butler County that is in the 1st District went four-to-one for Bush, Kerry would have won the district because the Democrat edged out Bush in Hamilton County, which is where most of the votes are.

That, Cranley figures, shows great discontent in the 1st District with the way the Republicans are running the White House and Capitol Hill.

"When some people think about the 1st District, they think of Green Township, and, granted that's a very Republican place, with lots of voters,'' said Cranley.

But, he said, the district has a 27.5% minority population and the bulk of the city of Cincinnati's poor inner-city neighborhoods, which are chock full of Democratic votes for the politician who can get them out to the polls.

Plus, Cranley said, he is every bit the West Side boy that Chabot is; and the fact that he was the top vote-getter in last fall's Cincinnati City Council election, with substantial support in west side neighborhoods, shows that he can compete with Chabot toe-to-toe, he said.

"Green Township has gone 80 percent for Chabot in most elections,'' Cranley said. "But I was born in Green Township. I still have a lot of family in Green Township. If I can cut him down to 60-40 - I'd like to win it, of course - and pick up votes in Colerain and Delhi, I know I can win.''

"I'm not saying it is going to be easy. But it can be done.''

No more Ms. Fancy Pants

If you have been calling the Indian Hill doctor who is running in the 2nd Congressional District primary Victoria Wells Wulsin, please stop it now.

That's so 2005.

Wednesday night at the monthly meeting of Democracy for Cincinnati, an organization made up of political activists who supported Howard Dean for president two years ago, Wulsin announced that she is now referring to herself as simply Victoria Wulsin.

"I've been told that in some parts of the district, the 'Wells' smacks of this uppity east coast thing, so I decided to drop it,'' Wulsin explained.

By "some parts of the district" she is referring to everything outside the I-275 loop - specifically, the district's eastern counties like Brown, Adams, Pike and Scioto, which are largely small town and rural and where, if you are going to tote around three names, you'd better be born there.

In last June's special Democratic primary, a candidate with two names - Paul Hackett - clobbered her there. But it wasn't her abundance of names that doomed Wulsin in the district's smaller counties; the fact that Hackett was a motorcycle riding, gun-toting Marine probably had more to do with it, even though he picks up his mail at a very nice house in Indian Hill too.

But Wulsin was not the only candidate at the Democracy for Cincinnati congressional candidates forum who has shed a name this time around.

Jim Parker, the health care administrator from Pike County who made a 200-mile round trip to Clifton so he could talk to 20 Democratic voters Wednesday night, ran for Congress last year, too, finishing fourth in the five-candidate race.

Last year, he appeared on the ballot as James John Parker, which is something that probably only his mother ever called him.

The only 2nd District candidate at Wednesday's forum who seems willing to stand pat with his moniker is Newtown businessman Thor Jacobs, a name which is kind of hard to forget.

Chabot vs. Cranley in the $$ race

Congressman Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, waited until after 11 p.m. last night to post his latest campaign finance report - later than the Enquirer Washington Bureau stayed open to cover President Bush's State of the Union speech and too late for our story in today's paper.

FYI, Democratic challenger John Cranley, a Cincinnati city council member, also waited until late on Tuesday to file his report with the Federal Election Commission.

Either way, the reports are now out there for all to see. And check them out we did... Here's a sampling of the interesting things we found:

Chabot leads Cranley in fundraising three-to-one, which is no surprise considering he's a six-term incumbent. What is surprising is that he isn't leading Cranley by more. As of the end of 2005, Chabot reported having nearly $600,000 in the bank to Cranley's $180,000.

But the real shocker comes from looking at how much money each candidate raised during the last three months of 2005, which is the time period covered in the latest report. Cranley actually beat Chabot in that contest, raising about $187,800 to Chabot's $172,600.

Is that why Chabot waited so long to file his report?

Next, we looked at where their money came from. For Chabot, about one-third came from individual donors and two-thirds came from corporate or congressional political action committees (PACs). Cranley was the other way around: Less than one-third from PACs and more than two-thirds from individuals.

A deeper look at the individual donors revealed nothing interesting about Chabot. He got money from the usual GOP suspects (H.C. "Buck" Niehoff, Charles Kubicki, Robert J. Kohlhepp, etc.). But it did reveal some interesting things about Cranley, who got $2,000 from trash talk show host (and former mayor of Cincinnati) Jerry Springer, $8,400 from members of the Cranley family (awwww, how sweet!) , and $12,600 from the George Soros clan.

The last contribution prompted the Hamilton County Republican Party to dash of a news release demanding that Cranley return the Soros-related cash he just got, as well as $19,500 he's received from Soros and family since 2000.


According to the HCRP, Soros was convicted of insider trading and fined $2.3 million by a French court. He also has given millions of dollars to support drug legalization efforts and backed a 2002 Ohio ballot initiative, rejected by voters, that would have allowed drug offenders to opt for treatment instead of jail.

After looking at the individual contributions, we moved on to PAC money, where Chabot raked in $67,000 from Republican members of Congress, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., House majority leader contenders Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Boehner of West Chester. Ohio Reps. Mike Oxley, Deborah Pryce and Pat Tiberi also gave to Chabot.

Chabot also benefitted from several corporate PACs: General Electric Company; Cincinnati Bell Inc. Federal PAC; Cinergy Corp. PAC; Limited Inc./ Intimate Brands Inc. PAC; Pfizer PAC; Microsoft Corp. PAC; National Automobile Dealers Association; and Major League Baseball PAC.

Cranley, meanwhile, got $31,500 from congressional Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland, Ohio senatoral candidate Sherrod Brown and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel, who hosted a fundraiser for Cranley in Cincinnati last month.

Finally, we looked at expenditures. Chabot spent $16,352 over the last three months of 2005 while Cranley spent $8,697. This isn't exactly a comparable number, however, because Cranley didnt' declare his candidacy until early December. Still, we did find out how much Cranley's press secretary is making - and how much Chabot spent on his "X-Mas Cards Mailing."

FYI - That was $2,754 for "X-Mas" cards and they didn't even send one to the Enquirer Washignton Bureau! Humph.

And this one belongs to the Red States....

Friday night, when the guests settle in at their candle-lit tables for the Hamilton County Republican Party's annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, some of them may be a bit disappointed when the master of ceremonies sits down and the keynote speaker gets up to speak.

Marty Brennaman, the radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds since 1974, is the master of ceremonies at the Lincon-Reagan dinner, one of the local party's major fundraising events of the year. Rich Galen, the Washington political consultant who served both Newt Gingrich and Dan Quayle as press secretary, gets the nod as keynote speaker this year.

Galen is an entertaining, funny guy (check out his "American Cyber-column" at www.mullings.com if you don't believe it), but there will probably be many in the audience who have O.D'ed on political speeches and would just as soon hear the Hall of Fame broadcaster talk about the glory days of the Big Red Machine, the "Wire-to-wire'' championship of 1990, and the buzz around Great American Ball Park about the '06 season.

But, for their $75 ticket, they'll get a political speech instead.

Not that Brennaman shies away from politics.

"I'm a died-in-the-wool, conservative Republican, no doubt about it,'' Brennaman said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I don't get involved a lot, but I'll help where I can.''

Brennaman's most visible political role came a few days before the 2004 presidential election, when about 60,000 people crammed into Great American Ball Park for a rally featuring President Bush. Brennaman was M.C. for that affair, too.

He's spoken at a meeting of the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club; and, last fall, did a photo shoot with Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Julie Stautberg for her re-election campaign.

"I guess I'm on the Republican party's list now,'' Brennaman said. "They call when they need me.''

Tomorrow: Boehner, Blunt or Shadegg?

**UPDATES list with money Chabot just got from Boehner and Blunt**

At noon tomorrow, Greater Cincinnati could become home to the House majority leader, a position that ranks just under House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and would bring increased clout and attention to the region.

West Chester Rep. John Boehner is in a neck-and-neck race for the job that was vacated earlier this month by Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. To win, Boehner needs the support of 117 House Republicans – a majority of the 231-member caucus.

Boehner, an 8-term Republican who has served as House Education and the Workforce Committee chairman for the last five years, claimed today that he has 50 public backers and more than 90 private supporters, including everyone in the Cincinnati area except Rep. Geoff Davis of Northern Kentucky.

Davis has pledged his support to Boehner’s top rival, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who toured two Boone County manufacturing plants with Davis and appeared at a campaign fundraiser with him just before his 2004 election.

Blunt, the current House Whip who has been filling in as majority leader since DeLay was indicted last year, also flew into Cincinnati for a campaign fundraiser with Rep. Jean Schmidt of Miami Township during last year’s special election, but Schmidt said she’s backing Boehner, as is Rep. Steve Chabot of Westwood and Mike Turner of Centerville.

As of today, Blunt is claiming 97 public supporters and enough private backers to win the race.

The third candidate in the leadership race, Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, hasn't released a list of public backers, but says his support number is around 50.

Here's a look at the $$ that local lawmakers have received from the would-be House majority leaders since 2000:

Schmidt: $10,000 from Boehner; $5,000 from Blunt; $0 from Shadegg.
Davis: $20,000 from Boehner; $15,000 from Blunt; $1,000 from Shadegg.
Chabot: $10,000 from Boehner; $7,000 from Blunt; $0 from Shadegg.
Turner: $25,000 from Boehner; $11,598 from Blunt; $0 from Shadegg.
Boehner: $5,000 from Blunt; $0 from Shadegg.
(Boehner hasn't contributed to either Blunt or Shadegg.)

Boehner said there is a momentum in the House to elect new leadership that gives him and Shadegg an edge.

"Something’s been changing over the last 10 days. Members, it seems, are taking a step back and taking another look," Boehner said, adding that at least one of Blunt’s public supporters has agreed privately to vote for him.

The GOP leadership elections will be conducted behind closed doors on secret ballots. If no one wins after the first vote, lawmakers would vote a second time on the top two vote-getters, a scenario that Boehner said could propel him to victory.

If Boehner wins, he would be the first House majority leader from Ohio since Rep. Nicholas Longworth of Cincinnati in the 1920s.

However, while a Boehner win would give the area added influence on bills before Congress, it wouldn’t mean more money for local projects. Boehner is one of a handful of lawmakers who refuse to earmark money for his district in the federal budget.

God bless us every one

At the beginning of today’s Hamilton County Commissioner meeting – which rarely start on time – Commissioner Phil Heimlich arrived just before the meeting started but ribbed fellow Republican Commissioner Pat DeWine that he had beaten DeWine to the meeting.

DeWine, noting that he was sitting in his chair and ready for the meeting to start as Heimlich walked up, chuckled and said “Suuuure.”

Heimlich, feigning indignation and with a smile, spoke up to DeWine and said “As God as in my witness … “

Before Heimlich could finish, Commissioner Todd Portune, also seated and ready for the meeting to start, interjected “As Todd is my witness?” and laughed.

“Are you saying it’s probably one in the same?” Heimlich cracked back.

“Do you have a Messiah complex too?” Heimlich kiddingly asked Portune. “My wife says the same thing. Just because I lead the prayer here at the meeting.”

Then Heimlich opened the meeting and called for a moment of silent prayer.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Portman backs Schmidt for re-election

With another GOP primary battle underway for his old congressional seat, Rob Portman made it clear that he's staying out of the fray.

The U.S. trade representative, whose resignation last year propelled 11 Republicans to vie for his seat, told the Enquirer that he's backing Rep. Jean Schmdit of Miami Township.

"My position is going to be the administration position, which is to support the incumbent," Portman said in an interview after President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Schmidt beat out former Rep. Bob McEwen and Ohio state Rep. Tom Brinkman to get her party's nomination last year. She then beat Democrat Paul Hackett, an Indian Hill lawyer and Iraq war veteran, in August to claim the seat.

McEwen announced earlier this month that he'll again challenge Schmidt for the seat.

In December, before McEwen's entry to the race, Portman, a Terrace Park Republican, had headlined a fundraiser breakfast for Schmidt in Cincinnati.

Mayor talks crime at UC

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's on-going dialog about crime -- specifically how to reduce the amount of violent crime in the city -- continued Monday night when he met with about 35 people at the University of Cincinnati.

The group included professional facilitators from UC's Criminology Department, provided free of charge by the university.

Invitees included Hamilton County Coroner O'dell Owens; Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher and Cincinnati Fire Department Chief Robert Wright; Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Lipps; Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Rosa Blackwell; along with members of the clergy, Urban League and the city's solicitor's office.

Mallory said Owens and Streicher made a presentations about patterns they see in homicide cases, then the group broke into three groups for discussion. The meeting was closed to the media.

"Last night’s meeting was about getting people to analyze the barriers that keeps them from making progress in fighting crime," Mallory said. "Basically, it came down to what changes we need to make to decrease crime in general; how to deal with prvelance of guns and gun violence."

Mallory unveiled a portion of his plan to fight violent crime Jan. 19. Among the ideas:

--Police taking a renewed focus on busting mid-level drug dealers, who supply drugs to street corner dealers.

--Asking the U.S. Attorney's Office to accept more cases.

--Police and schools cooperating on truency sweeps.

--Combining the vice and drug enforcement units for better coordination.

--Pleading with citizens to report crime they see.

Rager on the job...for now

Cincinnati's interim city manager, David E. Rager, will remain on the job until a replacement is found. Mayor Mark Mallory gave Rager an extension Tuesday, until the city finds a permanent manager.

Feb. 6 is the deadline for resumes to be submitted for the position, which pays $191,000. Mallory said he hopes a short list of candidates will be ready for council by the end of February.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Hackett vs. Brown in the $$ race

**UPDATED with DeWine fundraising numbers**

Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from northern Ohio, and Indian Hill lawyer and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, also a Democrat, are battling for their party's nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in November.

Today, the campaigns released reports showing how much cash they've raised:

Brown: $496,882 raised and $2.37 million in the bank

Hackett: $465,779 raised and $229,784 in the bank

DeWine: $1 million raised and $4.3 million in the bank

Granted, there are a ton of other factors that will play into this race, but looking at the financials shows that Hackett is way behind Brown in a contest that will be decided only a few months away on May 2.

Of course, with Hackett getting into the race only last October against a seven-term congressman, it's not surprising that Hackett is this far behind. What is surprising is that the two candidates each raised about the same amount during the last three months of 2005, keeping in mind that Hackett was only a candidate for two of those months. And, to no surprise, that's exactly how his campaign is spinning it:

"Hackett's tremendous showing ensures a competitive primary campaign against Sherrod Brown, an entrenched career politician who is expected to announce raising slightly more than Hackett despite serving in public office for more than 30 years," says a news release from the Hackett campaign, which noted that Hackett's cash came from 8,675 people contributing an average of $51.00 each.
Brown's campaign said this about their numbers:

"We're extremely confident about our numbers," said Ben Wikler, Brown's campaign press secretary. "The fact that 79% of our donors are individuals from Ohio speaks to the overwhelming in-state support for Sherrod."

Earlier this month, Brown was endorsed by the Ohio Communications Workers of America, the Ohio Building Trades Council, and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

"Sherrod's focus has been on talking with Ohioans about the issues that affect their everyday lives, and his plans to bring about change in Ohio," Wikler said. "Today's fundraising numbers show that Sherrod's message resonates with working men and women throughout the state."
Meanwhile, DeWine has raised twice as much as Hackett and Brown. He held a fundraiser in Washington last week with Vice President Dick Cheney and has a fundraiser coming up next month with President Bush. So who ever wins the Democratic primary will need to have enough money left over to mount a formidable challenge to DeWine, who has been collecting quite a nest egg.

Bortz on the Arts

Cincinnati Councilman Chris Bortz was appointed by Vice-Mayor Jim Tarbell to the city's Arts, Culture, Tourism and Marketing Committee. Bortz is a Charterite whose uncle was former Mayor Arn Bortz. At age 32, he is the third youngest member of City Council.

Bush to headline DeWine fundraiser in Cincinnati

President Bush plans to be in Cincinnati this month to headline a campaign fundraising dinner for Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville.

The fundraiser comes less than a month after Vice President Dick Cheney was featured at a Jan. 26 fundraiser for DeWine in Washington and despite DeWine voting against Bush on key legislative issues.

DeWine will face either Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown or Indian Hill lawyer and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, also a Democrat, in November.

Invitations for the Feb. 23 fundraiser have already gone out to top GOP donors. Here's what they say:

You Are Cordially Invited To Welcome
In Honor Of
Thursday, February 23, 2006
4:30 P.M. - VIP Reception w/Photo Opportunity
5:00 P.M. - Dinner Reception
Doors open at 3:00 P.M.
Please Arrive No Later Than 4:30 P.M.
At The Home Of
Margie And Mark Hauser
VIP Reception w/Photo Opportunity - Raise $10,000
Dinner Reception - $4,200 Per Person
Business Attire
Reply Card Enclosed
All RSVPs Must Be Received No Later Than February 20TH.
Kathy and Bill DeWitt
Nancy Heffner Donovan & Steve Donovan
Joyce and Dick Farmer
Margie and Mark Hauser
Carl Lindner
Gaby and Mercer Reynolds
Tom Arington
Eileen and John Barrett
Susie and Bob Castellini
Tracy and David Davis
Dina and Edward Donohoe
James M. Gould
Louise and Joe Head
Kerry and John Mongelluzzo
Kris and Brian Moran
Thomas L. Neyer, Jr.
Buck Niehoff
Jim Robers
Rose and Paul Swanson
Kim and George Vincent
Donna and Dan Weaver
Beth and Brian Wright

Schmidt chief of staff gave $100 to McEwen

Turns out Rep. Jean Schmidt's chief of staff, Barry Bennett, gave $100 to Schmidt rival Bob McEwen during last year's primary for the 2nd District special election.

Schmidt beat McEwen 31 percent to 25 percent.

Bennett's wife, Melissa Bennett, who is President Bush's scheduler at the White House, used to work for McEwen when he was a member of Congress.

"I've known Bob for 20 years. It's not like we're strangers," Bennett told the Enquirer, adding that it's the last contribution he'll be making to McEwen - ever.

McEwen is challenging Schmidt again for the 2nd District in the GOP primary May 2.

When asked, McEwen's campaign spokesman, Michael Harlow, put out this statement about the contribution:

It is true that Barry Bennett contributed to Bob McEwen’s campaign the last time.

Bob and Liz (McEwen) have a genuine friendship with Barry's wife, who formerly worked for Bob on Capitol Hill and then in Rob Portman's office.

I am sure that the viciously mean things that Barry has been saying lately are an outgrowth of his new position working for Jean Schmidt.

We have all experienced how mean the Schmidt campaigns are. Bob McEwen was urged by Republicans across the district to restore a voice in Washington, like Rob Portman’s was, of which we can be proud.

We have heard the boasting of how mean they intend to be. I must respond to her daily abuses and I will seek to do so in as gracious a manner as possible.

However, Bob McEwen is a gentleman who is admired across the nation for his commitment to the issues we care about. That is why he was asked to speak in 17 states on behalf of Republican campaigns in 2004, and it is why he his colleagues elected him to represent Ohio on the two most respected committee assignments in the Congress: the powerful Rules Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence.

The mean and embarrassing attacks, which are the only accomplishment of our current representative in Washington, must be endured until the fluke election of last year can be corrected at the ballot box.

Hackett launches new blog

Move over Congressman Sherrod Brown, a new blogger is in town.

Democrat Paul Hackett, an Indian Hill lawyer and Iraq war veteran who is running against Brown, also a Democrat, for the party's nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Mike DeWine this fall, launched his campaign's own blog this month.

Hackett's new blog can be found here.

Brown, a seven-term congressman from Lorain in northern Ohio, has been operating GrowOhio.org for nearly a year now where he pays three bloggers to post items.

Hackett's blog will be moderated by his Internet communications director but will allow readers to create personal diaries, similar to the popular Daily Kos blog site.

Meanwhile, DeWine finally has a campaign Web site, but visitors can only contact the campaign or donate money. No blogging there!

Poll beautiful to three guv candidates

All three major candidates for Ohio governor found something nice in the latest public-opinion poll, conducted last week by the Ohio Republican Party.

Secretary of State Ken Blackwell liked it because it said he had a 10 percentage point lead over his GOP primary rival Jim Petro, Ohio's attorney general.

The telephone survey of 800 people likely to vote in the general election, including 400 likely Republicans, was taken Jan. 23-25 by McLaughlin & Associates of Washington, D.C., It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. It showed Blackwell was leading Petro 40 percent to 30 percent with a large number of undecideds, at 29 percent.

Petro's campaign also liked the results because it found them faring better in a head-to-head match against Democratic frontrunner Ted Strickland.

And Strickland, a U.S. congressman from Lisbon, liked it because he led Blackwell and Petro in both matchups.

The poll found Strickland running ahead of Petro by 39 percent to 36 percent and ahead of Blackwell by 39 percent to 33 percent.

"Polls are all over the map,'' Petro said at a Statehouse news conference today. "This is not about polls. This is about ideas.''

Petro picks Padgett as running mate

Attorney General Jim Petro named Sen. Joy Padgett today as his running mate in this year's race for governor.

Padgett, 58, of Coshocton replaces Phil Heimlich as lieutenant governor on the Republican Party ticket. Heimlich withdraw from the race two weeks ago to run for re-election on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.

Padgett was a member of the Ohio House from 1993-99 and director of the state Office of Appalachia from 1999-2004. She was elected to the Senate in 2004 when she defeated Democrat Terry Anderson.

Born in Morgan Run Coal Hollow, Padgett is a former high school teacher and owns an office supply business with her husband, Don. Padgett is opposed to abortion, but supports the right to bear arms.

"We need to reinvent governor so it runs more efficiently,'' she said today at a Statehouse news conference. "My greatest concern is complacency.''

Petro's primary opponent, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell of Cincinnati, is expected to name his running mate this week.

Padgett is known for running well from behind, and is not afraid to attack. Today, she called Blackwell "a one-dimensional candidate.''

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