Canton Repository

November 5, 2006

U.S. Senate candidates hunt for supporters

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

NEW PHILADELPHIA - It was cold, but Sherrod Brown didn’t seem to notice.

With temperatures in the 30s and without so much as a blazer to keep him warm, the youthful-looking lawmaker greeted a small crowd of steelworkers at the Republic Engineered Products plant in Lorain./

“What’s up?” he said, moving from one bundled-up worker to another.

Politically, Brown, D-Avon, is hot. Polls have shown him ahead of his opponent for the U.S. Senate, two-term Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville, for the past several weeks.

A day after Brown’s appearance before the steelworkers, DeWine addressed a much larger audience at a farmland preservation conference in Reynoldsburg.

But with the election two days away, the race is widely viewed as a likely pickup for Democrats at a time when the minority party needs to gain six seats to take control of the Senate.

POLITICAL PEDIGREES

DeWine, who is viewed as conservative-to-moderate, insists that a strong Republican turnout and ticket splitting by Democrats and independents will give him victory on Tuesday.

The more-liberal Brown is encouraged by what he views as strong support for his candidacy in Republican areas of the state, where he said he sees a desire for change.

Brown, a seven-term congressman who gained his political reputation as a foe of what he calls “job-killing trade agreements,” made sure to shake everyone’s hand at Wednesday’s factory event.

“I appreciate so much what you’re doing,” said Brown, who is ardently pro-union. “This may be the most-watched race in the country.”

At the Reynoldsburg conference, DeWine, a one-time county prosecutor, began by laying out his agricultural credentials, noting that he grew up working for his family’s seed business and still has children in 4-H.

DeWine, 59, said he has promoted farmland preservation in the past and will continue to “fight” for it in the Senate.

A supporter of the trade agreements that Brown has denounced, DeWine said trade is critical to Ohio because one-fourth of the state’s agricultural products are exported.

He added that the energy bill he voted for — and Brown opposed — encourages greater use of the corn-derived fuel additive ethanol, benefiting Ohio farmers. DeWine promotes himself as an accomplished legislator who has worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass dozens of bills, many benefiting children.

DeWine said he has used his position on the Appropriations Committee to bring back more than $1 billion in federal spending to Ohio.

Meeting with steelworkers last week, Brown drew applause when he pitched his plan to give tax breaks and government contracts to companies that keep their research and development in the United States, offer “portable” pensions and provide decent health care to their employees.

“If those corporations are loyal to the workers and communities, then government ought to be loyal and make it easier for them to manufacture in our country,” he said.

Brown casts himself as a friend of the middle class and an agent of change. “I think people want a senator who will stand up to these special-interest groups and stand up for the middle class,” said Brown, 53.

differences on iraq, medicare, trade

In a campaign characterized by negative attacks from both sides, Brown has accused DeWine of favoring the interests of the oil, pharmaceutical and insurance industries in return for their generous campaign contributions.

DeWine calls Brown one of the most liberal lawmakers in Congress. He said Brown has been ineffective and passed few bills while in the House.

“He’s to the left of (Massachusetts Sen.) John Kerry, his friend, who’s given him a lot of money,” DeWine said.

DeWine claims Brown is soft on defense, noting he voted against the surveillance-expanding Patriot Act after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Brown retorts that DeWine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a lackluster attitude toward the faulty intelligence that led to the invasion of Iraq and subsequent miscalculations.

Brown favors a timetable to leave Iraq; DeWine insists that would embolden insurgents.

DeWine voted for President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which he said spurred the economy. Brown insists they favored the rich.

Brown has been highly critical of the Medicare drug benefit, which DeWine believes has been largely a success.

DeWine is an abortion opponent, while Brown favors the right to an abortion. Brown also advocates federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, which DeWine says is wrong because it includes destruction of the embryo.

THE BUSH FACTOR

After his speech to the farm group, DeWine was asked whether his support for farmland preservation would gain him any votes.

He said he didn’t know.

“I care very passionately about it, whether it changes their mind or not,” he said.

DeWine added that some of his other initiatives, such as legislation that requires crash data be posted on new cars starting next year, might not be well-known to voters, but are important.

“You do things because they matter. That’s why you’re in the United States Senate,” he said.

Tom Wengerd, a Louisville Republican, plans to vote for DeWine, though he is leaning toward Democrat Ted Strickland over Republican Ken Blackwell in the governor’s race.

“I have no problems with DeWine,” he said.

But Jeff Konowal, a Canton Democrat, said he was definitely voting for Brown.

“DeWine has been very much for President Bush and a lot of what he says about working with both sides, I haven’t seen that at all,” he said.