Canton Repository

December 20, 2002

DeWine, Voinovich continue to support Lott’s leadership bid 

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Ohio Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine would vote again for embattled Sen. Trent Lott as Republican majority leader, their aides said Thursday.

The statements came after Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, launched a petition drive seeking to pressure the two Republican senators to withdraw their backing of Lott.

The Mississippi senator got into trouble two weeks ago, when he remarked during a birthday celebration for outgoing Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina that if the former segregationist had been elected president in 1948, the nation would have avoided “all these problems over the years.”

Lott has repeatedly apologized for the remark, and denied he meant to support racial segregation. Nevertheless, he has lost political ground every day since then, with some conservative Republicans as well as Democrats calling for his removal.

At least two Republican senators, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Don Nickles of Oklahoma, have argued Lott should be replaced.

DeWine and Voinovich have continued to support Lott, who they insist is not a racist. They have condemned his remarks as stupid and thoughtless.

The two will vote for him again if he is challenged during a Jan. 6 meeting of Republican senators, who will have a 51-seat majority in the chamber next year. Republican senators alone choose their leader, as Democratic senators choose theirs.

DeWine “voted for him a month ago and he’ll vote for him again,” spokeswoman Amanda Flaig said. Voinovich’s spokesman Scott Milburn said “if there were a vote he (Voinovich) would support him in that.”

Kicking off a petition drive aimed at forcing Lott’s ouster, Brown said Lott does not hold the values of “fairness, tolerance and following the golden rule” that are held by “most Ohioans.”

Brown said Lott’s “entire career is littered with hostility to policies that promote fairness and equality.”

Lott previously opposed a federal holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. and the renewal of voting rights legislation.

The majority of callers to the offices of DeWine and Voinovich have opposed Lott’s remaining as majority leader, aides to the two senators said. In DeWine’s office, calls are running 4-1 against Lott. In Voinovich’s, they are running 2-1 against Lott.