By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ohio Auditor Jim Petro, who will run next year for state attorney general, said he expects state Treasurer Joseph T. Deters, who has also announced his candidacy for the job, to withdraw from the race before next year's Republican primary.
"To be candid with you, I don't think there will be a primary, and I'm not the one who will be pulling out," Petro told The Vindicator. "I hope he gets out of the race, because a primary is a big expense."
Deters' side: Matt Borges, Deters' Columbus-based campaign spokesman, said his candidate is committed to running for attorney general next year, however, and has no intention of withdrawing.
Petro, who was here Monday to release a performance audit of Youngstown State University, said he will be the 2002 Republican nominee for attorney general based on the support he has throughout the state.
"I have great support within the party and in every corner of the state," he said. "I personally believe I will be the party's nominee."
Announcement: Petro and Deters announced last month that they would run in next year's Republican primary for attorney general. Attorney General Betty Montgomery, a Republican, cannot seek a third four-year term for the office because of the state's term limits law. She is planning to run next year for state auditor.
Geauga County Sheriff George "Red" Simmons plans to announce Thursday that he will run for attorney general as a Democrat next year.
Petro cannot seek a third four-year term as auditor because of the term limits law. Deters, first elected treasurer in 1998, could run next year for another term to the position, but he has opted to seek the Republican nomination for attorney general. Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, said he wants to run for treasurer next year.
Petro said he is only interested in running for attorney general next year and dismissed talk that he would consider running as Gov. Bob Taft's lieutenant governor candidate next year.
"I've enjoyed my years as auditor, but I'm ready for another challenge" as attorney general, he said.
Republican majority: Republicans hold every elected statewide position except two Supreme Court seats. One of the reasons for the party's success, Petro said, is unity. Petro said he wanted to run for attorney general about a decade ago, but was convinced by the Republican chairman to step aside in favor of Montgomery and run instead for auditor for the sake of unity.
"I've already pulled out once, and I don't think I'll do it again," said Petro, adding that Deters should do it this time around.
In response, Borges said, "The race isn't about whose turn it is. It's about who's the best candidate to be Ohio attorney general."
Northeast Ohio support: Petro said he is not concerned that many voters in Northeast Ohio, one of his core areas of support and where he was raised, would opt to cast ballots in the Democratic primary, thus not voting for him and hurting his chances for victory.