The candidate said he decided to run for Ohio's top elections position in the wake of the controversial presidential vote count in Florida last year.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A former Cuyahoga County commissioner, who last ran for office five years ago, is making a political comeback seeking the Republican nomination for Ohio secretary of state in 2002.
Lee C. Weingart, 35, of Shaker Heights recently met with top local Republican officials -- including Mahoning County Republican Chairman Clarence Smith, Columbiana County Republican Chairman Jerry Ward and former Columbiana GOP Chairman David Johnson -- to discuss his bid for office.
Weingart is expected to face state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora, R-75th, in next year's Republican primary. Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a fellow Republican, plans to run next year for Ohio treasurer.
Ballot problems: Weingart said he decided he would run for secretary of state, Ohio's top elections official, in the wake of the controversy last year with the presidential vote in Florida.
"Many of the counties in Ohio have butterfly ballots such as the ones that caused the Florida debacle," Weingart said.
Weingart said that there is no need to eliminate butterfly ballots but that there is a need to better educate voters how to use the system.
"We have to inform voters that when they vote, they need to be careful and take their time to make sure they press all the way through and check it against light," he said. "The current system is not flawed. We have to counsel voters to make sure they're voting correctly."
Political career: Weingart, a self-described conservative, unsuccessfully ran for commissioner in Cuyahoga County, one of the most Democratic counties in the state, against Tim Hagan in 1994. He was appointed in 1995 to serve the remaining two years left on the commissioner term of Jim Petro, who left the office after being elected state auditor.
Weingart said that in those two years his major accomplishments included taking the county out of a multimillion-dollar deficit, incorporating welfare reforms and helping to bring the Browns football team back to Cleveland.
Weingart lost a close election in 1996 to Democrat Jane Campbell, who is now running for Cleveland mayor.
In 1998, Weingart chaired Gov. Bob Taft's campaign in Cuyahoga County and helped organize a fund-raiser in 1999 in Cleveland for George W. Bush during his successful presidential campaign.
Weingart works for a software management company and operates a technology and consulting service in Cleveland.