Both candidates plan to exploit the incumbent congressman's record.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
SALEM -- The gloves are coming off in the 6th Congressional District race, and the two competitors are coming out swinging.
U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, and Michael Halleck of Salem, his Republican opponent, say they expect a competitive race for the seat. But that didn't stop them from taking shots at each other.
Halleck, who raised $50,000 Thursday at a fund-raiser, said Strickland is "so far left of anything the Mahoning Valley is used to."
Strickland said Halleck's inability to compete with him financially and to attract national Republican contributions shows his opponent's weaknesses.
"It's telling that he hasn't, thus far, shown a lot of support in the area of contributions," said Strickland, pointing to Halleck's most recent campaign finance report, which showed he had $43,130 as of June 30. That doesn't include the $50,000 raised Thursday. Strickland had $547,703 as of June 30.
Strickland said he was not overlooking Halleck, but rather pointing to his record of nearly eight years in Congress.
Halleck also pointed to Strickland's record, saying the congressman fares poorly in surveys conducted by a small business lobby and a taxpayers' association.
"He's got a record of incompetence," Halleck said. "He's been a congressman for eight of the last 10 years and his district is the poorest in the state. We need a bulldog, not a poodle."
Strickland and Halleck agree that the election will be won Nov. 5 in four counties -- Mahoning, Columbiana, Jefferson and Belmont.
Because of statewide redistricting, portions of districts represented by Strickland and U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, a major Halleck supporter, as well as the 17th District, formerly represented by James A. Traficant Jr., are combined into the new 6th District, which takes effect next year.
The 12-county district runs for more than 300 miles along the state's eastern and southern borders with a majority of the population in Mahoning, Columbiana, Jefferson and Belmont counties.
"I feel confident in those counties," Strickland added.
During the Democratic primary, Strickland won every county except Mahoning. Halleck won 10 of 12 counties, including the biggest four, in the Republican primary.
Dave Johnson, a former Columbiana County GOP chairman and Halleck's general campaign manager, said raising money for the race is the biggest challenge facing the candidate. But Johnson said Halleck has raised about $80,000 from individual contributors, the most of any nonincumbent congressional candidate in Ohio.
Political action committees and the National Republican Congressional Committee have not contributed to Halleck's campaign.
Among those at Halleck's fund-raiser at Johnson's Salem home were Ney, state Auditor Jim Petro, state Rep. Charles Blasdel, several Columbiana County Republican officeholders, and two prominent local Democratic donors: businessmen Anthony Cafaro and Bruce Zoldan.
"Strickland's name ID is not real high, and the primary on the Democratic side was not real electrifying," Ney said. "I have no ill will toward Ted, but Halleck has a real shot at that seat."