OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE Lack of qualified running mates disheartens Democratic official

The Democratic state representative is challenging Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell for Ohio secretary of state.
YOUNGSTOWN -- State Rep. Bryan Flannery, a Democrat running for Ohio secretary of state, said he is disappointed that his party has been unable to find qualified candidates to run with him for state office.
"It's disheartening to see," Flannery, of Lakewood, D-17th, said during an interview Monday with The Vindicator. "I'm out campaigning hard, and the only person I see is Tim Hagan," who is running for governor.
Despite that, Flannery, 34, is confident the party will find a strong slate of candidates to complete the ticket. The filing deadline for the general election is Feb. 21. Republicans control every elected administrative office in the state.
"My firm belief is this is probably the best time for Democrats to make some serious inroads," Flannery said. "With one party controlling everything, you run into arrogance and the problem of one-party rule."
Formal announcement: Flannery, a two-term state representative, will formally announce his intention to run for secretary of state at nine locations between Thursday and Sunday, including a stop at 10 a.m. Saturday in Warren.
Flannery is not anticipating a Democratic primary challenge and will face Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, in the November general election.
Blackwell had planned to run this year for Ohio treasurer, a position he held for four years ending in 1998. But when Joseph T. Deters, a fellow Republican, withdrew from the attorney general's race and decided to seek re-election as state treasurer last month, Blackwell changed his mind.
Not affected: Flannery said his campaign is unaffected by Blackwell's decision. Running against Blackwell could prove to be beneficial to his campaign because voters will be focused on the secretary of state's flip-flop on seeking the office, Flannery said.
"I had anticipated a run against him all the time," Flannery said. "We'll make him speak to his record and force him to answer to that."
Flannery said he has $40,000 in his campaign war chest and plans to have $500,000 in it before the primary. He will have the needed $3 million or so to compete in the general election, he said.
Blackwell has failed the state by not making any significant improvements to Ohio's voting process during his three-plus years as secretary of state, Flannery said. If elected, Flannery said he will work to eliminate punch-card ballots, which are used in about 70 of the state's 88 counties. His plan is to implement a uniform electronic touch-screen voting procedure in each county of the state but acknowledges the cost of that proposal, which could be tens of millions of dollars, is a serious obstacle.
"Ohio was the third-worst offender of over-votes and under-votes" during the 2000 presidential election, Flannery said. "Republicans are not taking the issue seriously."

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