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COLUMBUS Candidate hopefuls seek Dem backing



Published: Sat, January 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Democrats are close to firming up their statewide slate for November.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Senate Minority Leader Leigh E. Herington will meet today with Ohio Democratic Party officials to seek the party's nod to run for state attorney general.

"I think for one thing I would bring a check and balance that we haven't had for some period of time in the state of Ohio," the Portage County Democrat said.

"The attorney general is responsible for representing the people of the state of Ohio and I've been very concerned about the independence of that office," Herington said.

Herington said if he gets the endorsement after meeting with Democratic Party officials he would resign as the Democratic leader in the Senate and put a campaign team in place.

Other potentials: A state Democratic Party screening committee is expected to meet today with Herington, former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Timothy Hagan, who's announced plans to run for governor, and Cleveland-area state Rep. Bryan Flannery, who's running for secretary of state.

Still in flux Friday were who would be the potential Democratic candidates for state treasurer or state auditor. Democratic Party officials declined to say Friday who they might be recruiting as candidates for those posts.

The screening committee is expected to make a recommendation to the party's executive committee, which would make endorsements, Lauren B. Worley, a party spokeswoman said.

On the Republican side, Gov. Bob Taft is expected to seek re-election. State Auditor Jim Petro is expected to seek the Republican nomination for attorney general. Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery is expected to run for state auditor.

Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and State Treasurer Joe Deters are expected to seek re-election.

Also Friday, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Thomas Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, said the congressman is "keeping his options open" regarding a possible statewide bid and will meet with Democratic Party officials today in Columbus. It was unclear which statewide office that might be though speculation centered as to whether Sawyer might run for state treasurer.

"All of his options are open now," said Dan Lucas, Sawyer's chief of staff.

Local district: Lucas had said Thursday that Sawyer was running for Congress and was deciding whether to run in the newly redrawn 17th Congressional District, which stretches from Summit County through Portage County and into the Mahoning Valley, or whether he would run in another congressional district.

Lucas, however, said Sawyer's position had changed later Thursday and that the congressman's plans could include a possible bid for statewide office.

"I can tell you he's received numerous phone calls the last few weeks from [Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Leland]," Lucas said. Lucas said he didn't know the substance of the conversations. Neither Sawyer nor Leland could immediately be reached to comment Friday.

"We're at the stage right now where everything is in a flurry," Lucas said.

After stopping in Columbus, Sawyer was to travel to Pennsylvania to speak with U.S. House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt at a Democratic function, Lucas said.

In congressional redistricting, Sawyer's congressional district was changed to include portions of the congressional district now represented by U.S. Rep. James Traficant, D-Poland.

That created a district that stretches from parts of Summit and Portage counties and into the Mahoning Valley.

State Sen. Robert F. Hagan, D-Youngstown, already has announced plans to run in that newly created congressional district.

Others, including Traficant, state Rep. Anthony Latell Jr., D-Girard, and state Sen. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, are also weighing potential bids in that congressional district.




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