The Democratic challenger called the governor a corporate sellout who is out of touch with the common person.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan doesn't mince words when it comes to Gov. Bob Taft.
During a campaign stop Thursday in downtown Youngstown, Hagan called the governor a "charlatan," who "for four years has pretended to be the governor of this state and in the last three months, he woke up and realized he had to run for re-election, and in the past two months, he's realized he's in a race."
Hagan spoke to a partisan crowd outside the new coordinated Democratic campaign headquarters on East Federal Plaza, which used to house the Mahoning County Democratic Party office years ago.
During the speech, Hagan, who was born and reared in the Mahoning Valley, took frequent shots at Taft, saying the Republican governor has failed the state and has sold out to corporate interests.
Hagan even made fun of a cowboy hat Taft wore Monday at the Canfield Fair saying the governor looked silly in it and the governor thinks by wearing the hat, "he can relate to people of this Valley."
Taft took a much more low-key approach when he campaigned Wednesday in Lordstown, never once mentioning Hagan by name.
When asked Thursday about Hagan's criticisms of Taft, Orest Holubec, the governor's campaign spokesman, said Hagan "has been a candidate for governor for more than 300 days and he's spent most of that time criticizing the governor. We're going to continue to run a positive campaign. It's easy to run a negative campaign. It's hard to run a positive campaign when you don't have a very clear vision for the future of the state."
Both candidates filed monthly financial disclosure reports Thursday that show Taft, with $8.42 million, continues to have a huge monetary lead over Hagan, who has $586,107. Hagan called Taft's campaign fund balance "obscene."
But Hagan is showing signs of monetary life. In August, Hagan took in $211,047, his best month on the campaign trail. Taft received $252,223 in contributions last month. Hagan expects to raise about $100,000 when former President Clinton appears at his fund-raiser next week.
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Hagan said the amount of money Taft has received from corporations, about $7,000 a day since he was elected governor four years ago, corrupts the political process and he has no intention of following suit.
That means Hagan will not have the money to run television advertisements, something of little concern to him.
"You can't buy this election with 60-second TV spots," Hagan said.
Hagan said many people don't pay attention to political commercials or simply change the channel when commercials are shown.
Instead, he is going to concentrate his financial resources on direct mailings, yard signs, bumper stickers, paying the salaries of staff members and his Web sites that poke fun at Taft.
TV spots are important to the Taft campaign because they allow the governor to reach many people with his message, Holubec said.
"We're doing everything we can to win in a tight race and in Ohio, getting your message out costs money," he said.
What didn't appear to be a tight race months ago has become that, according to recent state polls, which show Taft with a single-digit lead over Hagan two months before the November election.