U.S. SENATE RACE Fingerhut pounds pavement for votes
His Cincinnati-to-Cleveland walk is scheduled to end next Monday.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Democrat Eric Fingerhut has received curious glances, cash and even a pair of farm work boots during stops at front porches and barbershops along a 310-mile diagonal path across the state.
The candidate for U.S. Senate is getting to know Ohioans and their concerns during his trek from Cincinnati to Cleveland. He calls his alternative campaigning, which began Aug. 11, "walking a mile in their shoes."
To make it easier to do so, some voters have handed over their footwear -- twelve pair so far.
Though some are incredulous when Fingerhut stops at their homes -- Chris Scarbury said "For real?" when Fingerhut approached her porch and told her family he wanted to be their senator -- Fingerhut said he's winning people over, step by step.
"I'll vote for him," Scarbury said, "because I haven't seen the other guy on my porch."
That other guy is incumbent U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, Cleveland Republican and former two-term governor. Voinovich has a 30-year political career and an $8 million campaign account.
Voinovich spokeswoman Marcie Ridgway said she thinks the walking by Fingerhut, a state senator and former one-term congressman, won't be enough when compared to Voinovich's lengthy tenure.
"It sounds as though Eric Fingerhut is kind of doing a crash course and learning the entire state in a few weeks," Ridgway said. "If you know Senator Voinovich, you know he's spent his entire career traveling the state and getting to know the people."
Fingerhut's campaign has seen donations at about the same rate as his step-by-step stride on the state's two-lane rural roads. The dollar-by-dollar contributions have yet to break the $1 million mark. But he said he's collected donations from more than 4,500 Ohioans, including a mother and daughter who handed him $5 out the car window when they saw him trekking through Madison County.
On the trail
On his way, Fingerhut waves to cars, stops in barbershops and shakes hands as a campaign bus follows behind him, plying the candidate with socks, water and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Fingerhut said he's gotten many offers of rides, but declines them all to keep pounding pavement in his New Balance sneakers. The shoes donated by well-wishers to fuel the Shoe Leather Express, as Fingerhut calls his campaign, are kept symbolically.
He got a pair of farm work boots from Kate Helt, who greeted him in Mount Vernon with a sign reading "Farmers for Fingerhut" around her neck.
Helt said she's worried that policies in Washington subsidize factory farms and undermine family owned ones. She said she likes Fingerhut's strong environmental record.
Fingerhut tells people like Helt that Voinovich's campaign consists of little more than collecting millions from "the Washington special interests," then voting in ways that keep the dollars flowing.
"If he represented you instead of the Washington special interests, would he have voted for the Medicare bill?" Fingerhut asked at a Mount Vernon rally.
The legislation continues the ban on buying cheaper drugs from Canada, he said, and helps the drug makers who have contributed to Voinovich's campaign.
Fingerhut, who tries to walk 15-20 miles a day, had covered about 230 miles by the end of the week, his Web site said. He attended a rally on Saturday in Wooster and is scheduled to finish his walk next Monday, when he reaches Lake Erie.