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OHIO Columbus mayor expected to make run for governor



Published: Tue, February 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He became Columbus' first Democratic mayor in 28 years.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Mayor Michael Coleman planned to announce his candidacy for governor on Tuesday, The Associated Press learned, making him the first Democrat to enter next year's race.

A source close to Coleman's campaign, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP on Monday that Coleman would announce the campaign from his home. Mike Brown, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said Coleman had no comment.

Coleman, the popular mayor of Ohio's largest city since 1999, ran statewide in 1998 as Lee Fisher's lieutenant-governor running mate. The Democrats lost to Republican Bob Taft's ticket by 5 percentage points.

Coleman rolled up an easy victory the next year, becoming Columbus' first Democratic mayor in 28 years. He had no GOP opponent in his 2003 re-election campaign.

Republicans have held the governor's office since 1991. Taft easily defeated little-known Democrat Tim Hagan to win re-election in 2002.

Formidable campaign

Coleman, 50, would bring a formidable campaign to the Democratic ticket, the chairmen of both state parties said. Republican Chairman Bob Bennett acknowledged Coleman's popularity but said the Republican nominee will be able to run a strong campaign should Coleman win the nomination.

"He has a central Ohio base in a Republican area, so that's obvious he's strong with independents. He also has a record and we'll be talking about that," Bennett said. "Whoever the Democrats put up is going to be a formidable candidate for the Republicans, but we say 'bring it on."'

Democratic Chairman Denny White has worked with Coleman since the 1990s, when White headed the Franklin County party. White said Coleman would be an exciting candidate but added that neither he nor the party has made any endorsement.

"He brings administrative experience, managing one of the largest and most diverse cities in the state. He brings experience running statewide. Mike knows how to raise money and he's also a winner," White said.

Only one of the other Democrats who have been mentioned as possible candidates for governor has ever run for a statewide office: U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, who was secretary of state from 1983-91. Other possible candidates include TV talk show host Jerry Springer and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, who has said he would not run if Coleman decided to become a candidate.

Plusquellic was at a mayors' conference in Miami on Monday and had no immediate comment on a possible Coleman candidacy, his office said.

GOP side

Also on Monday, three Republicans vying for their party's gubernatorial nomination next year filed campaign finance reports with the state. The reports showed Attorney General Jim Petro had $2.2 million to end the year; state Auditor Betty Montgomery had $1.1 million; and Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had $224,000.

With 15 months to go until the 2006 primary, the reports provide an early snapshot of the race, but it's too early to tell who the Republican favorite might be, said William Binning, chairman of the political science department at Youngstown State University. Binning been active in GOP campaigns for more than 30 years.

"It has the effect of a horse race. Contributors and political operatives and dealmakers are going to be figuring out, 'Where should I tie my wagon,'" Binning said. "It's not determinative, but it has an effect.




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