The attorney general spoke at the Mahoning County GOP's first Reagan Dinner.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Because of an investment scandal at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, Republicans face a huge challenge in 2006 to retain control over state government, said a GOP gubernatorial candidate.
But Attorney General Jim Petro said Republican candidates, such as himself, with vision, integrity and a history of accomplishment will succeed next year.
Petro was the keynote speaker at the Mahoning County Republican Party's first Reagan Dinner on Thursday at The Georgetown. The party has traditionally held a Lincoln Day Dinner but changed it this year to honor the nation's 40th president.
'Obstacles to overcome'
"Clearly next year has presented a challenge to Republicans," Petro told The Vindicator before the dinner. "In every administration, there's obstacles to overcome."
He said the party has "bigger obstacles to overcome" in 2006 with the BWC investment scandal.
The BWC scandal continues to grow with the announcement Thursday that Allegiant Asset Management of Cleveland, among the 156 companies hired to manage the bureau's investments, had lost $71 million. That brings the BWC's known investment losses to more than $300 million.
Of that amount, MDL Capital Management of Pittsburgh lost $215 million of the BWC's investments in a hedge fund. Petro said Thursday that he anticipates getting $180 million of that returned to the state through a lawsuit.
Petro also said the $10 million to $13 million lost in a rare coin investment managed by Tom Noe, a prominent Republican contributor from the Toledo area, should be fully recovered in the next year.
Also, Petro revealed that he met for an hour one-on-one Wednesday with state Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, one of the most vocal critics of how the BWC handled its investments and how Republican state officials are investigating the scandal.
Petro said Dann, D-32nd, asked a lot of questions and pointed out decisions made by the attorney general with which he disagreed.
When asked if Dann left the meeting satisfied, Petro said, "I don't think he will ever be satisfied. But that's politics."
Dann said Petro was too relaxed for someone who is looking to recover millions of dollars taken from the BWC.
"He kept saying he never thought about that, or something was a good idea," Dann said. "We've been terribly ripped off. Ring the bell. We're over $300 million."
Dann wanted to know why Petro waited to take legal action against MDL and Noe. Dann and Petro are both attorneys.
"In the best case, it's bad lawyering," Dann said. "In the worst case, it's turning your head and ignoring a problem because of political contributions."
Petro is one of three current state officeholders seeking the Republican nomination next year for governor. The two others are Auditor Betty Montgomery and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
Petro told the Republican crowd that he has a proven track record of cutting costs, improving performance and getting the job done as a Cuyahoga County commissioner, a state legislator, state auditor and attorney general.
If elected governor, Petro said he will reorganize and cut government -- including reducing the governor's cabinet from 23 members to nine, and eliminating state employees through attrition and early retirement incentives. He says that would save the state more than $1 billion a year.