By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
With three customers smoking cigarettes only feet away, Kim Raymond, co-owner of the Ice Cream Parlor in Salem, said she favors an issue on the Nov. 7 ballot to ban smoking in most public places, including restaurants.
"I'm a small-business owner and I don't want to tell them not to smoke," she said. "I don't want to be the bad guy. I want someone else to be the meanie. I could then tell them that it's out of my hands."
The Smoke-Free Ohio proposal is one of two smoking issues on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Smoke-Free, state Issue 5 on the ballot -- the one supported by Raymond -- would increase provisions to current state law that would make it illegal to smoke in places of employment and most places open to the public.
State Issue 4, Smoke Less Ohio, would create a constitutional amendment to ban smoking in public buildings except for most bars, bowling alleys, bingo halls, racetracks, enclosed areas of restaurants and some other buildings.
Milton Brown of Youngstown, a barber and a smoker, said he supports Issue 4.
"It gives smokers some place to smoke," he said. "I have no problem having it restricted in some areas."
The Vindicator asked voters in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties their thoughts on issues and candidates on the Nov. 7 ballot. About two-thirds of those asked by the newspaper to discuss the election issues and candidates refused to do so.
Most of those questioned had little interest in the candidates running for statewide office in what political experts say is one of the most important elections in recent Ohio history.
"I follow politics a little bit," said Ryan McAllister of Austintown, a Youngstown State University sophomore and history major. "But I'm not following the midterm elections."
McAllister isn't sure he'll vote. Between his schoolwork and none of the candidates inspiring him, McAllister said he doesn't have the time or interest to participate in this election.
Ryan Steeves, also a YSU sophomore from Austintown, said he doesn't know much about the candidates on the ballot but plans to vote for all Democrats.
"I don't like Republicans forcing their religious values and focusing on stem-cell research and [against] abortion," he said. "Republicans are too uptight for me. I'm a pretty liberal guy."
Jonathan Barrett of Liberty, a barber, said he'll vote for whoever can end the war in Iraq and get the troops home and create jobs.
"I'm trying to figure out who comes close to that," he said. "We need a whole new group. They all need to be fired."
Done some reading
Richard Price, owner of Price 2 Sell Music in Salem, said he's read a few articles on the upcoming election. Price plans to vote for Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell for governor over Democrat Ted Strickland, who has represented Columbiana County in the U.S. House since 2003. Even though he favors Blackwell, Price said Strickland will win the election.
"I think Blackwell has got a lot of experience, particularly with small business," Price said. "I don't know a whole lot about Strickland. I vote for who is best qualified. I don't follow party lines."
John Mansfield of Salem, retired from Standard Oil, isn't crazy about any of the candidates running for office. Mansfield said he'll vote for the candidates he dislikes the least.
"I don't want Strickland in there, and I don't particularly like Blackwell, but I'll vote for" the Republican, he said. "Let's face it. Strickland's going to win. I don't think he'll do any good. I sometimes think I'd like to see them all gone."
Mansfield also doesn't like U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent, or U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, his Democratic challenger.
"Sherrod Brown didn't do anything when he was in office," he said. "I don't think [DeWine] did much, but I'll vote for him."
Milton Brown said he supports Brown (no relation) in the Senate race because "he's the most qualified. DeWine's shown me nothing during his time in the Senate."
As for the lower office races, Brown said he doesn't care about any of them. Several others said they didn't care and few could name anyone running statewide besides the Senate and gubernatorial candidates.
Where it did matter
But when it came to ballot issues, many of those asked had strong opinions.
In addition to the two smoking initiatives, the ballot also has a constitutional amendment to increase the state's hourly minimum wage effective Jan. 1 from 5.15 to 6.85, and another to place slot machines at the seven racetracks in Ohio and at two proposed casinos in Cleveland. Thirty percent of the annual slot machine revenue would go to a tuition fund.
"I don't mind the idea of gambling," Price said. "It will keep a lot of money in Ohio that is going elsewhere."
"I want to bring casinos to Ohio because it will bring more jobs and more money into the state," said John Stanley of Austintown, a YSU freshman.
Regarding the minimum wage, Addison Joseph of Canfield, a YSU sophomore, said it needed to be increased a long time ago.
"The cost of living has gone up, and this is long overdue," he said.
McAllister agrees but says approving a minimum-wage increase is a "double-edge sword because prices will go up if we raise the minimum wage."
The 1.50 breakfast at the Ice Cream Parlor in Salem would probably become the 2.50 breakfast, Raymond said, because she'd have to pay more money to her employees.