Saturday, August 14, 1999

Springer declines Senate run


Talk show host cites other commitments

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

springer
Jerry Springer
        COLUMBUS — There won't be any chair-throwing debates for the U.S. Senate next year.

        Three weeks after talk show host Jerry Springer started a nationwide media frenzy about his potential return to politics, the former Cincinnati mayor said Friday he won't run for the seat now held by Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine.

        “My current contractual obligations and commitments here in the United States, as well as in England, make it impractical if not impossible for me to make a run for the Senate at this time,” Mr. Springer said in a written statement released by his Chicago office.

        Linda Shafran, Mr. Springer's publicist, said he is developing a late-night show scheduled to debut in England next month. It will combine talk segments and comedy sketches similar to The Tonight Show, she said.

        Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, a longtime pal who encouraged the talk show host to return to Ohio, declined to comment on speculation that Mr. Springer commissioned an opinion poll before deciding against a Senate bid.

        Merely floating the idea created an avalanche of publicity for the media-savvy politician turned talk show host.

        However, most national and state Democrats condemned the potential Springer for Senate campaign, citing the on-the-set fights, bare breasts and bizarre subject matter that are staples of his top-rated TV show. (Friday's episode: “Secret affairs revealed.”)

        Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, for instance, said Mr. Springer wouldn't be welcome in the Democratic caucus. Leaders of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a group that recruits candidates across the country, repeatedly stressed that a potential Springer candidacy wasn't their idea.

        Friends and supporters said beyond the one-liners from David Letterman and Jay Leno, Mr. Springer is a formidable politician who thrived in conservative Cincinnati.

        As a city councilman, Mr. Springer bounced back from scandal in the mid-1970s — he had paid a prostitute with a personal check — and later won the largest plurality in city history. He went on to become an award-winning TV news anchor before moving to Chicago to take his talk show national.

        One of the Ohio Democratic Party's most significant constituencies agreed. William Burga, president of the AFL-CIO, told The Cincinnati Enquirer this week that organized labor could live with Mr. Springer as a candidate.

        Democrats are desperate to find somebody able to break the Republican's grip on statewide elected offices. Mr. Springer boasts personal wealth and name recognition that could have offset Mr. DeWine's formidable campaign bankroll, Mr. Burga said.

        Several prominent Democrats have rejected an opportunity to take on Mr. DeWine. The only person still interested is Richard Cordray, a Columbus lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general last year.

        “I'm glad Jerry decided not to run because I always thought it would have been a mistake,” Mr. Cordray said. “What his show stands for doesn't mesh with the Democratic Party's values.”

        Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett couldn't resist another jab. “Maybe they're interviewing other qualified candidates like (shock-rocker) Marilyn Manson, Madonna or (cross-dressing celebrity) RuPaul,” Mr. Bennett said.

        “I think all that talk showed they actually were worried about Jerry,” Mr. Burke countered. “He would have been a great candidate, and more importantly, a great U.S. senator.”

       



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