Friday, December 03, 1999

Ohio Democrats may forgo Senate endorsement

3 in running to make their cases Saturday

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Leland said Thursday that the party will screen three candidates for the Senate seat held by Republican Mike DeWine but at this point, party leaders are leaning toward making no endorsement in the March 7 primary.

        Ted Celeste, Richard Cordray and the Rev. Marvin McMickle will pitch their ideas to the committee Saturday. The committee will then advise the full Democratic Central Committee, which will decide whether to issue an endorsement.

        The three decided to explore running for the office only after better-known figures, including former Attorney General Lee Fisher and Mr. Celeste's brother, former Gov. Richard Celeste, indicated they weren't interested in taking on Mr. DeWine. Talk show host Jerry Springer, a former Cincinnati mayor, considered a run but decided against it.

        Mr. Fisher, who lost the governor's race to Republican Bob Taft, said he will continue to run a social services agency in Cleveland while Richard Celeste, governor from 1983-91, will remain as U.S. ambassador to India.

        Mr. Leland said some party leaders have indicated they may pass on endorsing any of the three. “I think that among the party leaders I've been talking to, the sense is we ought to let the voters decide this one.”

        That would be fine with Ted Celeste, who will make his case to the steering committee but prefers an open primary. “I think it would be best for the candidates and the party,” said Mr. Celeste, a suburban Columbus real estate broker and a former chairman of the Ohio State University trustees.

        The Rev. McMickle, however, thinks a primary fight would be a waste of money and could leave the winner battered in what could be an uphill campaign against Mr. DeWine.

        The Rev. McMickle, president of the Shaker Heights Board of Education in suburban Cleveland, said he would seek the endorsement from the screening committee.

        “I plan to go before anybody who's breathing. If they sit still long enough, I plan to go there,” he said. “I think that if you're going up against a well-funded and well-established candidate, we just can't afford to wait and let Democrats duel it out.”

        Mr. Cordray, a Columbus attorney and a former state representative, confirmed a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer Thursday that some Democrats had urged him to run instead for the Ohio Supreme Court seat held by first-term Republican Justice Deborah Cook.

        But Mr. Cordray, who lost last year's election for attorney general, said the only race he's interested in right now is the Senate and he will work to get the screening committee's endorsement.

        “You bet I am,” Mr. Cordray said.

        He would not identify the Democrats who have approached him about the Cook seat.


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