Friday, October 27, 2000

Butler race gets costly

Prosecutor, foe buy ads

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Butler County's most hotly contested political race is shaping up as one of its most expensive ever.

        “This is going to be one of the most, if not the most, costly countywide races I've ever seen,” said Joe Statzer, political director for the county's Republican Party, who began his political involvement in the county as a Democrat in 1987.

        “I think both candidates are going to spend a lot more before it's all over.”

        His comments came Thursday after campaign finance reports filed with the county's Board of Elections showed that both candidates for county prosecutor have spent considerable sums on television advertising.

        Prosecutor Dan Gattermeyer had the advantage of inheriting $116,000 from the late John F. Holcomb's re-election fund, most of which came from the controversial “2 Percent Club” — to which prosecutor's employees donate about 2 percent of their salaries to their boss's campaign.

        In Mr. Gattermeyer's three months in office, he has raised an additional $27,670 and has spent nearly $82,600, including $25,000 to produce and air TV commercials. He also recently loaned his campaign $7,000 of his own money.

        His Republican opponent, Robin Piper, has raised about $54,200 since the last campaign finance reports were posted in April. In addition, he loaned $30,000 of his own money to the campaign fund.

        The bulk of Mr. Piper's contributions came in small amounts — scores of individual donors giving $20 to $500 apiece.

        But Mr. Piper did receive a large “in-kind” contribution: $47,000 worth of TV ads from the county Republican Party.

        Butler County's Democratic Party raised just over $25,000, while the county GOP generated about $74,200 since campaign finance reports were last filed in April. That means the campaign fund Mr. Gattermeyer inherited exceeds the combined total raised by both political parties.

        Mr. Gattermeyer has been criticized for accepting the 2 Percent Club money from Mr. Holcomb's fund, to which some employees said they felt pressured to give. Others said they gave voluntarily.

        Mr. Gattermeyer says he disagreed with this method of fund-raising, but was accepting the money because it is going toward its intended purpose: keeping the current administration in office. The prosecutor's office is the only elected partisan office held by the Democrats in Republican-dominated Butler County.

        Mr. Gattermeyer has said he would accept no additional “club” contributions — and his campaign report shows no periodic bank account deductions that used to appear on Mr. Holcomb's reports.

        Mr. Gattermeyer's available balance was about $69,000; Mr. Piper's, $22,500.

        Meanwhile, in another race that has become controversial, Butler County Sheriff Harold Don Gabbard also enjoys a large campaign fund. This year, his annual hog roast raised nearly $22,600.

        The Republican sheriff's campaign spent about $43,000, the largest expenditures going toward newspaper advertising. His balance on hand: $123,500.

        His Democratic opponent, Alan Laney, had less than $3,000 left to spend, and had raised only about $3,400. In addition, he loaned his campaign $8,000.


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