Saturday, April 21, 2001

Deters looking to step up

He'll run for attorney general

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Ending months of speculation, Ohio Treasurer Joe Deters said Friday he will run for attorney general in 2002.

        “I'm sure now I'm going to do it,” Mr. Deters told the Enquirer. “I wrote the (Republican Party) chairman a letter saying I will run for attorney general, and that he should look for somebody to run for treasurer.”

        A former Hamilton County prosecutor and chairman of the county Republican party, Mr. Deters' announcement sets up a primary fight with Republican state Auditor Jim Petro. That's something their party leaders had hoped wouldn't happen.

        A Petro campaign adviser accused Mr. Deters of trying to grab his boss' spotlight. The adviser, Jim Hughes, said it's well known within party circles Mr. Petro was going to announce his candidacy during a five-city Ohio fly around this Thursday.

        “I think he's trying to steal a little bit of our thunder, but that's all right,” Mr. Hughes said. “You've got to follow your own plan and not worry about what other people do or don't do.”

        The two Republicans have been jockeying and jostling each other over their competing political aspirations for months. Earlier in the day party leaders expressed some hope the two still might not clash in the GOP primary.

        “We certainly don't like to see two of our top thoroughbreds run against each other,” said Gary Abernathy, a spokesman for state party Chairman Bob Bennett, who was in Florida.

        Incumbent Attorney General Betty Montgomery, a Republican, cannot run for a third term.

        Mr. Deters has long been interested in running for higher office. Attorney general is commonly seen as a stepping-stone to an eventual run for governor.

        Mr. Deters dismissed such speculation, saying he's only running to be attorney general. He said his skills as a former prosecutor make him better suited for attorney general than for treasurer.

        “The overriding reason was my experience as a prosecutor in Cincinnati,” he said. “I miss what I was doing down there.”

        The attorney general is the state's chief legal officer. One of the office's duties is shepherding death penalty cases through the state and federal courts.

        As attorney general, Mr. Deters would have a chance to argue several death sentences he helped win. Hamilton County has sent 48 people to Ohio's death row, more than any other county in the state.

        Mr. Petro and Mr. Deters spoke about the matter Friday afternoon. Mr. Deters described the conversation as polite.

        “I met with him about a year ago and told him I would call him when I made a decision.” Mr. Deters said. “And that's what I did.”

        Mr. Deters started as Hamilton County prosecutor in April 1992 and left office in January 1999 to become state treasurer.


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