Saturday, February 21, 2004

Dowlin, DeWine shoot it out

Down-and-dirty duel has more ads coming

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hang onto your remotes, folks, because the two Republicans in a bloody primary race for Hamilton County commissioner haven't had their final say yet.

"We're in the O.K. Corral now," said Gene Beaupre, a longtime political observer and professor at Xavier University. "I don't think it's as much strategy now as gut, so there's no telling what will happen."

Commissioner John Dowlin is being challenged by Cincinnati Councilman Pat DeWine in the March 2 primary.

Dowlin has more commercials coming, he said Friday, while not giving details. He has already shocked some fellow Republicans with his current spot, which accuses DeWine of changing his position on tax breaks for Convergys after the company hired a woman for whom DeWine left his wife. The ad came after DeWine said Dowlin was absent from too many meetings and traveled too much.

The DeWine camp, which responded Wednesday with a spot calling Dowlin's commercial "one of the dirtiest and sleaziest ads ever in Ohio," also has another one coming, a spokesman said.

Several high-profile Republicans have tried to rein in the candidates, but to no apparent avail.

GOP Chairman Michael Barrett asked them in a private meeting Thursday to agree to have their commercials reviewed by neutral parties for fairness and accuracy before airing them, DeWine said. Dowlin was noncommittal at the meeting and then told party headquarters Friday that he would not agree, DeWine said.

"I would not say I declined," Dowlin responded. "I would say I had conditions."

His condition, DeWine said, was that DeWine drop out of the race. Barrett said he would not comment on the private meeting.

The latest Republican to publicly rap Dowlin's knuckles for the Convergys commercial is Prosecutor Mike Allen, a former party chairman who endorsed Dowlin.

"Personal attacks such as this are un-Republican," Allen said Friday. "Pat went negative, and John went nuclear."

Allen, the local leader of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, said the Dowlin-DeWine fight doesn't help his cause.

"At the end of this primary somebody has to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, because we have to elect a president," he said.

The standard strategy after attacking your opponent is to run a positive ad about yourself, Beaupre said. But the furor over Dowlin's ad - which led to two impromptu TV debates and provided hours of material for talk radio - could cause the candidates to throw out the playbook.

"This is something that at so many levels has gotten out of control," Beaupre said.

Two little-known Democrats - Kabaka Oba and Erich Streckfuss - are competing in a much more low-key race to take on the Republican winner in November.


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