By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer
It took just 30 seconds for Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin to turn an already unusual GOP face-off into something shocking.
On Tuesday, the incumbent will learn whether rank-and-file Republicans were more dismayed by the message or the messenger when primary voters go to the polls to choose between him and his challenger, Cincinnati Councilman Pat DeWine.
Resume: County commissioner for 13 years; Sharonville mayor for 27 years. Retired Procter & Gamble executive.
Opposed a sales tax for the Reds and Bengals stadiums but voted for the Bengals' 30-year lease agreement for Paul Brown Stadium.
Led effort to hire a project manager for construction of Great American Ball Park.
Voted to create a county Tax Levy Review Committee.
Initiated the first drug court in Ohio, the first women's drug treatment program in the county and a mental health court.
Voted for a contract for County Administrator David Krings that guaranteed a severance package worth about half a million dollars.
During his tenure, Hamilton County was recognized by Governing magazine and Syracuse University as the fourth-best-managed county in America.
Privatized county-owned parking operations.
Oversaw 60 percent reduction in county's welfare rolls.
Created the county's Falls Task Force to reduce the incidence of injuries and death by falling.
Residence: Pleasant Ridge
Resume: Cincinnati councilman for four years; attorney.
Initiated rollback of city property tax.
Voted for $54 million in tax breaks for Convergys.
Voted against a contract for police supervisors that did not allow the city manager to hire and fire assistant police chiefs.
Urged city policy changes that reduced spending on city employees' cell phones, travel and take-home cars.
Initiated a law requiring panhandlers to apply for licenses.
Voted against funding for Empire Theatre renovations.
Voted against 2004 budget; it passed anyway.
Voted to end the city's lawsuit against gun manufacturers.
Led crackdown on absentee landlords that resulted in an 84 percent increase in litter and weed citations.Go online to Cincinnati.Com for election news, endorsements and voter information and watch the site Tuesday night for updates of primary election results.
Dowlin entered uncharted waters two weeks ago when he let loose a 30-second TV commercial accusing DeWine of having a conflict of interest when he voted on tax breaks for Convergys last year.
"What happened next was shocking," the ad declared, stating that DeWine left his wife for a woman who worked for Convergys.
In interviews over the past several days with Republican voters, few who were firmly in one camp or the other say they'll change their vote because of the commercial. But the ad may have cost Dowlin some of the undecided voters he was trying to garner.
"I think it's an all-time low," said Nikki Yasbek of Blue Ash. "It just screams desperation. He should have more to talk about."
Diane Parsons of White Oak said, "They should stick to the issues and leave the personal stuff out."
Dowlin, 74, and DeWine, 36, started down a collision course last year. Dowlin, who had discussed retiring since his last election in 2000, announced in August that he would instead seek a fourth term.
In November, meanwhile, DeWine won re-election to City Council, but he lost what influence he had after Mayor Charlie Luken removed him as chairman of the law committee.
The son of U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine began looking beyond city hall for more promising political pastures, and the county is as strongly Republican as the city is Democratic. Two commissioner seats were up for re-election in 2004, and a GOP poll found that Dowlin was more vulnerable than Democrat Todd Portune.
Dowlin, a 13-year incumbent, found himself the target of daily DeWine media releases criticizing his votes, his attendance and his travel expenses.
Dowlin lined up and signed up dozens of politicians for endorsements, from Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro to Miami Township Clerk Cindy Oser. But DeWine kept jabbing at Dowlin's record.
In late January, DeWine released a poll that showed him far ahead of Dowlin in a head-to-head contest. On Presidents Day, Dowlin's commercial hit the airwaves between local newscasts. Soon, the ad became the news.
"It disgusted me," Republican voter Jean Clark of Montgomery says. "I'll go to the polls, I just may not vote for either one of them."
Two Democrats are competing for the chance to give her an alternative in November: activist Kabaka Oba of Lincoln Heights and college student Erich Streckfuss of Westwood. Streckfuss is a placeholder for a more prominent Democrat to be named later.
DeWine says he left his wife in June 2002, which would have been three months after the birth of their third son.
Prominent Republicans such as county party Chairman Michael Barrett, U.S. Rep. Rob Portman and Prosecutor Mike Allen said the commercial went too far. The Ohio Elections Commission, though, dismissed a complaint by DeWine last week, finding no probable cause to believe Dowlin knowingly lied in the spot.
Dowlin is no longer airing the commercial, opting in these final days for a new commercial showing him surrounded by family.
But, he still stands by the "shocking" one.
"The real question becomes one of 'What did he campaign on?'" Dowlin says of DeWine. "He has campaigned on a platform of family values. I think (character) is part of what you vote for."
DeWinecontends the ad says more about Dowlin's character than his own. "It's unfortunate because we want to talk about taxes and spending," DeWine said. Voters "care about how this county is spending their money."
The county's Republicans will get the last word at the polls Tuesday.
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