Thursday, August 12, 2004

Underdog Fingerhut hits highway for votes



By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
Eric Fingerhut, campaigning for U.S. Senate, stops with his wife, Amy, and son Sam at Sixth and Walnut streets downtown on his way to Cleveland by foot. He began his walking tour of the state Wednesday morning at the Cincinnati Public Landing.
The Enquirer/ERNEST COLEMAN
For Eric Fingerhut, the race for U.S. Senate isn't a sprint or even a marathon - it's a 310-mile walk.

Fingerhut, a Cleveland Democrat, strapped on a pair of New Balance walking shoes and stepped off the curb Wednesday morning onto Mehring Way to begin a campaign trip - by foot - across Ohio.

The Fingerhut campaign - which hopes to unseat first-term Sen. George V. Voinovich - is at a vast disadvantage in name recognition and fund-raising.

But he said his walking tour is more than a campaign gimmick. The message is that the state's politicians are too detached from everyday Ohioans, he said.

"I've traveled Ohio for a year now talking to people, and what they have said more than anything else is, 'We don't think anybody's listening to us,' " Fingerhut said in a short rally with 40 supporters at the Public Landing. "They want a U.S. senator who will walk in their shoes."

Fingerhut said he would stop along the way to talk to Ohioans about concerns such as jobs and health care.

He said the effort would show he has the "energy and ideas" to represent Ohio in Washington - with the implicit message that Voinovich may lack those qualities. The 68-year-old incumbent had a pacemaker implanted last year.

The Voinovich campaign declined to comment.

Fingerhut ate lunch Wednesday at the Skyline Chili in Clifton before walking through business districts in Northside, College Hill, North College Hill and Mount Healthy. While he'll take time out for fund-raisers and short side trips, he promises to return to where he ended the previous day's walk each morning.

The tour will take him through Hamilton, Dayton, Springfield, Columbus, Akron and Cleveland. He expects to reach the shores of Lake Erie sometime next month.

The last politician to attempt to walk the length of the state was Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the former presidential candidate, when he launched an aborted campaign for governor in 1986.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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