Saturday, October 30, 2004
What's in a name? Most often, victory
Incumbent Chabot enjoys advantage in House race against Democrat Harris
By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer
Democrat Greg Harris will find himself playing a familiar role Tuesday in his bid to wrestle Ohio's 1st Congressional District seat from Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot.
"I know I'm still very much the underdog," said Harris, a Clifton resident. "It's difficult to defeat someone with universal name recognition and such a war chest. It's difficult, but not impossible."
Harris, 33, will attempt to unseat the 10-year incumbent in a rematch of a race won in 2002 by Chabot, 65 percent to 35 percent. Harris was outspent nearly 35 to 1 and failed to gain momentum after a late start to the campaign.
This time around, Harris launched his campaign early and recently received a boost from former presidential candidate Howard Dean. Still, Harris said the most difficult part remains getting the word out to voters.
His low-budget campaign (funded by $25 donation checks) has consisted mostly of door-knocking and attending any event that would have him. Meanwhile, Chabot's war chest has enabled him to reach a much wider audience through television commercials and radio spots.
"The power of grass roots has to defeat the power of their wallets," Harris said. "I have to hope that the voters will remember me coming onto their doorstep more than Chabot's commercial."
That could be asking a lot. Chabot has survived several tough, well-financed challenges since taking office in 1994, and is well-known to most voters.
He has also been a beneficiary of redistricting in Ohio, which turned a district once dominated by Democrats into a safe haven for Republicans. The Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly redrew the district - adding more Republican areas and reducing Democratic ones - after the 2000 Census.
Chabot, who grew up in Westwood, said his experience and stance on the issues makes him the better choice for voters. Chabot has served as chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, vice chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and spent a year representing Congress in the United Nations.
"My opponent has not served as an official," Chabot said. "Clearly our experience level is quite different."
Harris, a former teacher and executive director of the nonprofit Citizens for Civic Renewal, said he would push for a better system of free trade that would shift tax incentives from companies that ship jobs overseas and give them to companies that are expanding in the United States. He said he would also push for requirements on worker safety, fair wages and benefits for companies operating overseas.
"America should say if you want to do business with us we expect some baseline standards," Harris said. "We haven't leveraged our power for good."
Chabot said he believes that Americans are overtaxed and many of the policies his opponent supports would only exacerbate that problem. Chabot said he has consistently voted for reduced taxes - not just for the wealthy but for the middle-class too. He cited the $1,000-per-child tax credit and elimination of the marriage penalty as examples.
"These are clearly not tax cuts for the rich," Chabot said. "I'm for cutting taxes and my opponent has criticized me for that."
Harris has also criticized Chabot for failing to reform health care. He said health care should be "a birthright, not a privilege."
Harris said he would lift the ban on importing prescription drugs from Canada - something his opponent has not supported.
"He supports free trade, but when it comes to importing drugs from Canada, suddenly he's the biggest protectionist out there," Harris said.
Chabot said he supports banning a procedure opponents call partial-birth abortions and allowing young people to invest their Social Security benefits now to build and secure their retirement.
"I think we ought to protect Social Security and make sure it's available for seniors today and take an extra step to make sure it is there for younger people when they retire."