Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Voinovich has no trouble winning 2nd Senate term

By Jim Siegel
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - U.S. Sen. George Voinovich handily won re-election to a second term Tuesday, adding six more years to a political career already spanning more than four decades.

"I think Ohio voters have gotten to know George Voinovich over a long period of time,'' the Republican from Cleveland said shortly after the polls closed Tuesday, just before heading on stage to greet supporters at a rally in Cleveland.

"People have a knowledge of who I am and what I've done, and they think I'm getting the job done in Washington."

While state Republican leaders sweated over the presidential results, polls said Voinovich's race against underfunded Democratic challenger state Sen. Eric Fingerhut was never in doubt.

The Associated Press projected Voinovich the winner as soon as polls closed, based on interviews at selected precincts. Voinovich led Fingerhut by a 2-to-1 ratio much of the evening.

The former mayor of Cleveland and Ohio governor, Voinovich, 68, campaigned on a theme of job growth through a reformed legal system, lower energy costs and stricter enforcement of trade policies with China.

He stressed his efforts to help keep manufacturing jobs in Ohio, leading the way on urging the president to place tariffs on foreign steel.

"If we didn't have that 21-month hiatus tariff on foreign steel ... a lot of steel companies today would have been in bad shape," he said.

Voinovich, a tight-fisted governor known for pinching pennies in his budgets, considers himself a deficit hawk, standing up to party leaders and President Bush when they pushed for bigger tax cuts.

In his second term, Voinovich said he will work to bring the next budget into balance, keep trying to pass a highway budget that stands to provide millions more for Ohio, and push to enforce trade and property rights laws with China.

His ads reminded people of the economic boom Ohio saw during his time as governor in the mid-1990s.

Fingerhut, 45, of Shaker Heights, put up a spirited fight, walking more than 400 miles across the state and through individual cities to spread his message. But he couldn't come close to matching Voinovich's statewide name recognition, or his more than $9 million war chest.

Tuesday's election was the latest in a string of wide victories for Voinovich. Asked the last time he ran a competitive race, he said, "My daddy told me to do a good job with the job you have and the future will take care of itself."

Many expect Fingerhut, a respected lawmaker known for his command of the issues, will build off this campaign and take another run at statewide office in 2006.

E-mail Enquirer reporter Steve Kemme contributed.

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