Thursday, November 4, 2004

Once and future prosecutor promises he'll clean up office


Sex scandal opened opportunity

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Looking happy, Joe Deters speaks at his campaign headquarters Wednesday after winning back the county prosecutor's office in Tuesday's election.
The Enquirer/MEGGAN BOOKER
Just hours after learning Hamilton County voters sent him back into his old job as prosecutor, Joe Deters vowed to clean up the tarnished office and attack crime in Cincinnati.

Deters, 47, said he would resign as Ohio treasurer when he is sworn in as prosecutor Jan. 3.

Deters, a Republican, led Democratic opponent Fanon Rucker, 57.2 percent to 42.8 percent, ending an extraordinary 10 weeks of scandal and turmoil in one of the county's most important races.

"I'm glad to be home," Deters said Wednesday. "I can't wait to start back as prosecutor."

Slightly more than than 50 percent of the 418,001 Hamilton County voters wrote in a vote for prosecutor. Deters beat Rucker by 29,983 votes - 119,576 to 89,593.

Rucker could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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Hamilton County Board of Elections Director John Williams called the count an unofficial total. A handful of the write-in vote still remains in question. An exact number of those was unknown Wednesday, he said.

Those votes, though, will be looked at later this week, and if found valid added in for a final total.

Deters said he expects to make some immediate changes.

"Dealing with violent criminals, I want to take care of that quickly," he said. "In a very short time the office will be where it needs to be."

Deters replaces the incumbent Republican prosecutor, Mike Allen, who withdrew from the race in September after admitting to a 31/2-year affair with Rebecca Collins, a female employee who sued him and the county board of commissioners alleging sexual harassment and discrimination.

That lawsuit is pending in federal court.

Deters said he has talked with Collins' attorney, and expects the 33-year-old assistant prosecutor will find another job by the time he takes office.

Deters and Rucker ran as write-in candidates - a first in Hamilton County politics - because they jumped into the race just seven weeks ago.

Allen's sudden departure left Democrats and the GOP scrambling to find candidates for one of the most politically powerful jobs in the county - and one that has been held for decades by a Republican.

"We've never seen anything like it," Williams said Wednesday morning. "Who could have predicted what has happened in the last (seven) weeks. It's been a hell of a write-in race."

Williams praised the candidates, saying they made voters aware of the campaign and aggressively went after the vote.

"They both did an excellent job in a compressed amount of time," Williams said. "They did a great job."

Williams said the board received several complaints throughout Election Day that people were writing in candidates' names in ballot books, instead of actually on the ballot.

He can't say if that was done on purpose to influence the vote, or if people didn't understand where the write-in candidates' name should go.

Deters' successor to his state office will be appointed. Lt. Gov. Jennette Bradley, who also runs the Ohio Department of Commerce, has expressed interest in the treasurer's job and is on the GOP's short list of top candidates for the position.

Deters' reputation took a beating during a 14-month grand jury investigation into his campaign finances. He was not charged with wrongdoing, but one associate admitted to a misdemeanor election-law violation and another pleaded guilty to improper use of public office.

Deters was a popular prosecutor, though, and was such a formidable candidate in the 1990s that Democrats sometimes didn't bother to run anyone against him.

Many assistant prosecutors were said to be buoyed by the news that Deters is returning.

"People are thrilled," said First Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier. "They wanted Deters back."

Chief assistant prosecutor Karl Kadon added: "We have a couple of hundred good and dedicated people who have been distracted the last couple of weeks.

"Now,'' he said. "We can focus on the the future."

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com




ELECTION 2004
Bush prevails at polls
George W. Bush's victory speech
Text of John Kerry's concession speech
What to watch for this term

OHIO
Election fuss gave Blackwell a boost
Intense 2008 election forecast for Ohio
All those visits to SW Ohio paid off for the president
Voters look to the future
Ohio seeks vote answers
Academic gains helped levy win, but Cincinnati must cut
Democrats now occupy three posts in county
5 Hamilton County school districts passed tax levies
Lakota cuts; Fairfield restores
Warren vote count was slow, others OK
Once and future prosecutor promises he'll clean up office

KENTUCKY
Despite some long lines, voting was mostly smooth
Kids vote just like adults
Republicans bask in victory
Pro-Kerry homework irks Mom

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