By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft (pictured, top right) on Thursday filed petitions for re-election, officially kicking off his campaign for the May 7 primary in which Democrat Tim Hagan of suburban Cleveland (pictured, bottom right) filed earlier.
Each candidate needs 1,000 signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. Before focusing on each other, both may face nominal opposition in the primary.
Taft said he will run on his record of accomplishments, including enlisting 40,000 tutors for his Ohio Reads program for elementary students, cutting taxes for business and agreeing to tax breaks for Ohioans.
"I'm looking forward to a great race. We know, as in any campaign, there will be a great deal of challenges that we will face, but we're off to a strong start," Taft said.
He holds a 100-to-1 advantage over Hagan in fund-raising through Dec. 31.
Hagan, a former Cuyahoga County Commissioner, filed his petitions on Wednesday. He said weak leadership by Taft has added to Ohio's budget problems and its failure to settle a school funding lawsuit that has been in the courts for a decade. Hagan said Taft should not have ruled out a tax increase to avoid budget cuts and satisfy plaintiffs in the school funding case.
"This is a race in which the people will have a clear distinction of what Hagan stands for and what Taft has stood for," Hagan said.
Meanwhile, high-school senior Alexander Madorsky of Shaker Heights filed petitions on Wednesday to challenge Hagan for the Democratic nomination.
Madorsky, 18, said he is tired of the candidates the Democratic Party has fielded in recent elections. The party has not won a statewide race, except for the Supreme Court, since 1990, he noted.
"The one-party political monopoly is causing paralysis in the General Assembly," Madorsky said. "Tim Hagan has a strong record of public service, but I don't think he's going to win this race, even though Governor Taft has a spotty record."
Taft could face a primary challenge from former Reform Party candidate John Mitchel of Beavercreek. Mitchel, a retired Air Force colonel, has filed petitions to run for Congress against Rep. David Hobson, but said Thursday he also may file either for governor or secretary of state.
He said Taft has promoted failed education policies and abandoned his opposition to the E-check vehicle emissions testing program.
He also opposes Taft's selection of Columbus City Councilwoman Jennette Bradley as a running mate. Bradley supports abortion rights, a view that has angered some members of the GOP's right wing.
County boards of elections must certify candidate petitions by Feb. 28.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)