Analyst: Hagan Likely Didn't Shake Up Race

By JAMES HANNAH, Associated Press Writer

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Democratic candidate for governor Tim Hagan raised his profile in the first debate of the campaign but likely did not shake up the race against Gov. Bob Taft, a political analyst said Wednesday.

Tuesday night's debate was critical for Hagan, a Cuyahoga County commissioner from 1983-99 who is short on campaign money and lagging in independent polls, said John Green, a political science professor at the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

"He needed to get some more recognition and raise some issues. In many respects, he was successful in doing that," Green said. "What he didn't land was the knockout blow, the great one-liner, the powerful speech."

Green said both candidates successfully showed voters how different they are. Taft and Hagan are to meet in two more debates, Oct. 23 in Columbus and Nov. 1 in Cleveland.

Taft wasted no time in the often spirited exchange Tuesday night criticizing Hagan (pictured, above) as being wrong for Ohio.

"Tim's offered a campaign of complaint and criticism. And the few ideas he has offered, well, they're wrong for Ohio, too," Taft said in his opening remarks. "My opponent offers a risky budget scheme that would slash essential spending for people in need while at the same time proposing additional billions of new spending."

Green said Taft accomplished what he needed to do: "Play some defense and highlight positive aspects of his record."

Hagan repeatedly said Taft has failed to provide leadership.

"Bankruptcies are up in Ohio. Unemployment is up in Ohio. Foreclosures are up in Ohio. Property taxes, Bob, are up in Ohio. Prescription drugs are up in Ohio. Tuition is up in Ohio. The budget deficit is up in Ohio," Hagan said. "I think the people of Ohio are fed up in Ohio and it's time now for Bob Taft to realize his time is up in Ohio."

Hagan implied during the debate that Taft would not be governor without his family name. Taft is the great-grandson of President William Howard Taft.

"Like you, I'm also very proud of my heritage. I feel blessed and very, very fortunate, I must say," Taft said. "But when I hear your litany of complaints about Ohio, it reminds me of the nightly news, all the bad but none of the good."

Taft said Hagan's plan to put video slot machines in Ohio racetracks and close business tax loopholes would harm the state. But Hagan said Ohio would gain revenue that goes to casinos and tracks in Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia and Canada.

Taft defended his record on school construction, saying the state spends far more on school buildings than local districts that pass levies. Hagan said the Ohio Supreme Court has weighed in on local taxes, saying it's unconstitutional to overly rely on them.

The two differed strongly on the death penalty.

Hagan, who opposes capital punishment, said he didn't care about polls that have found Ohioans support it.

"If somebody were to harm my wife or my children, somebody would have to hold me back from attacking that S.O.B. But that's emotion," Hagan said. "A just society acts out of reason -- not emotion."

Taft has not granted clemency in the five death penalty cases he has reviewed during his term. He said he studies every case before making a decision. He said Hagan would be substituting his judgment for the will of the jury and the Legislature.

Taft also accused Hagan of changing his positions on raising taxes and a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot that would force judges to impose treatment for first- and second-time drug offenders.

Hagan said he has not changed positions lightly.

"I didn't flip-flop. I didn't realize what a disaster I would inherit as governor of this state, a $4 billion deficit," Hagan said.

Hagan also criticized a recently announced prescription discount program as not meeting seniors' needs. Ohio's Golden Buckeye cardholders, residents 60 or older, would receive the cards.

Taft said "deep discounts" would be available.

John Eastman, the gubernatorial candidate for the Natural Law Party, was invited by the sponsors to the studio but not allowed to take part. The sponsors were The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, The Columbus Dispatch and the Dayton Daily News.

Eastman said he would have focused on what can be done to stop problems before they get large. He said early treatment both in health care and criminal justice would save the state substantial money.

"We really need to start prevention-oriented solutions," he said.

Eastman is to take part in the Cleveland debate.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)