Taft, Hagan campaign in home territories

By TERRY KINNEY, Associated Press Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) - The major party candidates for governor campaigned in their home bases on the eve of the election Tuesday.

Gov. Bob Taft took a turn working phone banks Monday in Cincinnati, urging voters to support the GOP ticket and to defeat a drug treatment proposal that will be on Tuesday's ballot.

"I'm not sure they believe it when they first hear me," Taft said of his telephone technique at Hamilton County GOP headquarters in his hometown. "Or maybe they think it's one of those recorded messages. They seem pretty polite, pretty nice and appreciative."

Taft said he was not letting up in the final stages of the campaign, despite two recent polls showing he had a double-digit lead over Democrat Tim Hagan.

Hagan greeted retired autoworkers in Lordstown on Monday and planned a visit to a school in Warren in eastern Ohio where his sister, Maggie, teaches. Hagan grew up in nearby Youngstown.

"This comes down to turnout," he told a union hall crowd of about 400 retired United Auto Workers employees. "Do Hagan voters turn out or do Taft voters turn out?"

Hagan voters probably include those people who support Issue 1. Issue 1 would require judges to impose treatment, not jail time, for nonviolent first- and second-time offenders who request it.

Opponents, including Taft, say it would tie judges hands and hurt the state's attempts to fight drug abuse. Supporters say it would save money and help people get off drugs.

Hagan spoke to union members on Sunday, urging a crowd of about 300 in Dayton to get the vote out in competitive Montgomery County.

Campaigning in Cleveland, he shook hands with fans on their way to the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns game.

On Sunday, Taft attended a Republican pancake breakfast in Rocky River, a GOP-dominated Cleveland suburb, and was almost upstaged by his predecessor. U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, implored the faithful to put politics aside and focus on problems the country faces.

The former Cleveland mayor and Ohio governor told the 2,000 Republicans who attended that Taft and the rest of the Republican ticket represent the best Ohioans can get in public service.

Then, he delivered an emotional plea for unity once the election is held. He said President Bush has "the fullest plate" of any president, comparing the problems facing the country to those that faced Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Taft seem buoyed by a poll that found he was favored 58 percent to 40 percent over Hagan. The mail poll conducted by The Columbus Dispatch was based on returns of 2,048 randomly selected Ohio registered voters who said they intend to vote on Tuesday. It was conducted Oct. 24 through Thursday. The sampling error margin was 2 percentage points.

In the last pre-election Ohio Poll, conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati, Taft was favored 58 percent to 39 percent. The poll was based on telephone interviews with a random statewide sample of 713 probable voters and had a sampling error margin of 3.5 percentage points.

At Sunday's rally at the International Union of Electrical Workers Hall in downtown Dayton, Hagan said that labor and Democrats should be tired enough of 12 years of Republican governors to get him elected on Tuesday.

"Democrats and labor are riled up and they want to take their government back," Hagan said. "If you'll be my voice for the next 48 hours, I'll be your voice as governor for the next four years."

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