Democrats Take Crucial Seats in Ohio

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; 12:54 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio, which clinched a second term for President Bush, helped make the remainder of it harder for him Tuesday, giving Democrats easy victories for Republican Senate and House seats, as well as the governor's office.

In one of the nation's most closely watched Senate races, Rep. Sherrod Brown cruised to victory over incumbent Republican Sen. Mike DeWine.

And in the race for governor, an office controlled by Republicans for 16 years, Rep. Ted Strickland easily defeated Republican Ken Blackwell.

In the traditionally safe GOP district of disgraced former Rep. Bob Ney, Democrat Zack Space defeated Republican state Sen. Joy Padgett. The GOP had held that seat for 30 years.

Strickland, a six-term congressional Democrat, brought his accepting views on issues such as guns and Christian values to the race against Blackwell, a lightning rod for controversy since his administration of the 2004 presidential election.

Strickland said he would work with Republican legislative leaders to add jobs, improve schools and expand health coverage.

"I believe the people of Ohio are sending a clear message," he said. "They want us to abandon the politics of division."

Seizing the governor's office gives Democrats the upper hand heading into the 2008 presidential election. No Republican has ever become president without taking Ohio _ including President Bush in 2004.

Voters this year witnessed a seemingly endless stream of indictments, convictions and court appearances by the state's GOP powerbrokers in a controversial state investment into rare coins and the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal that sank Ney.

In another bitter race, Brown had linked DeWine, a well-liked moderate, to federal trade policies that many of his blue-collar backers believe have cost them jobs. The two also sparred viciously over which had the superior record fighting against terrorism and high taxes and for affordable health care and medicine.

Brown told supporters he won because Americans are beginning to embrace traditional Democratic ideas, such as raising the minimum wage.

"It's a risk worth taking to stand up for what you believe," Brown said Tuesday. "And it's a risk worth taking to fight uncompromisingly for progressive values."

Investigations into Ohio's coin investments led to theft charges against a GOP fundraiser and separate ethics charges against Gov. Bob Taft, who is leaving office because of term limits.

In Ney's former eastern Ohio district, Space hammered Padgett with the lobbying scandal and her finances and business dealings. Ney resigned Friday _ a timing that infuriated Republicans _ after pleading guilty last month to corruption.

© 2006 The Associated Press