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  •   Mystery Confronts Voinovich

    By Terry M. Neal and John E. Yang
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Sunday, September 21, 1997; Page A09

    Ohio Gov. George V. Voinovich (R), a candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by John Glenn (D), is a popular politician with high favorability ratings and universal name recognition in his state: So why is his support so mediocre?

    A Paul Werth Associates poll showed Voinovich getting 50 percent of the vote against Democrat Mary Boyle, who gets 29 percent, with the rest undecided more than a year away from the election. Boyle is a former Cuyahoga County commissioner. Voinovich won reelection last November with 72 percent of the vote.

    The same poll shows the governor with a healthy 60 percent job approval and 26 percent disapproval rating.

    Eric Rademacher, a research analyst for the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research, said there probably is no cause for alarm for Voinovich. Even though his Senate race numbers could be a little higher, he still has a 21-point lead. And even if he split the undecided votes with Boyle, he would still win handily.

    Earlier this month, Voinovich's chief of staff, Paul Mifsud, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges that he got a $100,000 break on a home remodeling project from a contractor who later received millions of dollars in no-bid construction contracts with the state. The contractor was a campaign contributor to Voinovich. The scandal seems to have had little if any effect on Voinovich's popularity, Rademacher said. But it could become a bigger issue next year as the campaign heats up.

    But more problematic for the governor is the $1 billion tax hike he wants to enact.

    "Boyle does have some room to make some headway," said Rademacher, who has analyzed other Voinovich/Boyle polls for the university's Ohio Poll. Although he said he remains skeptical, she can pull ahead. "Voinovich is still one of the best-known and best-liked political figures Ohio has soon seen in a long time," Rademacher said.

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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