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Voters try to turn tables on Congressional candidates

5:21 PM, Aug 17, 2012   |    comments
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STRONGSVILLE -- Retired autoworker Charles Peck is tired of shallow and nasty political campaigns.

"I'm getting tired of being treated like an idiot...  I'm getting tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. I decided maybe somebody can do something about it," he said.

He is one of 22 citizens recruited by a good government group to hold candidates' feet to the fire in the new 16th district.

The Minnesota-based non-profit Jefferson Action targeted the race between incumbents Democrat Betty Sutton and Republican Jim Renacci. The project's called Promoting Healty Democracy.

It's one of just two races pitting incumbents against each other. It's getting lots of attention and lots of money.

"This was the typical potential mudslinging campaign," said Jacqueline Kelo, Ohio coordinator for Jefferson.

The group sent 20,000 voters questionnaires and picked its sample to relect the district's political, racial, economic and age make-up.

Kelo said, "Average people can make good decisions if given information."

The group spent 3 days deciding it's top three topics for Sutton and Renacci and Sutton to propose solutions for and discuss.

They are: weak economic growth, unemployment and the federal budget's impact on the national debt.

Sutton and Renacci have both agreed to meet separately with the group.

The panel will no make an endorsement. There will be a report card made available in voters' guides.

There are two more scheduled public forums.

Both are at the Radisson Hotel in Fairlawn.

They are September 21 through 23 and October 5 through October 7.

There is more information about the project at

Peck has some advice for Congress and campaigns about tactics that worked for the diverse group in decision-making.

"Cut the bull. Sit down and talk to each other about the facts," he said.

If this project gets lots of attention and raises the level of debate, the Jefferson group hopes it can be replicated in other races.

But there is one basic problem. Citizens must make an effort to get informed.

And Jefferson found only a little more than 20 percent of district voters can name the candidates running.

There is also a Libertarian candidate, Jeffrey Blevins.


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