Deadline Now: Angela Zimmann
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Deadline Now: Angela Zimmann

Friday, June 15, 2012

Angela Zimmann is a Democrat running against incumbent Bob Latta to represent Ohio's 5th Congressional District. The district has been solidly Republican since the Civil War. So, why is Zimmann waging what could be perceived as an impossible quest? What are some of the issues she thinks voters ought to be paying attention to? Jack Lessenberry finds out.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

Thirty-two years ago, I was a reporter at The Blade on Election Day, and one of my colleagues told me a bizarre story. Toledo's Congressman was Thomas Ludlow Ashley, and then as now, it was as safe a Democratic seat as the Fifth is Republican.
But that day, looking at voters standing in line, Ashley suddenly turned pale. “I've lost,” he said. “I am going to lose.” The reporter thought that was crazy. But when the votes were counted, Lud had less than forty percent of the vote, an absolutely stunning upset.

Twenty-four years ago, I was politics editor of a large newspaper in the south, and I saw a young Mississippi Democrat named Gene Taylor wage what everyone said was a hopeless race in a congressional seat as Republican as Ohio’s Fifth District is now.

The Democrat lost -- but he made it far closer than anyone expected. Nine months later, the winner was campaigning in the district when his plane crashed in a dense forest. Gene Taylor won the special election that followed, and stayed in Congress for twenty years.  So it really isn’t over until it is over.

I am not saying any of that to imply either that it is likely that Angela Zimmann will pull off another similar upset. Nor am I saying that it would necessarily be a good thing if she did defeat Bob Latta.

What I AM saying is that it is certainly a good idea for any candidate to have a responsible challenger and for both sides to engage in a principled debate on the issues. The voters deserve such a contest, and having to explain their positions can also help make the candidates themselves better at doing their jobs.

Unfortunately, these days, in too many cases having a seriously contested election is more likely to mean an expensive smear campaign, with commercials indicating one candidate is an out-of-touch, un-American liberal, if not a committed socialist  -- and rival ads alleging that the other candidate is a puppet of evil corporate interests who wants to drive all workers into poverty. That's not what anyone needs.

In my opinion, the best thing that could happen to Fifth District voters would be a series of televised debates between the candidates on various topics. If they do that, voters could learn who they really are -- and while one of the candidates would lose the election, everybody would be in a very real sense, a winner.