Ohio2006 Blog

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Sunday, September 3

Lucas County Comm'r: Konop (D) Meets the Bloggers ...

Last Saturday I drove with bloggers George Nemeth and Gloria and Tim Ferris to Toledo for a Meet the Bloggers interview with Lucas County Commissioner candidate Ben Konop (D-Toledo) at a warehouse district cafe called Downtown Latte. Konop, who lives a block away, is a regular customer (and may soon have a coffee drink (his usual) named after him on the big menu board.) We were joined by local internet denizen J.R. of ToledoTalk.com. The audio of our interview may be downloaded here.

Konop is a very bright, personable, energetic guy. He has an enormous and totally disarming smile. He's very interested in technology and the internet, and blogs, and also displays a lot of initiative -- he had arranged for a local Fox TV reporter and a Toledo City Paper reporter to cover our interview. We all said afterward that it's exciting to meet people like Konop who represent the future of politics in Ohio.

We talked about a number of Konop campaign initiatives, including his proposal to switch the county to open-source software (safer and less expensive) and using some county resources to make sure that eligible low-income taxpayers receive their federal earned income tax credit (about 20% of eligible persons do not file for it, a cumulative loss to the community of millions of dollars). We talked about the importance to economic development of buying local -- for example, 80% of every dollar spent at a local bookstore stays in Toledo, but only 30% of what is spent at Barnes & Noble stays in town.

The theme of Konop's campaign is moving Lucas County into the 21st century, so he emphasizes economic redevelopment, technology, and arts/culture. He wants to help make Toledo a more interesting place, to attract people and to retain young people who are currently leaving in droves. Konop cited social theorist Richard Florida for the idea that what young people look for after college is a sense of place, social climate, and networking opportunities. Universities are a key to developing both social climate and opportunity, especially in high-tech fields like alternative energy. We also talked about regionalism, in the sense of adjoining communities working together to improve the regional economy instead of competing. As a counterexample he offered the recent move of Owens Illinois to nearby Perrysburg, which was disruptive and contributed to the sprawl issue.

Going door-to-door, voters tell Konop that they are fed up with political scandals. Konop is running against George Sarantou (R) for an open seat. The incumbent was a Noe-to-Bush conduit for illegal campaign money and pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Konop is not a career politician and not connected to Noe or the other scandals in the newspapers. His interest in politics goes back to his parents, who were very political. His parents worried when he quit his Washington law job to run for Congress two years ago (he lost to Rep. Mike Oxley (R) in the 4th Congressional District, but did came very close to an upset despite being outspent 10-to-1), but they are big supporters and contribute a lot of insight. His role model in public service is Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), for whom Konop worked as a young man and who has been something of a political mentor to him. Historically, however, he is inspired by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was interesting when Konop talked about playing basketball on an athletic scholarship at Division III Emory University, where he played guard. He said that basketball taught him lessons that are helpful in politics, such as performing in front of a big crowd, dealing with getting pushed around, a strong work ethic, and how to take abuse. He has done very well so far in pursuing the county commissioner position. In the Democratic primary he began as a 20 point underdog, running against the mayor of Maumee and the top vote-getter in last year's Toledo City Council election, but won. This guy is going to go far.


At 5:14 PM, Anonymous earl said...

Ben mixes high tech (his web presence is VASTLY superior to his opponent, if I do say so myself)) with the most basic people-to-people politics. He's wearing out a lot of shoe leather.


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