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MAHONING VALLEY Springer to speak at 3 Dem fund-raisers

By David Skolnick

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Jerry Springer's appearances are expected to attract large crowds.
& lt;a & gt;By DAVID SKOLNICK & lt;/a & gt;
YOUNGSTOWN -- TV talk show host Jerry Springer is coming to the Mahoning Valley three times in the upcoming weeks, but he's leaving the scorned lovers, two-timers, bigamists and assorted weirdos behind.
Springer, who is considering a bid to run for U.S. Senate next year, is the keynote speaker at three Democratic Party events.
Party officials expect the national television star to attract large crowds, upward of 400 people willing to pay as much as $100 a ticket to events that usually attract less than half that audience.
The events are:
UThe Trumbull County Democratic Party's spring fund-raiser April 25 at the DiVieste Banquet Center in Warren. A cocktail party and dinner with Springer runs $100 a ticket. It's $50 a ticket for just the dinner.
UThe Mahoning County Democratic Party's first annual Democratic Hall of Fame dinner May 9 at Mr. Anthony's in Boardman. Tickets are $50 each.
UThe Columbiana County Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner June 7 at Timberlanes in Salem. Tickets for a cocktail party and dinner is $100 each. It's $30 for the dinner only.
Columbiana Democratic Chairman Dennis Johnson said about 80 percent of the people who have called party officials for tickets have never attended a political function.
"It's going to be one of the biggest events we've ever had," he said. "If you're on TV every day and people watch and see you, they are curious about you. If there's a chance to get a picture with him, people are going to take it."
Image problem
Trumbull Democratic Chairman Christ Michelakis said party officials are thrilled to have Springer speak at their major fund-raiser. Even though he's called "the king of trash TV," Michelakis said Springer is an impressive public speaker who is passionate about Democratic issues.
"I want you to listen to this guy speak," Michelakis said. "I was impressed when I heard him speak. He's got that [negative] image around his neck, but here's his chance to redeem himself."
Johnson said he agrees with many of the positions Springer takes on issues, but to be a serious candidate, the talk show host has got to shed the negative reputation he has earned from his show.
Even so, Johnson said Springer, a former Cincinnati mayor, probably has the best chance among Democrats to knock off an incumbent Republican in a statewide election in recent history.
"We don't have anything else [better] that I'm aware of," he said.
Springer is visiting Democratic officials in many of the state's 88 counties to gauge interest in a run next year against U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, the Republican incumbent, said Dale Butland, Springer's Columbus-based political consultant who was the chief of staff for John Glenn when he was a U.S. senator.
State Sen. Eric Fingerhut of Cleveland is the only announced Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate next year.
"If the only thing people knew about Jerry was from his TV show, people wouldn't vote for him. But there's a lot more to Jerry than just his show," Butland said.
Mahoning Democratic Chairwoman Lisa Antonini said Springer will help sell tickets, but she expects the party's first Hall of Fame presentation to attract people as well. The party will honor three or four Democrats at the event.
Antonini said Springer's representatives approached the party about the talk show host participating in the event. Fingerhut is also invited to speak at the event, she said.
"He's been an excellent draw everywhere he's gone," Antonini said of Springer.
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