New Ohio senator: Dems have to do something with newfound power
By CONNIE MABIN
Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND (AP): Democrats must not squander their newfound power in Washington and across the nation if they are going to accomplish an agenda that helps them win the presidency in 2008, Ohio's new senator elect said Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democrat whose message of fighting for the middle class helped him unseat two-term incumbent GOP Sen. Mike DeWine, said working with Republicans is key to future success.
The parties must find common ground on issues like improving the war in Iraq, raising the federal minimum wage, protecting jobs and supporting embryonic stem cell research, he said.
``The Democrats absolutely have to deliver,'' Brown said just hours after his victory in the bellwether state crucial to the road to the White House two years from now.
He vowed to work closely with Ohio's senior Sen. George Voinovich and other Republicans and said he hoped his party would resist temptation to use their stronger status to ``engage in partisan retribution'' against President Bush.
``I think we go after issues that are absolutely in the public interest where there is significant bipartisan support and those are the issues we move forward on because it's the message that we send to the country that we mean business,'' Brown said.
``We're going to stand up and focus on doing more on the issues that matter.'' he said. ``If Democrats go in and seek retribution, we lose.''
Voinovich, who on Wednesday said he would run for a second term in 2010, said the election was a rejection of Washington partisanship. He signaled a desire to work with Democrats on some of their key initiatives and rebuked suggestions that the GOP could regain power if it forces gridlock.
``I think that will be very shortsighted. If we do that, shame on us,'' Voinovich said. ``If the Democrats do what I would do if I were them and reach out with a list of things to do, and if we're depicted as standing on the outside trying to prevent that from happening, it would be terrible for the country. And it's stupid politics.''
Brown said the goal is ``to show Republicans that we want to work with them and get them a seat at the table, something that they have not done with us.''
He said he planned to call Voinovich on Wednesday to begin discussing their partnership in representing Ohio. He said the pair had a good relationship.
``I especially admire his work on trying to balance the budget,'' Brown said. ``You pick out issues that you're interested in _ trade issues, balancing the budget, health care issues, education issues—and you find the senators across the aisle who agree with you. I can work with Sen. Voinovich.''
Brown was among Democrats in Ohio and nationwide who benefited from Republican scandals and increasingly unpopular war pushed by Bush.
Democrats with an eye on Ohio's likely role as a 2008 presidential battleground state took note of Brown's campaign, which started as a long-shot, liberal bid in Republican-led state.
``This is an important state, people know that,'' Brown said, noting he had taken calls from Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, all potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2008.
National candidates are learning from the success of his campaign that stuck to traditional Democratic issues, such as raising the minimum wage, Brown said.
Now that he's captured national attention, Brown was asked if voters might one day see his name on a presidential ballot.
``No,'' Brown responded right away. ``This is the highest office I will ever seek.''
Sen. Mike DeWine said Wednesday in a telephone interview that he recognized voters were upset about Washington bipartisanship, but he found it ironic that he lost after touting his independence and cooperative spirit.
``This was a perfect storm,'' DeWine said. ``This was not just Ohio, not just the nation. It was both coming together. We could have survived one, but not both of them.''
After 30 years in office, serving as a state legislator, lieutenant governor and congressman, DeWine said he wants to find a way to continue working on children's health and youth issues.
Associated Press writer David Hammer in Washington contributed to this story.