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Gore tells voters he's his own man
Vice president speaks near Dayton
Tuesday, April 11, 2000
BY Joe Hallett
VANDALIA, Ohio -- Courting independent and undecided voters in one of the nation's most consistent swing counties, Vice President Al Gore last night sought to embed his independence with voters by continuing to separate himself from President Clinton.
Gore answered questions for more than two hours in this Dayton suburb, reprising the stay-to-the- last-question town-hall meetings he held in New Hampshire and other early primary states.
The vice president fielded 18 questions from an audience of about 250 at Vandalia-Butler High School and then lingered after the event to talk one-on-one with voters.
"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere,'' he assured them. "I will stay all night here if necessary.''
After leaving the Dayton area, Gore stayed overnight at the home of Susan Fadley, a Columbus teacher.
"I've got Secret Service men in my house, and I'm trying to give my daughter a bath,'' Fadley said last night. "It's real crazy right now.''
Gore is to visit Fadley's Avondale Elementary School today.
His stay last night had Secret Service and Columbus police patrolling Fadley's Far West Side neighborhood, keeping the curious off the cul-de-sac where she lives.
"It's incredible,'' said Mike Hall, a neighbor. "It's very exciting. How often does the vice president of the United States come to your neighborhood?
"It makes you feel like your vote is worth something,'' Hall said. "It's like he's a regular guy.''
Gore arrived at Fadley's house about 11 p.m.
Fadley is a kindergarten and special-education teacher at Avondale. The vice president has pledged to visit schools throughout his campaign.
Mary Ann Burns, principal at Avondale, said the school has been asked by the vice president's staff to conduct a routine day of classes with no special events.
The Columbus visit will mark Gore's seventh day of campaigning in Ohio since July and his fifth day this year.
Last night, Gore jumped at an opportunity to put some distance between himself and Clinton when a questioner in Vandalia asked if the case of Elian Gonzalez had allowed him to "step out on his own.''
Gore recently split from the Clinton administration by saying a family court should decide whether the Cuban boy should stay in the United States if his father and Miami-based relatives cannot reach an agreement.
Out of loyalty to Clinton, the vice president said he had not spoken out forcefully on the boy's fate until after a campaign reassessment had convinced him he would better serve voters by speaking his mind.
"My strength as vice president became a weakness as a presidential candidate. . . . I came to the realization that running for president is a lot more important than being the best vice president I can be.''
Gore sought to assert his independence in Montgomery County, long recognized as a bellwether in Ohio, a key electoral state. In the past 10 presidential elections, the county has correctly picked the presidential winner eight times. During that period, 47.8 percent of the county's vote went to GOP presidential candidates and 46.5 percent went to Democrats.
The Dayton-area visit was a late addition to Gore's schedule, one that spokeswoman Julie Green said was targeting independent and undecided voters.
Gore tried to paint his GOP rival, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, as a captive of his party's right wing. He attacked Bush's tax-cut plan as a "risky scheme that would squander all of the budget surplus,'' eventually put the nation $1 trillion in debt and throw the nation into a recession.
"I truly believe that what he is proposing does not represent the mainstream of the Republican party today,'' Gore told about 250 people gathered in the school library.
Noting that the next president likely will appoint three new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, Gore said that Bush had cited Justice Antonin Scalia, "who I think it is fair to say is the most far-right member of the court,'' as his favorite justice.
There have been many 5-4 decisions from the current court.
"As a practical matter, what that means is that this presidential election will determine the kind of Supreme Court and the way our Constitution is interpreted for the next 30 to 40 years,'' Gore said. "There are a lot of civil rights and individual rights that will be profoundly affected.''
Jane Forrest Redfern, environmental-projects director for Ohio Citizen Action, asked Gore to respond "yes or no'' to whether he as president would order a shutdown of the controversial WTI hazardous-waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.
During the 1992 campaign, Gore had voiced opposition to the incinerator, which is 1,100 feet from an elementary school.
Gore said that when a permit for the incinerator was issued in January 1993, "most of the options that were available to us were taken away'' and he blamed the Bush- Quayle administration for granting the permit.
However, at his request, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to review the permit, he said.
"I think the review will uncover enough information on which to base a rational decision'' whether to keep the incinerator operating, he said.
After the meeting, Gore met with Sandy Bulcher of Powell and two other parents whose children suffer from a rare genetic disorder called Maple Syrup Urine Disease.
Bulcher's 10-year-old son, Jordan, suffers from the disease. If he does not drink a formula costing $900 a month, he will die, Bulcher said.
She and the other parents beseeched Gore to support legislation that would require insurance companies to include the formula as a covered drug.
"He said if he is president, he would do that,'' Bulcher said. "We were very satisfied with that.''
Dispatch Staff Reporter Matthew Marx and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2000, The Columbus Dispatch