Students who were disappointed over state election results can at least comfort themselves by crying in their drinks thanks to passage of new liquor laws for some Oberlin precincts.
The 1998 elections brought some surprises on both the national, state and local level. One of the biggest was the ease with which Oberlin voters finally revised city liquor laws. Precincts 2-A and 3-B, which lie on either side of Main Street, both gave wide support to proposals to legalize sale of wine and mixed drinks.
However, students won't be able to imbibe immediately. Downtown establishments need to have their liquor license applications approved and alcohol sales organized, which could take anywhere from a few weeks to months.
In a disappointing but not unexpected result in the Ohio gubernatorial race, 1973 Oberlin graduate and Oberlin trustee Lee Fisher lost a close race to Secretary of State Bob Taft. Taft won 50 percent of the vote and Fisher recorded 45 percent, with the other 5 percent split by two minor candidates.
Don Pease, visiting professor of politics, said, "I think it's very unfortunate Lee Fisher lost because in my view he's the brightest politician on the Ohio scene today and would have made a great governor."
"It's almost impossible to beat a Taft in Ohio," said OC Democrats co-chair senior Jenny Kaleczyc. Bob Taft is related to William Taft, the 27th President of the United States and an Ohio native.
Taft's victory led a sweep of state-wide elections by Republicans. Attorney General, State Auditor, Secretary of State, Treasurer of State and Supreme Court Chief Justice seats were all filled by Republicans. Many close local races also ended with Republicans in the lead.
"Locally, a lot of Democratic candidates got edged by 100 votes," said Kaleczyc. "I thought it was a bummer."
Pease, who was a member of U.S. Congress for 16 years, expressed little surprise at the state results. "Ohio is a moderate to conservative state," he said. "Taft fit that moderate to conservative profile. . . Lee just faced all kinds of handicaps."
George Voinovich, outgoing Republican governor, won the Ohio U.S. Senate seat vacated by John Glenn (currently orbiting the earth in the space shuttle Discovery), who is retiring in January. Voinovich, governor since 1990, was barred by law from seeking a third term.
Sherrod Brown, a favorite of Oberlin students, will be returning to Washington for his fourth straight term as U.S. Representative. He easily defeated Republican Grace Drake, earning over 60 percent of the vote in District 13, which includes Lorain County.
In national elections, the political pundits were surprised by a strong Democratic showing. The Democrats gained five seats in the House of Representatives, while the balance in the Senate was unchanged, with 45 Democrats and 55 Republicans, despite the replacement of the Democrat Glenn by Voinovich.
"I'm from California, so I'm extremely happy," said college senior Siobhan Reilley, referring to a Democratic sweep of state offices, including Governor. In reference to Ohio elections, she said, "It would have been great to get Fisher. It's kind of too bad."
By far the most unusual and shocking election result was the victory of former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota. Voters have expressed frustration with the wimpy, partisan politics of both the Republicans and Democrats, but only in Minnesota were voters gutsy enough to take action. Ventura, running as Ross Perot's Reform Party candidate, defeated two well-known candidates with 37 percent of the vote.
"I'm kind of scared," said Conservatory junior Faith Porter, from Crystal, Minnesota."Some of the things he said are too out there for me. I think he doesn't know what he got himself into."
"I was actually quite shocked," said college junior Dina Berin, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota. "It seems quite progressive for Minnesota. It made me curious of the demographics of the people who came out to vote." Berin said that Ventura was quite articulate in a debate she saw over Fall Break, but not taken seriously by the other two candidates.
Back in Oberlin, Precinct 2-A passed a proposal to legalize the sale of wine and mixed beverages both on and off premises. The Black River Cafe is the only establishment in precinct 2-A which has already applied for a license. The proposal passed 286-144.
Precinct 3-B passed broader liquor laws, which were placed on the ballot by Jai Wei, owner of the Mandarin and the Tea House. Voters in precinct 3-B legalized the sale of hard liquor as well as wine and mixed drinks. They also approved the sale of alcohol on Sunday. The proposals, voted on individually, passed by an average of 73 percent to 27 percent.
"I'm thrilled. It's something we've wanted to do for a long time," said the Foxgrape Cafe owner Alana Kelley . "We can do wine-tastings and things like that." Foxgrape, along with the Mandarin and the Tea House, are applying for liquor licenses in precinct 3-B.
In the third local issue, Oberlin voters overwhelmingly approved a 0.2 percent increase in the city income tax to fund waste water treatment plant improvements and retirement of debt incurred by the plant.
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 8, November 6, 1998
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