In Ohio we’ve had two recent examples of how politicians just seem to think about things in ways that are different from the rest of us. Both involve Democratic candidates for statewide offices, and both involve cars.
Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County Executive — that means he’s the county’s top official — had no driver’s license at all for six years, then he had a “learner’s permit” that required him to drive in the company of another adult as part of a series of temporary permits for additional years; in all, he went 10 years without a permanent license. This came to light when the story broke that FitzGerald was found in a car with a woman who was not his wife at 4:30 a.m., during a time period where he had a learner’s permit. FitzGerald says nothing untoward happened, but he acknowledges that after he dropped the woman off at a hotel he drove home alone — which violated his permit. It’s unclear how many other times FitzGerald violated his learner’s permits, but another Democratic official admits seeing him drive himself back and forth from work frequently during the time before he had full driving privileges.
Then there’s David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General. It turns out that Pepper has wracked up more than 180 parking tickets over 14 years — some which were for driving with expired license plates — including one as recently as last month. Pepper, who served as a Hamilton County Commissioner and a Cincinnati City Council member during that 14-year period, has paid more than $9,000 in fines on the tickets.
Of course, both the FitzGerald and the Pepper campaigns say these curious matters are being emphasized by Republicans just to distract voters from the more important issues. Perhaps that’s true, but these strange stories still tell you something about the candidates. How many working adults in America don’t have permanent driver’s licenses, and how many would drive under a series of restricted permits rather than just going to the DMV, waiting with the rest of the unwashed masses, taking the necessary tests, and getting their license? I would be a nervous wreck driving myself around in violation of a permit. Wasn’t FitzGerald worried about getting pulled over, or getting into an accident and having to show his license to police?
As for Pepper, his campaign says he had a “hectic schedule” during the time period he got all of the parking tickets. Of course, that could be said about most working Americans — but somehow we find ways to park our cars legally. I can understand parking in an illegal space in an emergency, but there is no way Pepper experienced more than 180 true emergencies over 14 years. If he got 180 tickets, how often did he park illegally and not get ticketed? Can’t he read parking signs like the rest of us? And didn’t he come to conclude after his first, say, $1,000 in parking tickets that it might be prudent to pay attention to signs and leave himself more time to find legitimate parking spaces? Why shouldn’t voters look at this record of personal responsibility and question whether Pepper would be a responsible choice for the position of Ohio’s top law enforcement officer?