Ohio’s Pathetic Non-Race For Governor

Every four years, the presidential campaigns come to Ohio and fight like crazy for the Buckeye State’s Electoral College votes.  They know that Ohio is the prototypical evenly divided swing state, with Democrats in the cities, Republicans in the rural areas, and a gaggle of independent voters who tend to vote for the candidate, not the party.

So why has Ohio’s gubernatorial race this year turned into a pathetic rout?

According to the most recent poll, incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich leads Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald by a whopping 22 points, and FitzGerald is even losing 1 in 4 Democratic voters to Kasich.  Even more damning — because we  know that modern politics is all about money — in September Kasich raised $1.6 million, whereas FitzGerald could only scrape together a measly $54,000.  The race is so uncompetitive that Kasich and Fitzgerald aren’t even going to debate, which is the first time that has happened in an Ohio gubernatorial race since 1978.

FitzGerald’s candidacy teaches a good lesson about the judgment, loyalty, and cover-your-ass mentality of our political classes.  FitzGerald was the chosen candidate of the Ohio Democratic Party, which engineered the process so that he did not face primary opposition.  It’s not entirely clear why they picked FitzGerald, a Cleveland politician who is largely unknown outside northern Ohio, but it is undisputed that they did a poor job of looking into his background.  When news surfaced that FitzGerald had been found in a car with a woman not his wife in the early morning hours, which in turn led to revelations that he had weirdly gone for years without a driver’s license, voters began to strongly question his ability to run the state and the flow of contributions turned into a tiny trickle.

FitzGerald’s campaign staffers — showing the commitment and dedication we have come to expect from our steadfast political classes — promptly jumped from the sinking ship, and the Ohio Democratic Party began pointing fingers in every direction in an effort to avoid the blame for a likely disaster.  Party Chairman Chris Redfern says there is no way he could have known that FitzGerald didn’t have a driver’s license and blamed the company that vetted the candidate, saying he wouldn’t hire them “to clean out my bird cage.”  Left unexplained is why the Ohio Democratic Party doesn’t do its own investigation and why they settled on FitzGerald in the first place, rather than allowing a primary that might have unearthed some of these issues before FitzGerald became the anointed candidate.

It’s sad that Ohio has ended up with an uncompetitive gubernatorial race, but at least it means we won’t be seeing as many political TV ads this fall.  And the rest of us would do well to remember this debacle the next time party leaders assure us that they know better than voters do and try to rig the process to avoid an honest test for a chosen candidate.

That Inexplicable Political Perspective

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?