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.

Turnpike Turnoff

As you would expect from the party out of office, the Ohio Democratic Party opposes just about everything proposed by Republican Governor John Kasich.  The Democrats have had some victories — but I still think they need to learn how to pick their battles.

The latest howls of outrage are directed at the decision to study possibly privatizing the Ohio Turnpike.  Is the opposition due to the fact that Ohio taxpayers will be paying more consultants to produce more studies?  No, of course not!  According to an email from Liz Walter, the Political Director of the Ohio Democratic Party, the problem is that privatization might cost public employee jobs.  Her email statest:  “Over a thousand employees – many of them union workers – could lose their jobs if he’s successful. That’s why our Congressional Democrats are doing everything they can to stand up for these workers and stop Governor Kasich’s latest assault on our middle class.”

So, any “loss” of a public employee job — even a conversion of a public employee job to a private sector job — is an “assault on the middle class”?  Doesn’t anyone in the Democratic Party realize how ludicrous that sounds?  If that attitude had prevailed throughout American history, we would still have flatboat operators and Erie Canal mule drivers on the public payroll.  If Ohio is to be competitive in the dynamic modern world, we can’t be saddled with the cost of paying workers to fill unnecessary legacy jobs.

I don’t think the Turnpike is some grand asset that we need to keep under government control as a matter of Ohio pride.  If privatizing a toll road through northern Ohio makes sense from an economic standpoint, we should do it.  Conditions change, and if those changed conditions result in the elimination of government jobs, so be it.


The Party That Cried Wolf

Some years ago I contributed money to a friend whose Mom ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Ohio General Assembly, and won.  I’m glad I was able to help her out, but ever since I’ve been on the email list of the Ohio Democratic Party.  I have to confess that I have read just about all of the over-the-top emails from Ohio Democrats that I ever care to read.

The emails come about once a week.  Their tone is always the same — just this side of outright hysteria — and the message is the same too:  John Kasich and the Republicans have just proposed something, and it is so grossly offensive, so fundamentally outrageous, and so palpably nonsensical that the Democratic Party will fight to the death to defeat it — and they need my contribution to do so. From the emails, you’d think that, under Kasich’s horribly misguided leadership, all of Ohio would be aflame right now.  Of course, that hasn’t happened.

The emails suggest that the Democrats immediately oppose everything Governor Kasich proposes, without even taking a reasonable time to consider his proposal and develop some kind of reasoned response to it.  Perhaps that kind of unrestrained resistance is welcomed by the “base” of the Democratic Party, but I’m reminded of Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried “wolf.”  After he falsely cried “wolf” on many occasions and saw neighboring shepherds run to his fields in vain, he cried “wolf” in earnest and realized that his calls were ignored.

When every proposal seems to be greeted with the same extravagant response, it’s hard to attach much credibility to those responses.  When the Democrats really want people to listen to what they have to say, will anyone outside of loyal party members pay any attention?

Classiness On Display (Cont.)

Today I got another email from Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern about his use of a crass obscenity in a recent speech.  Amazingly, he doesn’t apologize, or even act embarrassed about his blunder.  Instead, he tries to convert it into a fundraising opportunity!  He says that he has received an outpouring of support for his “forceful” speech and asks people to make a contribution to his “Swear Jar” because it will send a message to the “Tea Party” — that is, the people he used the f-bomb to describe in the first place.

Doesn’t this incident aptly capsulize what is wrong with our modern political process?  The head of the Ohio Democratic Party says something that should be the source of personal humiliation and deep regret.  Instead, it is touted as a reason to contribute to the cause of the Democratic Party.  Haven’t we reached a new low when the head of a major political party attempts to capitalize on using the Queen Mother of Curses in a political speech?  And doesn’t the quick development of the “Swear Jar” fundraising effort indicate that this resort to brainless vulgarity was an intentional, “hey look at me” gimmick?

The Ohio Democratic Party must be desperate for attention if it must resort to curse words to get its message across.   Redfern should be embarrassed, and so should anyone who contributes to his “Swear Jar.”

Classiness On Display

Today I got a weird email from the Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, Chris Redfern.  In the email, Redfern said he was being criticized by Republicans for using obscene language while giving a speech, but that he wouldn’t apologize for being passionate about the issues in this campaign, etc.  The email ends with an appeal for voters to be as passionate as he is and volunteer to work for Democratic Party candidates.

Chris Redfern

I hadn’t heard anything about the incident Redfern was referring to because, to be honest, I could care less about political party chairmen.  I’ve always viewed them as complete shills for their slate of candidates, always ready to mouth the latest spin rather than giving any kind of honest reaction.  Why would I waste my time reading about what Chris Redfern has to say?

Still, I was intrigued, so I did some checking and learned that Redfern dropped an f-bomb while being videotaped giving a speech.  He used a derivation of the word to refer to people who oppose health care (i.e., more than half of Americans, according to polls).  If you want to see the video, it is available here.  Does it look like a mistake of passion to you, or a calculated statement by a guy wearing a dress shirt who is hoping to get some free publicity as the election approaches?

Pretty classy, Chris!  Nothing like some reasoned discourse to sway voters to your position!  Is it any wonder that so many people are fed up with the politicos and their minions, like Chris Redfern?

Older vs. Newer In The Ohio Democratic Party

Ohio’s primary election is only a few days away.  It’s kind of a dull election (although people in Columbus should care deeply about Issue 2, which would move the “constitutional casino” away from downtown).  The only statewide primary that has received much attention is the contest between Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

I’m not sure there is a lot of disagreement between Fisher and Brunner on the issues, for the average voter at least.  (Take a look at the “issues” pages of their websites — here and here — and judge for yourself.)  Either of them would be a reliable vote for President Obama’s programs and for the Democratic leadership in the Senate.  If there is a significant difference between them, it is more a difference of style and perception.

Fisher seems to have been around in public life forever.  The “About Lee” page on his campaign website apparently is sensitive to his age, because it doesn’t give his birth date.  (Another sign that Fisher may be sensitive about his age can be found in his campaign photos, which make it look like he has been liberally doused in Man Tan.)   The bio page indicates that Fisher was first elected to the Ohio General Assembly in 1980, served as a legislator for 10 years, was elected Ohio’s Attorney General in 1990, served for four years in that position, then worked in a non-profit until he became Ted Strickland’s running mate in 2006.  So far as his website indicates, then, Fisher has worked in government and non-profit jobs since 1980.  I’m not sure that he has ever worked for a private business.

Brunner clearly is younger than Fisher — although her website bio doesn’t give her birthdate, either — and she spent a considerable part of her career as an attorney in private practice here in Columbus.  She was elected to the Franklin County C0mmon Pleas Court in 2000 (interestingly, her bio describes Franklin County as a “largely conservative county” even though the lion’s share of Franklin County voters live in Columbus, where the city government is dominated by Democrats) and then was elected Secretary of State in 2006, when the Democrats pretty much ran the table in non-judicial statewide elections.

Fisher has raised far more money than Brunner.  His campaign seems more traditional, with rallies and TV ads.  Brunner is more of a “new Democrat” who seems to follow the Daily Kos approach.  Perhaps because she is cash-strapped, Brunner appears to have taken more advantage of new communications forms.  I gave money to a Democratic candidate two years ago and, perhaps as a result, ended up on Brunner’s campaign e-mail list.  At least once a week,  I get an e-mail from the Brunner campaign asking for money, calling on a Republican to apologize for some perceived outrage, or breathlessly describing Brunner’s purchase of an old school bus for about $2000 to use on her bus tour of Ohio.  I’m not sure precisely what Twitter is, but I imagine she uses that medium, too.

In the battle between older and newer, who will win?  I’m not sure anyone outside of the campaigns really cares very much.  According to the latest polls, Fisher has opened a commanding lead — but we will get the real answer on Tuesday.