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.

Support Ohio Issue 2

Ohio’s May primary is three weeks away, and so far it hasn’t garnered much attention in terms of press, political ads, or voter interest.  Compared to the November election, when the legalized gambling issue attracted huge amounts of money and generated constant TV ads, the upcoming election has flown under the radar. 

I’ll be going to the polls on May 4 intending to vote for Issue 2.  That issue, if passed, would change the site of Columbus’ casino from the Arena District near downtown to the site of the former Delphi plant in west Columbus.  The Delphi site is far from downtown and indeed is outside I-270, the six-lane highway that rings Columbus.

Unlike the November 2009 issue to amend the Ohio Constitution to allow casinos, which was opposed by a majority of voters in the Columbus area, Issue 2 seems to be supported by just about everyone.  The Columbus city administration and the civic movers and shakers didn’t want the casino in the Arena District, an up-and-coming development area just north of downtown.  Franklin Township, where the Delphi plant was located, is excited about getting rid of an abandoned industrial site and putting up an entertainment venue that will add some jobs.  Even the casino operator probably isn’t too upset about the location change, because the new site will have more space for parking and will be much more accessible for people coming from out of town on I-71 or I-70, both of which connect with I-270. In any case, Penn National Gaming, which will operate the new casino, has already started to tear down the old Delphi plant, and as a result some jobs have been created already.

As readers of this blog know, I am not a big fan of casinos in Columbus — but if we are constitutionally required to have one, I would rather have it on the outskirts of town rather than in the heart of the city.  For that reason, I wholeheartedly support Issue 2 and hope Ohio voters will, too.