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Ohio Governor’s Race: You Can Stick a Fork in Fitzgerald, He’s Done.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald, who won the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio against virtually no opposition, is set to fade away. I personally think it’s a good thing. So do most other Ohioans. In the face of recent polls showing incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich maintaining a solid lead, and with a Green candidate on the ballot who will probably get 1%,  but probably no more than 3%, Fitzgerald running out of money and the Democratic Party appears to be giving up on him.

Fitzgerald has several problems that are just not going away. He was an FBI agent who later became a Cuyahoga County prosecutor, and then Mayor of Lakewood, an inner ring suburb of Cleveland. He came pretty much out of nowhere to be selected by the local Democratic Party machine to become the first county executive after the county commissioner system was dissolved by voters after a string of scandals.

One of his commercials tries to use his FBI experience investigating political corruption in Chicago to his advantage, but it hasn’t worked. My wife even said, “Oh, so THAT’S where he learned how not to get caught!” It recently came out that he drove without a valid driver’s license for ten years, and that police caught him in a compromising position with an Irish economic emissary in a car in an industrial parking lot at 4 in the morning. Fitzgerald claimed that they got lost–in his own county. It was after that that he claimed that he was the designated driver, which led to all sorts of bawdy jokes, and that he had never gotten drunk in his life.

Yeah, right. That flies in the face of popular wisdom, no matter how politically incorrect it may be. A guy with the last name of Fitzgerald has never gotten drunk? Or, as Mark Twain said, “Never trust a man with no vices.”

He also ran on the platform of “streamlining government,” which is a catch phrase for installing county human resources people and directors who make a practice of punishing and firing county employees whenever possible, and doing everything they can to make longterm employees quit, thus saving the county money. His investments include spending a hundred million or so of county taxpayer money to build a hotel and give it to the Hiltons, as if they needed the break. Meanwhile, potholes were so bad across the county during and after last year’s harsh winter that body shops are swamped with so much business they can’t handle it all.

In short, he’s just another corporate Democrat, who isn’t trusted by local government employees who won’t vote for him, and he looks like a spoiled child. In my ever so humble opinion, of course. Oh, he’ll no doubt carry Cuyahoga County, but not by a big enough margin and not with enough turnout to allow him to win. In the rest of the state, he’s largely unknown, and Republican attack ads have been skillfully done, and at least half true. They don’t have to lie about this guy.

The incumbent, John Kasich, did commit a major blunder shortly after his election by signing a bill that would have prevented public sector workers from being in unions. The latter struck back, got the issue on the ballot, and Ohioans decisively rejected the Wisconsin and Michigan-style law. To his credit, Kasich learned his lesson. When his fellow Republicans tried to target one public sector union at a time, starting with the teachers, Kasich said Ohio voters had spoken clearly, that he had heard them, and he would sign no such thing in the future. Since then, the issue has been dead here.

Kasich has surprised people, including me, several times since then. He went to visit Youngstown after there was a school shooting at a predominantly black school. He broke a campaign promise to the Republican right to privatize the Ohio Turnpike. He proposed taxing all natural gas and oil extraction in Ohio at a rate of 10 per cent, which is what Texas at least used to do, to the horror of the oil industry. The proposal went nowhere in the Republican legislature, but he did actually try.

Kasich also pushed hard for, and won, Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, saying that providing more people health care was just the morally right thing to do. For a Republican, by today’s standards, he’s been fairly harmless and has actually accomplished a few socially good things. And Ohioans at least know who he is. They’re not sure about Fitzgerald, they’re not angry at Kasich anymore, and so will go with at worst the lesser potential evil.

So, unless something really major and negative about Kasich breaks, I’m calling this election. Cuyahoga County will have a new county executive, Armond Budish, who was Speaker of the Ohio House when Democrats were in control, and has a strong pro-labor record. Kasich will stay governor, and I hope Fitzgerald will fade away, though he probably will run for something else in a couple of years.

He’s an ambitious man, but for now, you can stick a fork in him; he’s done.

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