In advance of SOTS address, Gov. Kasich OKs partisan voter bills, Ed FitzGerald ‘livid’
John Michael Spinelli | Columbus Government Examiner
Among the various issues he talked about Friday at a press gaggle at Democratic Party headquarters in Columbus, Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald had not heard the news that the governor he wants to unseat in November would sign two partisan voter reform bills aimed at suppressing Democratic votes this fall.
But when Gov. Kasich’s office told the world later that day that Am. S.B. 238 [reforms early voting] and Sub. S.B. 205 [revises the law concerning the mailing of absentee voters’ ballots and applications for those ballots] were now law, FitzGerald, who most Ohioans don’t know much about but who only trails Gov. Kasich by five points in the latest Quinnipiac Poll, said he was livid.
“It’s a shameful, underhanded attempt to steal elections by making it harder for people to vote, and it’s being done in the light of day with the entire country watching,” Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County.Executive, said in prepared remarks.
FitzGerald, who has already been endorsed by the ODP, said the Republican-led legislature’s most recent laws at trying to skew the election to Gov. Kasich and GOP candidates in general will reduce the early voting period (eliminating the “Golden Week”) and make it harder to get an absentee ballot.
“The Ohioans who will be most harmed by these laws are minorities, who have both struggled in the past to earn the right to vote and who have historically voted for Democrats. If you think Republicans are targeting supporters of their opponents, you’re exactly right,” he said.
Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, State Sen. Nina Turner, has a phrase for what Republicans, with the help of first-term Gov. John Kasich, are up to when it comes to voting reforms: “If you can’t beat ’em, cheat ’em.” Team FitzGerald echoed Turner’s bumper sticker slogan, saying, “Your elementary school teacher has a word for it: CHEATING.”
The two bills reduce the early voting period and make it harder to apply for absentee ballots, establishing procedures that will cost qualified voters the right to have their votes counted, was the summation by FitzGerald, who told reporters he thinks he can beat Kasich one-on-one or in a three-way race, as will be the case with Libertarian Party candidate Charlie Earl now qualified for the ballot this fall.
While the Q-Poll did not factor Earl into its latest survey of registered Ohio voters, Public Policy Polling did, and it found that Earl pulls 5-6 percent among voters. Gov. Kasich won by only two percentage points in 2010, the year when Tea Party anger and activism pushed the former 18-year Congressman and Wall Street banker across the finish line. So even though FitzGerald isn’t widely known, the Q-Poll said 70 percent of voters did not know enough about him to make judgments, it’s bad news for Gov. Kasich, who has been a whirlwind of reforms for his 38 months in office so far, who can’t seem to distance himself from the little known candidate from the most populous and Democratic-rich county in the state.
With Gov. Kasich’s fourth SOTS event scheduled for Monday evening in Medina, southwest of Cleveland, where FitzGerald is widely known, the former FBI special agent and Lakewood Mayor, painted a picture of his GOP nemesis as someone whose record of accomplishments are more smoke and mirrors than miracle, as he’s claimed.
To drive the point home that John Kasich’s self-described “Ohio Miracle” is more magic or mirage, he and his running mate, Dayton-area business attorney Sharen Neuhardt, will start Saturday morning to discuss the real state of the state. Stopping in Cleveland, Medina, Columbus, Youngstown, Zanesville, Hannibal, Toledo, Lima, Akron, Lakewood, Cincinnati, and Dayton, FitzGerald and Neuhardt will broadcast their version of Kasich’s months in office so far.
Included in their history lesson on Kasich’s time in office will be his $500 million cuts to education, the impact of local government fund cuts on cites, counties and school districts across the state, why Ohio’s economy, using Gov. Kasich’s own assessment of it, is stalled.
One big topic FitzGerald and Neuhardt will hammer home is women’s issues, specifically the impact of Governor Kasich’s policies on women’s issues on the economy and families’ financial security. The Q-Poll showed Kasich winning with men but losing with women. Neuhardt, a strong voice for women, is expected to take on Kasich and his Lt. Gov Mary Taylor on this and other issues, like access to Planned Parenthood and constitutionally granted access to abortion.
On Sunday morning, FitzGerald will be in Hannibal, the home of Ormet, an aluminum factory. He will discuss Ohio’s stalled economy and Gov. Kasich’s weak efforts to save a company that employs hundreds of workers.
By signing the bills he did Friday, and a previous one seeking to keep third-party candidates off the ballot that was dubbed the “John Kasich Reelection Protection Act,” the acerbic governor who national pollsters say has an “abrasive personality” is showing just how fearful he is that even in a midterm election year, when voter turnout is historically lower than presidential election years he may not win without help from voting reforms that can tamp down Democratic voters or independent voters who may not vote for FitzGerald but who could break for Earl, siphoning off small but critical percentages from a base he thinks is his to win.
Responding to a question from CGE on whether he should call on the Ohio Supreme Court to issue a ruling on whether JobsOhio can be sued by a sitting state senator and a vocal progressive advocacy group regarding its constitutionality, FitzGerald said he wasn’t going to tell the court what to do. He repeated what he’s said before about JobsOhio, that it’s unheard of that a governor can privatize a formerly public and transparent agency into a black box operation, that he appoints his friends to, who then dole out state funds to friends of the administration. He didn’t call it crony capitalism, but that description is what he was aiming to say about job-creation group Kasich demanded the legislature create for him, that has generated far more controversy and questions than it has jobs that pay a living wage during its short time in operation.
What is certain about Monday’s SOTS address is that it will be another show of shows from Gov. Kasich, who spent years at Fox TV as the host of his own political talk show. As he’s done in two previous off-site events, Kasich will tell his now standard tale of balancing a state budget, refilling the rainy day fund, and creating one reform after another that justifies him labeled by the Republican Governors Association as a “comeback governor.”
On his tour of Ohio in advance of the event in Medina, Ed FitzGerald and Sharen Neuhadt will start the laborious task of deconstructing Kasich’s widely unchallenged narrative one brick at a time. Whether Ohio media will give him the air time they’ve given Kasich, who is being talked about as an outlier 2016 GOP presidential nominee, is a big question.
The Columbus Dispatch, who two reporters at Friday’s gaggle tried to pin FitzGerald down on whether he’s raise taxes or what he would have done differently than Kasich, has already endorsed the governor by calling FitzGerald incompetent in the wake of his first choice for running mate that blew up weeks afterward over issues of back taxes.
With expectations that most of Ohio’s big city mayors and some of the Buckeye State’s Big Eight newspapers will endorse FitzGerald, Gov. John Kasich can rely on the Dispatch to be in the tank for him, which only brings its honesty, credibility and service to its readers into sharp focus.