Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Friday, March 31

Cong. OH-13th: Sawyer (D) Endorsed by Cleveland Plain Dealer

Today the Cleveland Plain Dealer endorsed former Congressman Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) in the crowded 13th Congressional District Democratic primary. Because of the location and ungainly shape of the district, winding from Lake Erie through eastern Lorain, northern Medina, southern Cuyahoga and western Summit counties, the Plain Dealer's imprimatur must compete for influence with other newspapers such as the Lorain Morning Journal and the Akron Beacon-Journal. Nevertheless, this endorsement must be viewed as a significant boost for Sawyer.

There's one aspect of the endorsement editorial that strikes me as downright bizarre. The editors begin by dismissing former Cleveland City Council members Norbert G. Dennerll (D-Westlake) and Gary J. Kucinich (D-Strongsville) as "dubious candidates." I can understand this appellation for Dennerll, who has lost a half dozen elections since his Council service. Kucinich, however, is dinged for "sounding like his sibling's political echo," referring to Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) of the neighboring 10th Congressional District. The Plain Dealer regards the positions of the brothers Kucinich (on the Iraq Debacle and international trade specifically) as "considerably to the left not only of the district, but most of the Democratic Party as well." I'm sorry, but that is plainly an absurd premise for dismissing Gary Kucinich out of hand. His brother has won election after election in the district next door, espousing the same positions, so clearly Gary Kucinich's point of view does not disqualify him in the 13th District, no matter how unpalatable it may be to the editorial board.

Having dispensed with Dennerrll and Kucinich, the editors briefly describe the remaining candidates other than Sawyer, and are uniformly complimentary in each instance except one. Attorney John L. Wolfe (D-Akron) has taught at Akron University, done legal work for several county governments, and "wants to restore Northeast Ohio's greatness by encouraging entrepreneurship." Labor lawyer and former State Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Barberton) "says her top priorities are the rights of the working class, quality health care for all and good jobs." Mayor Michael Lyons (D-Richfield) emphasizes a "single-payer health insurance program and a strong regional approach to economic development." Mayor Bill Grace (D-Elyria) "says job creation must be the major focus of whoever gets the nod." As to shopping mall heiress Capri Cafaro (D-Sheffield Village), however, the editors offset her positive qualities of being "obviously bright, well-educated and informed on the issues" with the ominous prediction that she is "open to accusations of carpetbagging and attempting to buy a seat half a state away from her hometown."

When they finally get to Sawyer, the editors are apparently exhausted because they muster only faint praise. A former teacher and Akron mayor who served in Congress for 16 years, Sawyer is "the candidate we think would best serve Democrats' interests as their nominee" despite having been "turned out by the labor interests whose concerns he so long had represented" after voting for NAFTA. The editors continue by noting that "no one in this race is more knowledgeable about the issues or the workings of the House," and then comes this strange twist:

"Sawyer left a record of cooperation with Republicans even in the days when Democrats were the House majority. If Sawyer were to win and, as appears possible, the GOP were to retain control of that chamber come fall, it would be good for the region to have a representative who can work across the aisle."
Huh??? Vote for Sawyer because he was bipartisan back when that was a legitimate possibility? If there is anything that the current Republican Congressional leadership has made perfectly clear, it is that they have no interest at all in compromise or bipartisan governance. That leadership not only will not compromise, they won't even listen to opposing points of view. Their method is to draft their 1000-page bills with lobbyists' input in secret, and then not even show the bills to the Democrats before ramming them through along party lines in late-night, held-open votes. So let us not hear praise of any Democrat's ability to "work in a bipartisan way" with Republicans, because that is not relevant. Let's hear of their ability to stand up to Republicans and speak the truth with conviction. Let's hear of their passion for the principles that Democrats stand for, and Republicans jeer, like ethics and accountability, fiscal solvency, freedom from government intrusion in our personal lives, and caring for the common person. Bipartisanship, indeed.

Senate: Brown (D) Ahead in Zogby/Washingon Post Poll

The latest Zogby/Wall Street Journal Battleground States Poll shows Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) leading incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine R-Cedarville) by 8.9%:

Sherrod Brown 45.9% (41.3%)
Mike DeWine 37% (37%)

The poll was conducted March 22-27. Margin of error +/- 3.5%. Numbers in parenthesis from January poll.

Thursday, March 30

Sen. & Gov.: New Rasmussen Poll Numbers

Buckeye State Blog has posted new Rasmussen poll numbers (trend lines in parentheses):

US Senate:
Dewine 45% (46%)
Brown 42% (37%)

Governor’s Race:
Strickland 50% (47%)
Blackwell 40% (35%)

Strickland 47% (44%)
Petro 34% (37%)

Very interesting. Comments arriving fast at BSB; head over there to join in.

Ohio House 9th: Hicks (R) Still in the Race

Just a short post for the record. There has been some confusion about whether Rev. Jimmie Hicks Jr (R-Cleveland Heights), pictured, is still running in the Ohio House 9th District race, stemming partly from the statement in the Cleveland Plain Dealer's endorsement of Julian Rogers (D-Cleveland Heights) that there is no Republican in that contest. So I called the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and, after waiting a few days for a call back, I am authoritatively informed that Hicks did indeed file to run as a Republican, he has not withdrawn his petition, and the Board has received no indication that he intends to drop out of the race.

Hicks was a long-time member of the Cleveland Heights City Council as a Democrat, notable for his strident opposition to the domestic partner registry and his unsuccessful lawsuit against the city trying to stop it. He lost his bid for re-election (as a Democrat) in November 2005. He will oppose either Rogers or former State Rep. Barbara Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) in the general election.

Cong. OH-13th: Sawyer (D) vs. Sutton (D) a Test of Union Strength?

Anna Landmark, campaign manager for 13th Congressional District candidate Betty Sutton (D-Chardon), pictured, has forwarded the text of an interesting item from the National Journal's House Race Hotline (subscription required), which portrays the struggle between former Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) and Sutton (putting aside the other six Democrats in the primary) as a test case for the political clout of labor unions in an area traditionally considered a labor stronghold:

"[N]early 40 percent of households district-wide are unionized. Lorain County, the district's second-most populous county, is the area's blue-collar base and its economy still relies on auto manufacturing. But the district's population center of Akron has evolved. The city's main commodity was once rubber, represented by its sprawling Goodyear factory. Now many of the old tire factories are high-tech centers for polymer research, and surrounding Summit County has a growing white-collar workforce. Despite the economic changes, constituents here still take a protectionist mentality and view free-trade agreements unfavorably. After all, this is the district where [incumbent Rep. Sherrod] Brown compiled one of the strongest pro-labor records in the House. ..."
After briefly describing other candidates, the story continues:

"[T]he real fight driving labor activists pits [Sawyer against Sutton]. Sawyer served as mayor of Akron in the 1980s and then represented the city in Congress for more than a decade. 'Everyone there over the age of 35 or 40 remembers him well and hasn't forgotten him,' said Sawyer's adviser Jerry Austin, who credits him for turning around the city's economy. But Sawyer is getting a cold shoulder from labor because of his 1993 vote for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Cleveland AFL-CIO Executive Secretary John Ryan called 'a big problem.' Despite having a strong overall pro-labor record, Ryan said the NAFTA vote would prevent him from receiving any support. 'It's like saying he was a good son, except for killing his mother,' he said. ...

"Sutton's entry in the race drew significant attention. Early on, EMILY's List identified her as one of their top candidates, giving her access to a network of donors. She represented labor clients as an attorney and voted consistently with their interests as a state legislator in the 1990s. Because of her activism, the lion's share of unions in the district endorsed her early on. Even with labor's love, though, few constituents are familiar with Sutton or her record. Her supporters argue that money and organization can boost her familiarity quickly. But with only a month left until the primary, there's a limited amount of time for a full-fledged get-out-the vote operation. ...

"[Sawyer's] ultimate Achilles heel -- organization -- is Sutton's strength. Sawyer has raised very little money, and has no campaign office, no paid campaign staff and no Web site. He's leading in polls based on name identification and positive memories. Sutton, meanwhile, will have an army of activists going door-to-door for her."
And here's the money quote as far as Sutton's campaign is concerned:

"Sawyer's campaign is publicly banking on [the labor unions'] irrelevance. 'The average person is not as passionate about NAFTA as the union leaders. They have no idea what the average voter is thinking,' said [Sawyer's adviser Jerry] Austin."
That statement is the basis for a scorching press release from Sutton's campaign, headlined "Statement from Betty Sutton Responding to Tom Sawyer's Disparagement of Workers in Ohio":

"Tom Sawyer's dismissal of the importance of workers and labor once again demonstrates why Ohio's workers don't trust him to protect their interests and represent them in Congress. His attempts to explain away his votes against workers as a simple mistake do not solve the problem and don't even begin to address the impact it had on Ohio's workers. NAFTA decimated Ohio's economy and dismantled people's lives ... . Workers in Ohio don't deserve Tom Sawyer's disrespect and insulting rationalizations. ...

"Tom Sawyer turned his back on Ohio's workers. I am the only candidate in this race who has consistently demonstrated the integrity and backbone to stand up for workers and fight for the issues that average people worry about every day. ..."
I can't fault Sutton for attempting to cut front-runner Sawyer's lead any way she can. I imagine it's very frustrating to be running an all-out campaign and yet still trail an adversary who appears to be making little effort. However, the premise of Sutton's attack seems a little shaky. Sawyer isn't disparaging workers or dismissing the importance of labor unions in fighting for workers' rights, he's just saying that he doesn't think NAFTA weighs as heavily on voters' minds as it does on union leaders. He may be wrong (the scathing attitude toward Sawyer of the excellent blog Ohio 13 is steeped in deep personal anger about the effects of NAFTA), but I think that's different from insulting workers and disparaging labor in general. In any event, as to the article's thesis, it isn't really a two-person race, the pull of other candidates on voters' interests for other reasons can't be discounted, and I think it's a little too simplistic to reduce the primary contest to a measure of labor's clout.

Ohio Sen 23rd: Miller (D) Gains Plain Dealer Endorsement

Continuing its series of early primary endorsements, the Cleveland Plain Dealer today bestows its approval on veteran legislator State Sen. Dale Miller (D-Cleveland) in the Ohio Senate 23rd District race. Miller is the incumbent by virtue of an appointment earlier this year, replacing State Sen. Dan Brady (D) who stepped down to take a position with the City of Cleveland. Miller is opposed in the primary by activist Jennifer Frigolette (D-Lakewood), and the primary winner will be opposed by Howard Shrimpton (R-Parma) in the general election. The 23rd District includes much of Cleveland's West Side, Lakewood, Parma, Parma Heights, Brook Park, Brooklyn, Middleburg Heights, and Linndale.

The editorial board notes that Miller served on the Cleveland City Council for 17 years and in the Ohio House of Representatives since 1997. Although as a member of the minority party in the General Assembly he hasn't been able to pass much significant legislation, the editors laud Miller for being "hard-working, earnest and ha[ving] forward-looking ideas on most of the significant issues facing state government" and as "on balance" a "solid and productive advocate for the people of his district."

Although not winning the endorsement, 25-year-old Frigolette is praised as "bright," "affable" and having "a real passion for public service." She has a B.A. in Political Science from Oberlin College and has been active in numerous political causes. According to her campaign website, she was a Coordinator in the recount of the 2004 presidential vote, a Field Organizer for MoveOn PAC's "Leave No Voter Behind" Campaign, and a Field Manager for Working America (a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO). She lists a variety of reasons for running including opposing one party rule in Columbus, improving the flawed system for counting votes, and to be a "role model to young people who think that they are too young to participate."

Wednesday, March 29

Ohio House 18th: Mottl (D) to Hold Fundraiser

Former Congressman Ron Mottl (D-North Royalton), a candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives 18th District seat of incumbent Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), will hold a campaign fund-raising event at Antonio's Restaurant, 7401 Ridgewood Drive in Parma, on April 10 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. Mottl is opposed in the primary by John M. Celebrezze (D-North Royalton).

Mottl, an attorney, served in the Ohio General Assembly from 1967 to 1975 before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1983. After losing the primary race in 1982 he returned to local politics, serving on the Parma school board 1985-1986 (the last year as President) and getting elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1986. When I asked him today what prompted him to run for office again now, he said that he wants to find a place to serve the public, and that his emphasis will be on helping senior citizens "since I am one now." (Mottl is 72.) "I'd like to be the Claude Pepper of the Ohio House of Representatives" he continued, noting that he had served with Pepper in Congress. Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL) was 88 years old when he died in 1989, having just completed 26 years in Congress, preceded by 15 years in the U.S. Senate.

ADDENDUM: Just to be clear about Pepper, he was an outspoken advocate for the rights of senior citizens and in many ways was responsible for galvanizing older Americans as a distinct interest group and political force. I'd dearly love to get his take on the absolute mess Republicans have made with this Medicare Part D prescription benefit.

About former Rep. Mottl, a reader emailed me to say that he believes that Mottl and Parma Mayor Dean DePiero (D) have ended their political feud, which if true bodes well for Mottl's present campaign. According to the reader, Mottl resigned his General Assembly seat in the early 1990s and was replaced by his son, also named Ron Mottl, just before legislative term limits kicked in. Then City Council member DePiero opposed the younger Mottl's bid for re-election and he lost in the primary, due in part to public perception of nepotism in the Mottl-for-Mottl switch. DePiero continued his political antagonism to the senior Mottl during his unsuccessful bid for Mayor of North Royalton in 2004. Peace and harmony between the two would therefore be very good news for the Mottl camp.

Cong. OH-6th: Wilson (D) Goes for Broke

State Senator Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville), pictured, having resorted to write-in status after failing to submit enough valid signatures for the May 2 primary ballot, is pouring all his resources into persuading Democrats to cast write-in votes in his favor, and educating them how to do it. The latest step by the Wilson campaign is to advertise for door-to-door canvassers, as related by the UAPA Blog here, based on a report in the Youngstown Vindicator that is trumpeted with glee on the National Republican Congressional Committee website:

"The ads ran for four days through Sunday and states the jobs currently would run through May 2, the day of the primary. The ad states canvassers could earn up to $1,500. That monetary amount is for working six days a week for six or seven hours a day for the next five weeks, [campaign manager Jason] Burke said. That's about $7 to $8 an hour. 'Enjoy the sunshine, and help make history by getting Charlie Wilson written in this May!' the ad reads."
Wilson had $437,000 cash on hand at the end of 2005, while his primary opponents have apparently not raised the $5,000 minimum required to trigger FEC filing requirements. Those opponents, profiled in the Athens News here, are frankly not credible alternatives by a long shot. John Luchansky (D-Poland) is an out-of-work truck driver who gained a few hundred votes as a write-in candidate against current gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) in 2004. Asked what issues prompted him to run, Luchansky cited his personal antagonism against Strickland:

"'I had written Rep. Strickland for some help on some legal matters that I had, and he didn't help me the way I wanted him to,' Luchansky said. Records with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio indicate that Luchansky filed a $3 million civil-rights lawsuit against the village of Poland in March 1997, which he apparently lost when the court granted judgment in favor of the defendants."
Bob Carr (D-Wellsville) is an historic preservation specialist who moved to Ohio recently after an unsuccessful Congressional campaign as an upstart Republican (he ousted the preferred candidate in the primary) in Michigan in 1996. Carr switched parties in 2000, citing hostility on the part of the Michigan Republican establishment. He is in trouble with the Columbiana County prosecutor, to whom the Board of Elections referred a complaint by opponent Luchansky that Carr has been passing himself off as the former Democratic Congressman Bob Carr, also of Michigan. (Luchansky also questioned Carr's mental competence to run for office.) The Youngstown Vindicator published a story misidentifying him as the former Congressman, which it later corrected, and John Payne, director of the Columbiana County Board of Elections, has also said that Carr identified himself as a former congressman when dropping off his nominating petitions. When Carr speaks it is apparently a rambling mish-mosh of confusing anecdotes and self-aggrandizement. In his remarks to the Athens News reporter he managed to insinuate that he might be the illegitimate son of former Presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, claimed that he knew in advance that Wilson would fail to qualify for the ballot, and bragged that he is a political "superstar" and the "other guys don't stand a chance."

Against this low caliber of competition, the Wilson camp thinks the write-in campaign is a winner. Wilson, who has a degree in mortuary science and operates a funeral and furniture business along with a realty firm, has served two years as a State Senator and eight as a State Representative. In a mid-January poll, Wilson led Blasdel 42% to 26%. Wilson is counting on his name recognition and his claimed similarity of viewpoint with incumbent Strickland to rally Democratic voters to support his write-in campaign. Matt of Lincoln Logs Blog quotes poll results touted by Wilson as follows:

"Among the 56% of Democratic primary voters who recognize his name, Senator Wilson is literally revered: 76% positive (including 48% 'very positive') vs. just 6% (!) negative. ... Small wonder, then, that Senator Wilson dominates the Democratic primary trial heat: 50% Wilson, 7% 'Bob Carr,' 2% John Luchansky, 41% undecided."
However, the Republican establishment and the front-runner among Republican candidates, Ohio House Speaker Rep. Charles Blasdel (R-East Liverpool), see an opportunity to dump Wilson before the general election campaign even begins, and they are going to put everything they've got into it. Already Vice President Dick Cheney (R-Undisclosed Location) has visited the district to raise money for Blasdel (video coverage is here), and the National Republican Congressional Committee has been putting out the word that they have devastating opposition research about Wilson's personal and professional history. Instead of using it in the general election, the Republicans will begin their smear campaign now, hoping to dissuade Democrats from casting write-in votes for Wilson on May 2. To date, the negative information revealed about Wilson concerns an incident in the 1980s while he was in charge of a wastewater treatment commission, and apparently permitted an improper release of untreated sewage. Wilson has acknowledged wrongdoing in the affair, and it did not derail his election as State Senator. If there is more ammunition in the Republican character assassination arsenal, it has not yet been revealed.

UPDATE: When I posted this entry this morning I was in a hurry because my laptop battery was about to give out, and I left out a few key points.

My source when talking about the NRCC gloating about opposition research on Wilson is this piece in the Washington Post "blog" The Fix, to wit:

"NRCC aides have long promised that elements of Wilson's professional and personal past will come to light in the campaign and effectively disqualify him in the eyes of voters. ... The NRCC ... has a proven record of using opposition research to dismantle Democratic candidates (Jim Humphreys, Linda Chapin and Champ Walker jump immediately to mind), and operatives at the committee insist that Wilson has never before experienced the onslaught of paid media that will be unleashed on him between now and May 2."
Also, a discussion of mudslinging in the 6th District race would be incomplete without mentioning the recent brouhaha about non-payment of taxes. As detailed in this story in the Steubenville Herald-Star, Wilson's campaign started the fracas by publicizing the fact that Blasdel recently bounced a $542.68 check for property taxes in Columbiana County, commenting "We say (Blasdel) sounds like a perfect Republican, fiscally irresponsible and a deficit spender." Blasdel's camp fired back with a nine-year-old incident: in 1997 Wilson's business, the Wilson Funeral and Furniture Co. of Bridgeport, was sued by the state for a delinquent corporate franchise tax bill and eventually had to pay a delinquent tax fine of $1,007.19. The reply by Wilson's spokesperson: "It was an accounting error. It was one time in 108 years of business. At least the check did not bounce." Seems like that round was a draw, many more sure to come.

SECOND UPDATE: The Republican smear campaign has begun, as reported in The Fix as follows:

"2. Ohio's 6th District: As expected, national Republicans are going all out to keep state Sen. Charlie Wilson (D) off the ballot this November following the Democrat's inability to secure the 50 signatures necessary to qualify for the May 2 primary ballot. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $90,000 on an ad this week detailing Wilson's role in raw sewage being dumped into the Ohio River. Wilson is responding with an ad in which he casts himself as an opponent of President Bush and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and urges viewers to reject 'Republican distortions.' Wilson's campaign is also sponsoring an automated call into the district by current Rep. Ted Strickland, who is running for governor, in which Strickland decries the GOP ads. This is still a sticky ticket for Democrats as they must educate voters to write in Wilson's name on the primary ballot. If he becomes the Democratic nominee, this race would likely drop a few slots on the line. State Rep. Chuck Blasdel is the likely Republican nominee. (Previous ranking: 2)"

Hat tip to UAPA Blog for posting about this item.

Atty Gen: Chandra (D) Endorsed by Chandra

Yesterday morning while driving downtown the car next to me at a stoplight near University Circle began honking and gesturing. After we got our windows rolled down (and I restrained the golden retriever who wished to plug up the opening), the other driver told me that I needed to add another bumper sticker to the Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland ones already on display. I had just met candidate for attorney general Subodh Chandra (D-Cleveland) at a Meet The Bloggers event a few days before, so on a hunch I queried "Subodh ...?" "Yes!" the other driver called out, beaming, "He's my husband!" It was Meena Morey Chandra, a recent graduate of Cleveland-Marshall Law School at CSU and now a civil rights attorney in town. I had just enough time to say I'd just met him and liked him before the light turned green.

UPDATE: Chandra bumper stickers may be requested by emailing contact-at-chandraforohio-dot-com.

Tuesday, March 28

Cong OH-15th: Pryce (R) Lead Over Kilroy (D) Within Margin of Error in Poll

The excellent UAPA Blog has a post indicating that polling commissioned by Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D), pictured, shows her within a few percentage points of incumbent Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) in the 15th Congressional District race, reported in Roll Call (subscription required) as follows:

"In the initial head-to-head ballot test, Pryce led Kilroy by a 44 percent to 41 percent margin despite the poll's finding that Pryce had a 33-point edge in name identification. The Benenson Strategy Group poll of 500 likely voters was conducted March 13-15 and had a 4 percent margin of error. The survey also found that Pryce had a 53 percent favorable to 30 percent unfavorable rating, while Kilroy had a 34 percent to 17 percent favorable to unfavorable rating."

Cong OH-2nd: Jacobs (D) Endorsed By Cranley, Thomas

The Cincinnati Enquirer blog-like thing "Politics Extra" reports that political newcomer Thor Jacobs (D) has been endorsed by Cincinnati City Council members John Cranley (D) and Lewis Thomas (D). Cranley, who is running against incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) in the 1st Congressional District, said "We need intelligent, independent advocates like Thor in Congress. I look forward to serving alongside him in Washington."

Jacobs, co-founder of a construction business, is one of five candidates in the 2nd District primary. The others are 2005 campaign veterans Jim Parker (D-Waverly), a health care administrator, transporation engineer Jeff Sinnard (D), and physician Victoria Wells Wulsin (D-Indian Hill), and first-timer Gabrielle Downey (D-Milford), a basketball star in school who is now a teacher. If any reader knows of any polling data on this primary, I'd love to hear about it!

The winner of the Democratic primary will face either incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), who according to the Politics Extra item has fundraising events coming up in Washingon, DC with Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman, Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-NY), and Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-West Chester), or one of her primary foes, former Rep. Bob McEwen (R-Hillsboro) or political newcomers Deborah Kraus (R-Union Township) or James E. Constable (R-Fayetteville).

UPDATE: Audio of an interview of Thor Jacobs by Drinking Liberally in Cincinnati is here. Jean Schmidt recently pulled out of a debate with McEwen, as reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer and noted by OH-2 Blog here.

Gov: Petro (R) and Blackwell (R) Load Up for Massive TV Blitz

The Columbus Dispatch reports here that Republican gubernatorial candidates Attorney General Jim Petro (R-Rocky River) and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) have made enormous broadcast and cable television advertising buys, focused on the two weeks between April 17 and the primary on May 2. Each is reportedly spending more than $1 million, meaning it's "probably the most that’s ever been spent in a gubernatorial primary" according to the senior vice president of a political-media consulting firm.

How will this affect their bottom line? The campaign cash numbers are a little dated at this point, but at the end of 2005 Petro had $2 million on hand and Blackwell had $1.5 million. Strickland, who has been running TV ads of his own, had $2.1 million at that time.

Petro has an 11 point deficit to make up, according to the recent Columbus Dispatch poll, so look for him to pull out all the stops. I expect his ads will contain very sharp attacks on the front-runner, especially so because Blackwell's campaign against Petro has been very negative from the outset.

Ohio Sen 21st: Smith (D) Wins Plain Dealer Endorsement

One day after I posted a profile of three Ohio Senate races including the 21st District, the Plain Dealer has published its endorsement of front-runner Rep. Shirley Smith. The editorial board notes that Smith "has focused in recent years on the issue of capital punishment" and "has been the House's leading advocate for a moratorium on the death penalty and for studies to determine whether there are racial disparities in its application." They laud her as "active in issues affecting poor constituents in the inner-city portions of her district."

As to primary opponent Rep. Annie Key, the endorsement praises her as "a diligent legislator" who has "shown over time her willingness to educate herself on issues of importance" and "to advocate for her constituents," and as "a reliable voice for the underprivileged" whose "earnestness has never been questioned." The board describes attorney and retired U.S. Postal Service employee Gaines as "intelligent, familiar with state issues" and speaking "with conviction of his desire to serve." The final Democrat in the field, self-described community activist Lewis Britt, is "to be admired for his commitment to the community."

Secty of State: Brunner (D) Event Tonight in Columbus

Former Judge Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus), pictured at the recent DCC Candidates Forum in Cleveland, is holding a campaign fund-raising event tonight, March 27, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the YWCA Columbus, Huntington Hall, 65 S. Fourth Street, Columbus, Ohio. The requested contribution is $100 for individuals and $250 for political action committees. If you cannot attend, please consider making a donation here.

Monday, March 27

Atty Gen: Chandra (D) Endorsed by Rep. Kucinich (D)

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of the 10th Congressional District endorsed former Law Director Subodh Chandra (D-Cleveland) today in the race for Attorney General. The excellent blog OH-2 has the story. This follows the endorsement of Chandra by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson (D-Cleveland) last week. Chandra is opposed in the primary by State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown), who has been endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party and holds a lead over Chandra according to a recent Columbus Dispatch primary poll.

Cong OH-18th: Coverage of Democratic Candidates Forum

Coverage of the 18th Congressional District Democratic Candidates Forum over the weekend is here, as published in the Coshocton Tribune, the Zanesville Times Recorder, and the Chillicothe Gazette. Nice bit about blogger Russell Hughlock and the Buckeye State Blog at the beginning of the article. Buckeye State Blog has the audio here and Russell's personal take here. Sounds like Joe Sulzer (D-Chillicothe) was the most persuasive.

Ohio Sen. 21st, 25th and 33rd: Democratic-Held Open Seats

This is the second in a series of profiles of Ohio Senate races. In my first post I noted that the seventeen seats up for election are about evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, far out of proportion to the 22-11 ratio in the Senate as a whole. After separating open seats from those defended by incumbents, the breakdown becomes 3 Republican-held open seats, 3 Democratic-held open seats, 6 Republican incumbents, and 5 Democratic incumbents. I then proceeded to profile the three races in the first category, concluding that the Democrats' best chance for a pick up is in the 13th District, where nurse and SEIU leader Sue Morano (D-Lorain) will most likely survive a primary to take on State Board of Education member Martha Wise (R-Avon). In this post I'll look at the Democratic-held open seats, all of which seem relatively safe for the Democratic Party.

21st District This district, which includes most of Cleveland's East Side, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, University Heights, Bratenahl, Brooklyn Heights, Cuyahoga Heights and Newburgh Heights, is a Democratic stronghold. Term-limited incumbent and Senate Minority Leader C.J. Prentiss (D-Cleveland) defeated current Republican candidate Richard Norris (R-Cleveland) with 80.22% of the vote in 2002, and Bush got just 16% of the vote there in 2004. The crowded Democratic primary includes two State Representatives, term-limited Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland) of the 10th District (pictured) and Rep. Annie Key (D-Cleveland) of the 11th District, as well as two candidates without prior legislative experience, community activist Lewis Britt (D-Cleveland) and attorney and retired U.S. Postal Service employee George Gaines (D-Cleveland). Another term-limited legislator, Rep. Claudette Woodard (D-Cleveland Heights) of the 9th District, has withdrawn from the primary.

The front runner in this group is Smith, who has been endorsed by the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, and the AFL-CIO. Some additional information about Smith is found in this article in City News Ohio. She is the ranking minority member on the House Health Committee. Smith cites her sponsorship of House Bill 317, which allows felons who exhibit at least seven years of good behavior to have the option of expunging their criminal records, and support for other socially-conscious legislation as indicating her "genuine concern for the socially and economically disadvantaged in her district." Smith is also one of the few legislators to deal seriously with the death penalty, having pushed for the creation of a Capital Case Commission to study the many problems relating to it, and has also worked on the issues of term limits, HIV/AIDS awareness, prison reform, and fighting obesity as a public health hazard. Before serving as a legislator she was a radio talk show host for a major radio station in Cleveland, and worked in promotions, production, and public relations for a network TV affiliate.

The Republican candidates are Burrell Jackson (R-Cleveland), a 36-year-old real estate consultant, and Norris. Jackson won the endorsement of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which praised his "keen grasp of important public issues" and "the need for state government to explore ways to help Ohio's ailing economy":
"Jackson speaks with authority on the need for Ohio to stop the out migration of its educated young people and the importance of an educated work force. He also offers a gentle criticism of his Republican colleagues in the legislature, saying they spend 'too much time on socially divisive issues' that have nothing to do with making Ohio a better place to live."

As for Norris, the Plain Dealer indicates only that he "has run for office several times in the past and fails to offer a single compelling reason why voters should even consider supporting him." Although Jackson appears to be a much more credible candidate, this looks like a safe seat for the Democrats.

25th District This district is in the eastern Cleveland suburbs, including Shaker Heights, Beachwood, Lyndhurst, South Euclid, and Euclid, and it leans Democratic. Term-limited incumbent Eric Fingerhut (D-Shaker Heights) won with 84.61% of the vote in 2002. The only Democrat in the race is House Minority Whip Rep. Lance Mason (D-Shaker Heights) of the 8th District (pictured), and the only Republican is former Euclid mayor David Lynch (R-Cleveland).

In addition to serving as a State Representative, Mason is of counsel to the law firm Baker & Hostetler. His biographical page on the firm's website indicates that he litigates in the areas of business crimes and corporate investigations. His prior experience includes acting as an Assistant Prosecutor for Cuyahoga County and as District Director for Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland), and private practice as a defense attorney. These credentials and his House leadership position make him a very strong candidate to succeed Fingerhut.

Lynch, however, is a serious opponent. As detailed in this story in the Sun Newspapers, dating from his mayoral campaign last year, Lynch is a lawyer who is a native of Cleveland Heights but moved to Euclid in 1982. He shocked political pundits by winning election as mayor in 1987 by a 52-48 percent margin, after 50 years of Democratic control of that office. His 2005 campaign for Mayor of Cleveland, however, was a lackluster affair. He moved into Cleveland only a year before the election. He struggled to gain much momentum or support for his campaign positions. He supports Roe v. Wade, which presumably alienates a portion of his Republican base, perhaps not so much in this district as it would elsewhere. [UPDATE: Although Lynch told his Meet the Bloggers interviewers during his mayoral campaign in 2005 that he supports Roe v. Wade, the Cleveland Plain Dealer described him as a "pro-life Catholic" in January, 2006. I don't know exactly where he stands at this point.] His fifth place showing with 7.7% of the vote was dismal. Lynch was widely expected to challenge incumbent Jimmy Dimora (D-Cleveland) for County Commissioner this year, so his filing to run for this Senate seat came as something of a surprise. Although a spirited and determined campaign is to be expected from him, this seat seems relatively safe for the Democrats.

UPDATE: I spoke to Rep. Mason today (March 29) and learned that he has a campaign website. Among the many endorsements listed there, the critical ones are Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) and County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones (D-Cleveland).

33rd District This district is in Mahoning County and leans Democratic. Incumbent Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) is term-limited and is running for the Ohio House in the 60th District. He won re-election in 2002 with 68.04% of the vote. The candidates to replace him are State Rep. John Boccieri of the 61st District (D-New Middletown) (pictured) and Tracey Monroe-Wimbush (R-Youngstown).

As reflected on the biographical page on his campaign website, Boccieri was born in Youngstown, was a star student and athlete in high school and at St. Bonaventure University in New York, and played a year in semi-pro baseball before turning to politics as a legislative aide to State Rep. Richard Cordray (now running for Treasurer) and State Rep. Greg DiDonato. He worked on a Congressional campaign for each. At that point Boccieri enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. While on active duty he completed a Masters Degree in Public Administration and Business. He then became a C-130 pilot with the Ohio Air National Guard and is still a captain in the Air Force Reserves, with service in the Persian Gulf. He was urged to run for Congress against scandal-tainted 18th District incumbent Bob Ney (R-Heath), but chose to pursue this Ohio Senate seat instead.

Try as I might, I have not been able to find any information about Monroe-Wimbush. Perhaps a reader can fill this gap. In any event, Boccieri seems like a formidable candidate in this district.

Gov: Strickland (D) and Blackwell (R) Lead in Poll

According to one of several Columbus Dispatch primary polls released over the weekend, Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) holds a commanding 43 point lead over former State Rep. Bryan Flannery (D-Strongsville) in the Democratic primary for Governor. Just to dramatize the scale of this lead, consider that even if Flannery persuaded all of the 41% of voters who are undecided to support him he'd still trail the front-runner by two percentage points.

The Strickland campaign reports that the Cleveland City Council is expected to endorse him today at noon. He already enjoys the support of 37 out of the 88 county Democratic Party organizations in Ohio and numerous labor groups, as well as a huge fund-raising advantage over his still-determined opponent.

On the Republican side, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) has a less formidable but still daunting lead of 11 points over Attorney General Jim Petro (R-Rocky River). At 33%, the proportion of undecided voters theoretically provides Petro with a sufficient margin to overtake Blackwell, but he must convert two-thirds of them with only five weeks remaining before the primary.

Campaign underdogs typically hope to gain ground on frontrunners by capitalizing on mistakes at joint appearances such as public debates. In this race, however, Blackwell has announced that he refuses to debate or even appear publicly with Petro, for purely strategic reasons.

Blackwell can and should be criticized for refusing to debate his rival. Indeed, it's rare for any political frontrunner to flatly refuse to debate (as opposed to merely negotiating to limit debate) without some semblance of an excuse other than mere campaign strategy. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath), for example, is trying to justify his refusal to debate 18th Congressional District challenger James B. Harris (R-Zanesville) on the grounds that Ney is too busy with Congressional duties and Harris hasn't raised enough money to be a legitimate candidate. So, why is Blackwell willing to take the hit for refusing to debate? Is it because Blackwell fears performing poorly? It is true that he can ill afford to publicly defend his poorly-conceived Tax and Expenditure Limitation constitutional amendment proposal, the ramifications of which are leading to a sweeping bipartisan backlash among municipal and local officials. However, the real reason isn't fear of a public gaffe as such, it's part of a deliberate effort to restrict his primary campaign to a private conversation with his extremist ultra-conservative base, out of the hearing of the general public.

Blackwell revealed as much in this statement to the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "It's not that I don't want to debate. It's just that I'm not debating Jim in broad public audiences, but only in narrow Republican venues, because I'm in a Republican primary." Ah ha. So this refusal to debate is about not wanting to air his primary campaign positions in public, not reluctance to face Petro per se. In fact, it is all of a piece with Blackwell's exclusion of reporters from his meeting with Cleveland area pastors earlier this month, and the scrubbing from his campaign blog of any reference to his appearance before the secretive ultra-right group Council for National Policy. Blackwell's whole strategy is to do his primary campaigning in as much secrecy as possible, or at least in "narrow Republican venues," not in plain view.

What's the point of that? It reflects the critical quandary of Blackwell's strategic position. His lead over Petro is attributable directly to his popularity with the most radical of his conservative supporters, the ones who for example disdain the separation of church and state and won't countenance abortion even in case of rape or to preserve the health of the mother. However, those extreme positions will hurt him in a general election confrontation with Strickland. So, he must keep his campaigning in the primary as much as possible out of the public eye, so that he can credibly transform himself into a reasonable moderate after the primary is safely won. Also, he must instill in his base the idea that the views he expresses privately now are his genuine beliefs, and the more moderate positions he espouses in public later are a matter of mere political expedience. If it sounds like something out of the George W. Bush playbook, it should. Bush also gained early support from meeting secretly with the Council for Naitonal Policy, and Bush met privately with religious fundamentalists at the outset of the 2004 Republican National Convention in order to innoculate them against losing faith when Bush espoused more moderate views at the convention and on the campaign trail. Just last week in Cleveland, at one of the very rare events where Bush took questions from an unsanitized audience, he stumbled and punted when asked a question intended to elicit public agreement by him with fundametalists' interpretation of events in the Middle East as presaging Armageddon. Look for Blackwell to risk whiplash through similar contortions once the primary is over.

Sunday, March 26

Attorney General: Montgomery (R) and Dann (D) Lead in Primaries

The Columbus Dispatch primary polls show State Auditor Betty Montgomery (R) with an enormous lead over State Rep. Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) in the primary for her old job as Attorney General, with fewer undecided voters than in any other primary race polled. The Ohio Republican Party recently suspended its own rules to endorse Montgomery in this race, and she has vast advantages in name recognition and fund-raising.

In sharp contrast, the Democratic primary for attorney general has an extremely high proportion of undecided voters. The 14 point lead of ODP-endorsed State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown) over former Cleveland Law Director Subodh Chandra (D) is big, but it pales in comparison with the 68% of voters who have yet to make up their mind.

I have been intending to post my personal reaction to these candidates on the basis of last Friday's Meet the Bloggers event in Cleveland, and this seems like an appropriate place to do that. I was impressed with the intelligence and passion of each. Both were articulate, knowledgeable, and throroughly prepared in their responses to a number of questions, covering substantive topics as diverse as consumer protection, school funding, public corruption, and capital punishment. These are two excellent candidates, and I wouldn't hesitate to support either in November.

The differences between them have to do mainly with their professional backgrounds and personal style. Dann's current and most important qualification is his service as a legislator, and it helps him that during that service he was one of the earliest and most vocal critics of Republican corruption and mismanagement as reflected in the Noe/Coingate scandal that he helped uncover and publicize. Although Dann has substantial civil and criminal litigation experience in private practice, Chandra has conducted and supervised government litigation on a large scale as an Assistant United States Attorney and Law Director for a major metropolis. Consequently, Chandra emphasizes his direct litigation experience, asserting that he has personally faced teams of high-priced legal talent such as are likely to be marshalled against an Attorney General who takes on special interests and large corporations. Dann counters that he can hire assistants with that kind of litigation experience, and emphasizes his knowledge of policy and ability to work with the legislature. In terms of personal style both display passion for serving the public but Chandra struck me as being distinctly more aggressive and ambitious. I can envision Dann as a capable administrator and an agency head who can function well within state government, but Chandra would be an absolute terror in pursuing justice and reform. Although Dann has proven his mettle in pursuing the Coingate scandal, I suspect that Chandra may be capable of greater creativity and scale in envisioning the measures that an Attorney General can take to advance the public interest. Given Ohio's recent history of corruption and collusion with special interests, I think I prefer Chandra, by a narrow margin.

Treasurer: Cordray (D) has Big Lead Over Quill (D), Bradley (R) and O'Brien (R) Tight

Although both reveal a huge number of undecided voters, the Columbus Dispatch primary polls show Franklin County Auditor Richard Cordray (D-Columbus) with a big 14 point lead over Montgomery County Auditor Hugh Quill (D-Dayton), while appointed incumbent Treasurer Jennette Bradley (R) clings to a perilous three point lead over her challenger, Ashtabula County Auditor Sandra O'Brien (R).

Cordray has the benefit of his endorsement by the Ohio Democratic Party and has a substantial fund-raising lead over opponent Quill. He also has more statewide name recognition due to his service as State Representative and State Solicitor.

Bradley was appointed as Treasurer by Governor Taft in January 2005 after serving as Taft's Lieutenant Governor. Taft's devastatingly low approval rating may be dragging her down. Also, as noted on this blog previously, O'Brien has attacked Bradley for failing to prevent the Coingate scandal (the mismanagement and theft of Bureau of Worker's Compensation investment funds by Republican insider and fund-raiser Tom Noe). Another liability for Bradley are her pro-choice, pro-domestic partner benefits, and anti-gun positions, all anathema to the Republican base. Bradley and gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) are the only African-Americans among statewide Republican candidates.

U.S. Sen: DeWine (R) and Brown (D) Overwhelm Opponents in Poll

The new Columbus Dispatch poll unsurprisingly shows incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R) and front-running challenger Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) each with a huge lead over their primary opponents. The remarkable aspect of the poll is the large percentage of undecided voters. On DeWine's part this appears to reflect the dissatisfaction of the exteme conservatives in his base, arising inter alia from his role in the "Gang of 14" (moderate Senators from both parties who defused the crisis over filibuster of Supreme Court nominees last year) and his occasional votes against drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. For Brown it suggests negative reaction to the ugly departure of Paul Hackett from the Democratic Senate primary, unless his statewide name recognition from his prior tenure as Secretary of State is a lot less than has been claimed. More discussion of this poll over at Buckeye State Blog.

Sup. Ct: O'Neill (D) Leads Wagner (D), Espy (D) Tied With Sikora (D) in Poll

The Columbus Dispatch has released a batch of polls, including the first on the Supreme Court Democratic primaries I have seen anywhere.

As shown in Dispatch graphic at right, 11th District Court of Appeals Judge William O'Neill (D-Chagrin Falls) leads Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge A. J. Wagner (D-Dayton) by thirteen percentage points, although with a whopping 65% undecided. The winner in that primary will face incumbent Supreme Court Justice Terrence O'Donnell (R-Rocky River). O'Neill, who famously accepts no campaign contributions for the sake of judicial independence, is the beneficiary of higher name recognition resulting from his previous Supreme Court campaign. His law degree is from Cleveland State University and his prior employment includes Assistant Attorney General, union organizer for the Communications Workers of America, Army lieutenant colonel, and newspaper reporter. Wagner is a law graduate of the University of Dayton and has previously served as a referee on the Montgomery County Probate Court, acting judge on the Dayton Municipal Court, Montgomery County Auditor, and has worked as a janitor, steelworker and teacher.

In the primary for the seat now held by retiring incumbent Justice Alice Robie Resnick (D-Toledo), private attorney Ben Espy (D-Columbus) is tied with Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Peter M. Sikora (D-Cleveland), but again the undecided vote is extraordinarily large at 66%. The winner will face 3rd District Court of Appeals Judge Robert Cupp (R-Lima). Like Cupp, Espy is a former Ohio Senator, having served ten years altogether and four as Senate Minority Leader. His law degree is from Howard University and his other past service includes Columbus City Council member and Chief of the Criminal Activities Division in the Office of the Attorney General. Sikora is a law graduate of Case Western Reserve University and prior to his 17 years on the bench was a Court of Appeals Clerk, Deputy Counsel to Governor Richard Celeste, and Deputy Director of the Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. As many have noted, Espy and candidate for Auditor Rep. Barbara Sykes are the only African-American candidates on the Democratic statewide ticket. Importantly, Sikora reflects another kind of diversity, since he is a quadraplegic and so far as Sikora has been able to determine he would become the only physically disabled Supreme Court Justice in the nation.

Saturday, March 25

Cong. 4th: Jordan (R) and Martin (R) Reportedly Lead in Primary; Martin Rejects Vet PAC Money

I haven't seen it myself, but an anonymous reader informs me that he or she has seen polling data showing that the Republican primary in Ohio's 4th Congressional District (the seat of retiring incumbent Rep. Mike Oxley) is now a two-person race between a well-funded political insider, State Sen. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), and a shoestring-budget political novice, Iraq War vet Nathan Martin (R). Martin, pictured, served with the Army Reserves 1st 278 Regimental Combat Team in Iraq.

In light of Martin's unexpected prominence in the race, this item from the Washington Times (submitted by the aforementioned reader) seems especially noteworthy. In brief, Martin has turned down a support-and-endorsement offer from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Political Action Committee, which would have included $2,100 in donations, a media buy and direct mailings on his behalf. The Washington Times reports the total value of the package as $100,000.

Martin says he turned down the offer because he "could not sacrifice my principles for the money." Martin said he "supports the group's efforts to stand up for veterans, but disagrees with its position that the United States should begin withdrawing troops from the country." The IAVA PAC's endorsement criteria includes that candidates must "demand from the administration a victory strategy for Iraq that includes hard success metrics which trigger American troop drawdowns so our forces can safely re-deploy from theater."

Whether one agrees with Martin's position or not, it is clearly a stand based on principle and against self-interest. Interesting. This primary looks like an index of the public's disgust with politics as usual and yearning for integrity in their elected representatives.

U.S. Senate: Keiser (D) Website Up

I received an email from the campaign of Merrill Samuel Keiser Jr (D-Fremont), linking to his campaign website. Calling himself a "different kind of Democrat," Keiser summarizes his campaign themes thusly:

"I want to bring about real change in our government. I want to see a return to the traditional values that made this country great - an acknowledgement and dependence on God, the importance of traditional family structure and basic Judeo-Christian principles."

Secretary of State: Trakas (R) Drops Out

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that term-limited State Rep. Jim Trakas (R-Independence) has dropped out of the Republican primary for Secretary of State, leaving only Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann (R-Columbus) to face former judge Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) in the general election. Hartmann had raised more campaign cash than Trakas, and ORP Chairman Robert Bennett requested that Trakas bow out. Interestingly, Trakas will become Hartmann's campaign manager. Trakas announced his decision to the Plain Dealer editorial board at the outset of what was supposed to be a joint endorsement interview.

The Plain Dealer's take on the race: "A Statehouse scandal, bad economy and an unpopular war are expected to make this a difficult year for Republicans to win in Ohio."

Friday, March 24

Treasurer: O'Brien (R) Blames Bradley (R) For Coingate

This is a very interesting article in the Toledo Blade. Last weekend Ashtabula County Auditor Sandra O'Brien (R), pictured at right, the primary challenger to recently-appointed incumbent Treasurer Jennette Bradley (R), pictured at left, accused her opponent of allowing the Tom Noe/Coingate scandal to happen by failing to do her job. O'Brien points out that state law provides that the treasurer is the "custodian" of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation's insurance fund and is thus responsible for its "safekeeping." Coin dealer and Republican fundraiser Tom Noe has been indicted for stealing money from the rare-coin investment he managed for the BWC. Ergo, Bradley is to blame for Coingate because she failed to perform her duty of keeping the fund safe.

Bradley, of course, is screaming foul. A Treasury spokesman called the charge "outright erroneous" and offered this incredible hair-splitting explanation, as reported in the article:

"He explained that the treasurer is the custodian of the fund, which means she is responsible for the safekeeping of the bureau's contract with Mr. Noe - not the 'Beanie Baby or the rare coin or the sports memorabilia.' Our responsibility is to hold onto the agreement that the BWC entered into. ... We can have no influence on that entity. We have no role in the investment policy at BWC, what they invest in or what decisions are made there. ... To say the treasury has a responsibility with the decision-making or the money is very misleading."
So what, Bradley was the "custodian" of the contractual document, and her safekeeping duties stopped with protecting a piece of paper? What about the fact that buying rare coins was undeniably a bizarre, unprecedented investment for a government fund? What about the lack of controls over Noe's handling of the investment? O'Brien, at any rate, is having none of this defense. She says that the code "clearly" states that the treasurer is the custodian of the assets, meaning "every time Tom Noe bought or sold a coin or Beanie Baby, he should have been at the state treasurer's office." In other words, Bradley "basically wasn't doing her job," adding "It is her job, per code." O'Brien promises that the Coingate scandal will remain part of her primary campaign against Ms. Bradley.

Of course, the question that will leap to every Democrat's lips is "What about Blackwell?" Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R), a candidate for Governor, was Treasurer in 1998 when the coin fund was created. O'Brien responds "I'm running against [Bradley]. I'm not going to address what I don't know."

I can think of some other candidates who won't hestitate to address it.

Cong. OH-13: Lyons (D) Campaign Website Is Up

Michael K. Lyons, Mayor of Richfield and one of nine Democratic candidates for the 13th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Sherrod Brown to run for the U.S. Senate, has a campaign website here. On his site, Lyons denounces the failure of Republican leadership and calls for change:

"My effort as a congressman will be first and foremost to make government work for the people by bringing intelligence and innovation to the work of government. What are the principles that guide such an approach?
· Place substance before politics and personalities.
· Engage in real, constructive dialogue on divisive issues.
· Allow experimentation in government, with accountability.
. . .

"I believe most Americans are weary of the superficial process engaged in by our political leaders today. We need leaders who are deliberative when the exchange of ideas is needed and decisive when action is needed. Most recently we have suffered from decisive leadership devoid of thoughtfulness and deliberation.

"The reason for this is that the Republicans have come to authority chanting an ideological mantra of less government without thoughtfulness and without preparation for the aftermath of victory. Much like President Bush’s war in Iraq, there was preparation for the invasion and the destruction of the organized structure of the opposition, but there was no plan for the occupation of the position of authority.

"The pendulum has swung. Americans desire that reasonable men and women would provide leadership that moves us forward in a complicated world. I want to contribute to that type of leadership."

Ohio House 9th: Rogers (D) Gains Key Endorsements, Outlines Policy Agenda

Julian A. Rogers (D-Cleveland Heights) is running for the 9th Ohio House District seat of term-limited incumbent Rep. Claudette Woodard. The 9th District includes University Heights, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, and a portion of Cleveland. Opposing Rogers in the Democratic primary is former State Rep. Barbara Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights). Former Cleveland Heights City Council member Rev. Jimmie Hicks, Jr, a longtime Democrat notable for his strident opposition to the Cleveland Heights domestic partnership registry a few years ago, has filed to run as a Republican in this race.

Rogers recently received a glowing endorsement from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which wrote that Rogers is "well versed on the crucial issues facing the state and has prepared himself politically" and he "has the intelligence, energy and passion so desperately needed." Although the Plain Dealer praised Boyd as a capable legislator, the editorial board concluded that "District 9 voters have an opportunity to elect a bright and youthful candidate who represents the future" and that "having a legislator who is intimately familiar with funding and the problems of urban education would be a huge asset for the people of Ohio."

Rogers has also been endorsed by the 9th District incumbent Rep. Claudette Woodard, State Senators C.J. Prentiss and Eric Fingerhut, County Commissioner Tim Hagan, former 9th District candidate Eric Silverman, three members of the Cleveland Heights/University Heights Board of Education (Vice President Ron Messenger, Wendy Leatherberry and Kal Zucker), the Ohio Federation of Teachers, and the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats. The AFL-CIO decided to issue no endorsement in this race. The Cuyahoga County Democratic Party has endorsed Boyd.

Rogers' reputation as an expert in education policy is well deserved. He was Senior Assistant to Barbara Byrd Bennett, CEO of the Cleveland School District, for seven years, five of them also serving as Liaison to the Office of the Mayor. Although this is Rogers' first campaign for elected office, at age 32 he is no political novice. In addition to grassroots work on local campaigns and issues, Rogers worked on the fundraising team of the U.S. Senate campaign of Mary Boyle, served as a regional director for America Coming Together during the 2004 Presidential election, was a John Kerry delegate at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, was a precinct committeeman, worked on school levies, and participated in founding the statewide political action committee Blue 88. He is a lifelong resident of Cleveland Heights.

Rogers' frustration with the scandals, corruption, and mismanagement in state government prompted him to seek elected office. Speaking recently at Case Western Reserve University (reprinted here), Rogers used shocking statistics to document the abysmal and worsening condition of our state. About education, he pointed out that Ohio ranks 46th in equity of primary and secondary school resources, 38th in the percentage of 19-year-olds headed to college, and 50th in the ratio of students to computers. Turning to healthcare and the economy, he noted that Ohio is 34th in per capital spending on mental health services, 14th in infant mortality (comparable to less developed countries), 26th in the percentage of people living in poverty, 1st in home foreclosures, and 49th in economic momentum.

Rogers places the blame for this mess squarely on the lack of leadership, policy, or direction in state government, and proposes "educating ourselves out" of it through "a dedicated agenda to improve education in its quality and access":

Making it easier for Ohio residents to go to college by eliminating the existing tremendous financial barriers for young people to afford college. "In fact, it is cheaper to pay out-of-state tuition to attend college in a number of other states than it is as a resident of Ohio to attend one of our state universities. And many students are opting to attend school out of state, never to return to Ohio. This is a shame and we need to fix it."

Better preparing students in public schools for college. "As it stands now, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled four times that the way in which Ohio funds public schools is unconstitutional. Four times they have ruled that our system relies too much on local property taxes -- which creates an inequitable system; where those that live in richer areas receive a far better education than those living in poor areas. After four ruling, our legislature has still refused to act. This must be made a priority if we are to have any hope for our next generation."

Creating a system of universal preschool education. "Studies from the Center for Community Solutions have shown that children that attend a high quality preschool program are far more likely to not be held back in primary school, and are much more likely to attend college. They are also far less likely to ever spend time and jail. The cost saving to the public are tremendous. For every dollar spent on a quality preschool education, we see seven dollars in future savings -- as those students are more likely to be gainfully employed, contributing to the tax base."
Rogers then turned to health care as the second major theme for his campaign, noting that over 1 million people in Ohio have no health care insurance at all. "Not only does this make health care more expensive for those that have it, but it is morally reprehensible that in the richest country in the world, we have citizens that cannot see a doctor when they become sick - - because they cannot afford to. We need to start the conversation around a single-payer health care system in this state where one fund, administered by a non-profit government agency would make payment for all medical services. "

Rogers concluded by declaring that we are "losing control of our democracy" because "special interest groups and the rich are buying our government":

"When the Republicans in the General Assembly had an opportunity to address the issue of 'pay to play,' they thought the problem could be fixed by increasing the contribution limits to state candidates from $2500 to $10,000. All this did was further reduce the influence of the average citizen in our democratic process. As witnessed with all the recent revelations of corruption and scandal, we need to institute clean, publicly financed elections in Ohio[through] a system of full public financing for all state elections in which candidates agree to strict spending limits and agree to accept no private money. We need to remove the opportunity for politicians to be bought. Clean elections, as they are done in Arizona and Maine, have proven to clean up government, decrease voter apathy, and encourage more participation from average citizens."
Upcoming campaign events are listed on Rogers' campaign website here.

Thursday, March 23

Ohio House 46th: Dansack (D) to Run as Write-in Candidate

Mark Dansack will run as a write-in candidate for the 46th Ohio House District seat of incumbent Rep. Mark J. Wagoner, Jr (R-Toledo). Wagoner has no other opponent from either party. The 46th District is in Lucas County. The last Democratic candidate got 37.97% of the vote against Wagoner in 2004.

UPDATE: As an alert commenter has discovered, I misidentified the candidate as a prominent Toledo attorney with the same last name. I have deleted the mistaken portion of the post, apologize for any confusion caused by my error, and refer readers to the comment for more information about this write-in candidate. And thanks to the commenter for correcting my error!

Ohio House 76th: Kostyo (D) to Run as Write-in Candidate

Attorney John F. Kostyo (D-Findlay), who briefly considered running for the Ohio 4th Congressional District seat of retiring Rep. Mike Oxley (R), has announced that he will jump into the 76th Ohio House District race as a write-in candidate. The 76th District is in Hancock, Hardin and Auglaize Counties. Incumbent Rep. Mike Gilb (R-Findlay) is retiring, after considering a run for the Ohio Senate and then halting a brief campaign for the 4th Congressional District seat. Kostyo was prompted to join the 76th District race by the recent withdrawal of the only Democrat in the race, Brett Molk, for health reasons. Kostyo's campaign website is here. Kostyo makes the following remarks in his press release:

"I look at our District and ask, are we better off today than when we grew up here? Are we better off than we were four years ago? The answer is no. We have lost jobs to economically expedient labor or outsourcing in China, Asia or Mexico. We lose jobs only to have inferior goods returned that are sold at inflated prices. Our District has been left without a practical focus on community issues and business. ... We must make sure there is continued funding for our schools; support for education and educators; support for local law enforcement in the protection of our homes and communities; and laws that stimulate business and job growth in our District. It is time we focus our state budget on the people who live in this State rather than a pay-to-play political agenda.

"As a person in business who pays into the Ohio Workers’ Compensation System, I want answers about where over $250 million dollars that Ohio businesses paid has gone and get it is paid back. I want answers about how Ohio fund administrators spent $50 million on rare coins and several hundred million dollars on off shore hedge funds. These answers are important to business people in Ohio. We need to have faith in a system particularly when we are told about increases in Worker’s Comp rates. The most critical side to this issue is that people who need the benefits of those hundreds of millions of dollars may be left short or have benefits cut in politically expedient measures. This is just not acceptable.

"I have said that we are a working district, that the people in Kenton, Ada, Fostoria, Findlay, Wapakoneta and the communities between are working people who grow, build, manufacture and produce goods that support our communities. We must support them and protect and grow jobs here to continue the visions of our communities into the future. We must find ways to keep family farms as family farms for new generations. We must restore balance in laws that impact on people and business while eliminating wasteful levels of costs and needless spending."

Kostyo faces an uphill battle in the 76th District, where the last Democratic candidate won 32.01% against Gilb in 2004. Contending in the Republican primary are Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's high school football coach Cliff Hite (R-Findlay), who left coaching to run for office, and Jeremy Swartz (R-Findlay).

Cong. OH-4th: Siferd (D) Campaign Kickoff and Office Opening

Richard Siferd (D-Lima) will formally kick off his campaign for the Ohio 4th Congressional District seat of retiring Mike Oxley (R) with an office opening party on Friday, March 31st, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm, at Siferd for Congress Headquarters, 140 N. Main St., Lima, OH 45801. RSVP by email to cmowrey-at-siferdforcongress-dot-com.

Siferd, an attorney based in Lima, is the only Democrat in the race. The Republican primary is a crowded affair with six contenders at last count: front-runner State Sen. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), attorney Charles Weasel (R-Findlay), businessman Jim Stahl (R-Findlay), businessman Frank A. Guglielmi (R-Findlay), Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Nestor (R-Mansfield), and Nathan Martin (R).

Campaign and Political Events This Weekend

Some events in the next few days that have come to my attention:

Meet The Bloggers Attorney General Debate
Friday, 3/24 1:00 pm
Talkies Coffee
2521 Market Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio
More info at Meet The Bloggers

Opening of Sherrod Brown Central Ohio Office
Saturday 3/25 12:00-1:00 pm
203 Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio

Town Hall Meeting Examining The Cost of Iraq: Lives, Jobs, Security, Community
Sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America
Saturday, 3/25 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Beachland Ballroom
15711 Waterloo Road
(North Collinwood neighborhood)
Cleveland, Ohio
Panelists include:
* Rep. Dennis Kucinich - Ohio 10th Dist.
* Gold Star Mom Cindy Sheehan
* Tim Carpenter, National Director, Progressive Democrats of America
* Francis Chiappa, President, Cleveland Peace Action
* Paul Schroeder, co-founder of Families of the Fallen For Change
* Farhad Sethna, Immigration attorney and concerned citizen
Emceed by actress and PDA Board Chairwoman Mimi Kennedy
Email vote-at-timroff-dot-com for more information

Geauga County Candidate Forum and Endorsement Meeting
Sunday 3/26 1:00-400 pm
Bainbridge Town Hall
17826 Chillicothe Road
Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44023

Summit for Ohio’s Grassroots Organizations, Progressives, and Democrat Activists
Sponsored by Summit County Progressive Democrats
Sunday 3/26 1:00–5:00 pm
Akron-Summit Library
60 S. High St.
Akron, Ohio 44326
Program includes “Grassroots Politics: Something Old and Something New” by Dr. John Green, Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, Univ. of Akron, and the following panellists and presenters:
* Tim Carpenter – National Director, Progressive Democrats of America
* Chris Redfern – Chair, Ohio Democratic Party
* Chris Glaros - President, Blue 88
* Jane Buder-Shapiro – Founder, Ohioans for Democratic Values
* Steve Chaffin – Regional Coordinator, Ohio Democratic Party
* Scott Nunnery – State Organizing Director, America Votes
* Marian Harris – Central Ohio Coordinator, Democracy for America
Special Guest: CINDY SHEEHAN Gold Star Mom
To RSVP or for more information contact Patrick Carano at wswalcott-at-neo-dot-rr-dot-com.

18th Congressional District Democratic Candidates Forum
Sponsored by LICOPAC, the Muskingum County Women's Democratic Club, the Licking County Democratic Club, and the Central Ohio Coalition.
Sunday 3/26 2:00 pm
IBEW #1105 Hall
5805 Frazeysburg Rd. (off Rt. 60 on the North Side)
Zanesville, Ohio
* ZACK SPACE, Dover City law director and an attorney in Dover, Ohio. Space has worked as a public defender and special counsel to former Ohio Attys. Gen. Anthony Celebreeze and Lee Fisher. He was elected law director in 2001 and re-elected in 2003.
* JENNIFFER STEWART, Zanesville, is vice president of the State Board of Education, serving her second term as the elected representative of the 9th District. A former teacher, Stewart is a Central Area director of the National Association of State Boards of Education and past president of the Zanesville City school board.
* JOSEPH SULZER is Mayor of Chillicothe and a former city councilman and state representative. Mayor from 1987 to 1997, Sulzer was appointed to the Ohio House in 1997 and served two full terms before being re-elected mayor again in 2003.

Ohio Sen. 9th: Barrett (D) Drops Out

Thanks to the blog Black Cincinnati for linking to this story in the Cincinnati Enquirer's politics blog, reporting that State Rep. Catherine Barrett (D-Cincinnati) is dropping out of the 9th Ohio Senate District race. The dramatic announcement came at a meeting of Hamilton County Democratic party leaders last night to decide on endorsements in primary contests. The co-chairs of the party's nominating committee, State Rep. Steve Driehaus and Tyrone Yates, indicated that they would recommend a joint endorsement of Barrett and incumbent State Sen. Eric Kearney, just appointed in January when Mark Mallory left to become Cincinnati's mayor. At that point, as reported in the Enquirer blog, "Barrett got up in front of the group ... and said she was quitting the race. 'I want a healing process tonight,' said Barrett, who [received] a standing ovation from the group. Party leaders applauded; and also breathed a sigh of relief."

Kearney will face Maggie Nafziger (R-Cincinnati) in the general election.

UPDATE: The regular edition of the Enquirer reports the story here. The party voted to issue no endorsements among the five Democrats in the primary for the 2nd Congressional District, which came as a disappointment to physician Victoria Wulsin and teacher Gaby Downey since the nominating committee had recommended to endorse those two and not Thor Jacobs, Jim Parker or Jeff Sinnard. The party also declined to issue an endorsement in the primary for term-limited Barrett's present 32nd Ohio House District seat, where the mayor's brother Dale Mallory faces spirited opposition from former County Recorder Eve Bolton. However, the party endorsed former Cincinnati City councilman David Pepper over former Forest Park Mayor Stephanie Dumas in the county commissioner race.

Wednesday, March 22

Ohio House 24th: Von Jasinski (D) is Out; Four Dems Remain

The Democratic primary to determine an opponent for incumbent Rep. Geoffrey C. Smith (R-Columbus) in the 24th Ohio House District has shrunk from five contenders to four, as reported in this story from the Columbus Dispatch. Grandview Heights City Council member Steve von Jasinski (D-Grandview Heights) has withdrawn from the race after suffering a mild heart attack a few weeks ago, doctors having ordered him to rest for a month. That leaves former U.S. Senate candidate (and brother of the former Governor) Ted Celeste (D-Columbus) and three first-timers, Chris Courtney (D-Hilliard), Traci "TJ" Johnson (D-Hilliard), and James Agler (D-Hilliard). The 24th District includes Grandview Heights, Hilliard, Upper Arlington and parts of the west side of Columbus.

The story goes on to give some background and statements on the issues from the three less-known candidates. Chris Courtney is a firefighter/paramedic with the Worthington Fire Department, who has "seen first hand the difficulties many people have affording adequate health care and medicines." Trying to help a grandfather who was having health problems helped persuade Courtney to run. "With the current system we have in place in Ohio, he was really having problems being able to pay for his health care needs. After he died, my grandmother faced even greater financial problems." Ohio should move toward a single-payer network for health care services and prescriptions, he said. He also spoke about overhauling the state's education system "to make sure our schools have adequate money to do their job" and making corporations pay their share of taxes.

Traci Johnson, a business development manager for a computer consulting firm, said she is running because of her dismay at the corruption in state government. "Our state government has failed and is failing the people it is supposed to serve," she said. "The people have suffered and we need candidates who will bring back integrity and honesty to our government." She also said that she wants "to serve in a position where I can help create jobs for people." Small business needs to receive more support from state government, she said. The state must find a way "to guarantee a quality education is available for all of our residents, and not just some of our children."

James Agler works at a Longhorn Steakhouse near the Tuttle Crossing Mall. He acknowledges that he has fewer resources than his opponents, so he plans "a real old-fashioned, door to door, retail kind of campaign." Agler said he decided to run "because it's obvious the state government does not care about the working class. I'm really concerned about the shrinking of the middle class in this state." Nearly a quarter million jobs have left Ohio "and the ones that are coming in are terrible, low-paying ones." As a result, "the idea of a one-income family is just about gone." As major issues he mentioned making Ohio a place to which companies want to move their jobs, improving the state's system of funding education, and enabling working class people to have the opportunity to invest their money through group investment programs, along with the problem of ethics and corruption in state government.

Tuesday, March 21

Cong. OH-12: Swords (D) Withdraws, Endorses Shamansky (D)

The excellent Buckeye Senate Blog reports here and the indefatigable OH-12 Blog here that John Swords (D-Columbus) has withdrawn from the Democratic primary and thrown his support to former Rep. Robert N. Shamansky (D-Columbus), pictured. Other candidates in the primary are Paddy Schaffer (D-Dublin), Edward S. Brown (D-Columbus), and Michael Reilly (D-Powell). The winner will take on incumbent Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Westerville).

OH-12 Blog also links to an item in USAToday about comeback Congressional candidates, including Shamansky:

"Former congressman Robert Shamansky, a 78-year-old Ohio Democrat, is also trying to return to the House he left 23 years ago. He's re-entering the fray
because he got aggravated trying to enroll in the Medicare prescription-drug plan."

OH-12 Blog has more from the article.

UPDATE: Shamansky has a campaign website up ... hat tip to the Buckeye State Blog and its candidate list for the link.

Monday, March 20

Cong. OH-18: Ney (R) Spurns Debate with Harris (R)

As reported in the Athens News here and the Cleveland Plain Dealer "blog" Openers here, the campaign staff for incumbent Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath) has flatly refused an invitation to debate lesser known challenger James B. Harris (R-Zanesville). At first, Ney's spokesman Brian Walsh asserted that Ney was unable to debate Harris due to scheduling conflicts. Confronted with a statement by the League of Women Voters of Athens County that Ney had been offered as many as six alternative dates for the debate, Walsh at first disputed this account to both the Athens News and the Plain Dealer, but later conceded the truth of this account to the Plain Dealer and stated instead that Ney won't debate Harris "no matter how many dates the League proposes" because Ney "doesn't have time" and "Harris isn't a credible candidate because he hasn't registered with the Federal Election Commission, meaning he hasn't raised $5,000 yet." Walsh also said, "I think the whole thing is a little silly."

Harris isn't taking the incumbent's cavalier dismissal of his candidacy without a fuss, according to the Plain Dealer account:

"'I’m a farmer’s son,' he said. 'I’m frugal with my campaign dollars and, if elected, I’ll be frugal with our taxpayer dollars. I’m in this race, I’m serious and I’m going to take my shot.' If Ney agrees to a debate, the 36-year-old financial analyst said he's even willing to forgo any mention of the criminal investigation swirling around Ney's association with indicted political fixer Jack Abramoff. Until then, he said, he'll promote himself as a true Republican -- a member of the party of Lincoln -- pointing out that Ney and his high-rolling 'porkbrokers' belong 'to the party of Lincolns.'"
And, as quoted in the Athens News, Harris said:

"I argue that Ney is afraid of debating me and my Reagan Republican economic policies, but it's also possible that his handlers or lawyers don't want him debating any candidate or talking to any reporters while he's under federal investigation for felonies involving Jack Abramoff or bribery."

Personally, I find Ney's dismissal of Harris' candidacy rather bizarre, or at least very ironic. I should think that an incumbent who faces possible indictment involving bribery would take any primary challenger seriously, whether well-funded or not. And, Ney is awash with campaign contributions from PACs, corporations, and special interests outside Ohio ... isn't it a little weird for him to dismiss Harris for not raising enough cash? Is there really anything about Harris pursuing his campaign by e-mailing press releases from his Zanesville apartment that disqualifies him as a candidate? If I'm not mistaken, the first President of the United States limited his campaign activities to issuing statements from his garden at Mount Vernon. For a more contemporary example, there's the Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, Judge William O'Neill, who famously accepts no campaign contributions at all. Does O'Neill's primary opponent, Judge A.J. Wagner, refuse to debate him on that basis? I don't think so ... in fact, I attended a candidate forum featuring those two candidates speaking head-to-head in Cleveland just two days ago.

Ohio House 10th: Plain Dealer Endorses Jones (D)

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has endorsed Ronnie B. Jones (D-Cleveland) in the crowded Democratic primary in the 10th District of the Ohio House of Representatives, where incumbent Rep. Shirley Jones (D-Cleveland) is term-limited and is running for the Ohio Senate. The editorial board states that Jones "stands out as the most capable" among the seven Democratic contenders:

"Jones, for 33 years a warehouse manager for the Ferro Corp., is making his third run for the Ohio House. He is well-versed on current legislative and budgetary matters, as well as the social issues that will continue to percolate. Jones, 51, is especially concerned with matters pertaining to redevelopment of brownfields, inner-city economic development, senior citizens issues and public education. He is thoughtful and well prepared."
The editorial board also praises Jocelyn Travis (D-Cleveland), Bill Newsome Jr (D-Cleveland), and Eugene Miller (D-Cleveland) as candidates who "could serve ably, judging by their history of involvement in local issues as serious activists." In particular, "Travis is especially attractive, given her long involvement in voter registration and empowerment projects." The remaining contenders are Freddie Moore (D-Cleveland), former City Councilman Nelson Cintron Jr (D-Cleveland), and Marilyn Bagley (D-Cleveland). The Cuyahoga County Democratic Party is making no endorsement in the race. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Rosalind McAllister (R-Cleveland) in the general election.