Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Wednesday, May 31

Cong. OH-1st: Chabot (R) Ready for 2004

If you go to the campaign web site of 1st Congressional District incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati), you will find the remarkable statement that "[t]he Chabot for Congress campaign is already working hard on Congressman Chabot's 2004 re-election effort." Good to know.

Ohio House 14th: Foley (D) District Swearing-In Monday

Newly appointed State Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland), sworn in at a ceremony in Columbus last week, will have a second swearing-in ceremony for residents of his district on Monday, June 5, at Massimo da Milano, 1400 W. 25th Street, at 5:00 p.m.

Gov: Progress Reported in Talks Between Strickland (D), Tubbs Jones (D) & Mayors [UPDATED]

Anxious Democrats are advised to remain patient, because progress is being made. That's the subtext of a report from Jesse Taylor, Internet Communications Director for the gubernatorial campaign of Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), who writes:
"Ted had a great meeting with Stephanie and the mayors on Friday. Ted’s been meeting with them continuously, and things are progressing in the right direction."
The meeting to which he refers was described yesterday in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Rep. Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) "met with Strickland Friday. Tubbs Jones was joined by the following black leaders, who thus far have also withheld formal endorsements: Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin, and Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams. Political consultant Arnold Pinkney also attended the meeting."
This wrangling over public endorsement of Strickland's campaign has been going on for quite a long time, leading to outbursts such as this post on Dayton Politics today. However, based on Rep. Tubbs Jones' statement that she is seeking specific commitments for the benefit of her constituents as a condition of her support, I believe that the issues being hammered out are substantive and worthy of the time spent. Whole-hearted support by Rep. Tubbs Jones and the mayors for a campaign that is fully committed to an urban agenda will ultimately benefit everyone concerned.

UPDATE: The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that "Cleveland Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson will formally endorse Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland Thursday afternoon on the steps of Cleveland City Hall." Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman is also expected to endorse Strickland, his one-time gubernatorial rival, according to the report.

2nd UPDATE: Well, they're making quite the production of it. How's Ted going to get from one event to the next in time? Who's his driver, Jeff Gordon? Here is the schedule:

WHO: Mayor Michael Coleman, Congressman Ted Strickland & Lee Fisher
WHEN: 11:00 AM
WHERE: Ohio Democratic Party Headquarters, 271 E. State St., Columbus, Ohio 43215

WHO: Mayor Rhine McLin, Congressman Ted Strickland & Lee Fisher
WHEN: 1:30 PM
WHERE: Dayton Cultural Center, 40 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd., Dayton, Ohio 45402

WHO: Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Mayor Frank Jackson, Mayor Marcia Fudge and Congressman Ted Strickland
WHEN: 4:30 PM
WHERE: Arbor Park Village, 3750 Fleming Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115

Anticipating Obama

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will headline Saturday's Ohio Democratic Party 2006 State Dinner. Obama will meet briefly with bloggers at a table he is sponsoring for them. Just to set the record straight (more on that later), Obama has met with bloggers in several other states recently, including Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota. Obama gets it about the significance and potential of the political blogosphere.

He also gets it about leadership, and politics. Check out this excerpt from Kansas blogger Josh Rosenau's interview with the Senator:
Q. ... You are an unabashedly progressive, and in your campaign, you did very well in areas that are not that dissimilar from the politics of Kansas. So, what is there that we can learn ... from your example?

A. Well, you know, a couple of things. One, I think you can promote progressive values if you describe those values in pragmatic, common sense terms as opposed to ideological terms.

Q. So, for example…

A. If you're talking about an issue like health care, it's not necessary to rail against drug companies and insurance companies because a lot of people work at insurance companies. It is sensible to talk about the fact that the system right now is not working for people, and that we're wasting a lot of money in the system, and there's no reason that people should be bankrupt if they get sick. Those kinds of common sense attitudes cross party lines, cross divides of class and race. I think that's important.

The second thing that's important is that you don't shy away from the so-called values debate. Being willing to talk about faith and family and the challenges of raising children. Those are things that people feel very intimately. I think sometimes Democrats are a little patronizing about those issues, but those are in fact issues that people feel very deeply. They want meaning in their life, they want a sense of community in their life, they feel overwhelmed with all the different forces coming at them. Not all those problems are amenable to legislation, but if you recognize them and talk about them people feel that at least you're identifying with their experience. Those would be the two main pieces of advice. (emphasis mine)
There's a certain prominent Democratic candidate who would do well to tape that last part on his bathoom mirror and repeat it out loud every morning from now to November.

Now, to setting the record straight. Columbus Dispatch columnist Ann Fisher writes in today's edition about political bloggers. She does not fall completely into the common misperceptions about who we are and what we do, but she makes some statements that fall somewhere between misleading and wrong, and I want to respond.

Fisher recounts how Ohio Democratic Party Communications Director Brian Rothenberg declined to provide free admission to the dinner to a few bloggers who asked, and Obama subsequently offered to host a blogger table. Her focus, however, is her sympathetic portrayal of Rothenberg's "baptism by fire to the blogosphere." You see, Rothenberg has been "forced to navigate an unformed landscape" with few "real names" and where "ethics are just beginning to become an issue," and "he’s been burned." Oh yes, he has "felt the wrath of the blog." Rothenberg "is troubled," warning that in time, bloggers "are going to start self-policing or they are going to be policed."

Nonsense. Bloggers weren't happy about Rothenberg's decision not to grant access to the dinner, but by blogospheric standards their reaction was muted and short-lived. If he paid any real attention to blogs he would know what real blog wrath looks like. The story isn't that bloggers are bullies, but that Obama appreciates the value of granting bloggers access and Rothenberg does not. And Rothenberg's counterpart at the Ohio Republican Party, John McClelland, appears to get it too, since he is quoted as saying that bloggers "are not the traditional media, but we’ve tried to be open with them in terms of having access to our events, taking phone calls, answering any questions." Can we expect to begin receiving that kind of treatment from the ODP any time soon, please?

To the extent that Fisher's column implies that Obama bought a table for bloggers just to rescue Rothenberg or the ODP from the "wrath of the blog," see the first paragraph above about Obama meeting with bloggers during recent appearances in other states. This is something that he does because he wants to, and because he understands the value of the blogosphere, and the Ohio Democratic establishment has something important to learn from his example.

Tuesday, May 30

Ohio House 90th: Collier (R) Sued for Libel by Founder of Ohio Taxpayers Association

As reported in the Mount Vernon News here, Mount Vernon attorney Scott A. Pullins, the founder and head of the Ohio Taxpayers Association, has filed a $1 million libel lawsuit against State Rep. Thomas Collier (R-Mount Vernon), based on Collier's statement in a May 21 news report in the Canton Repository that Pullins is "a scoundrel, liar and cheat."

The Repository story chiefly concerned the employment of Pullins by the city of Canal Fulton at $200 per hour plus expenses to advise it on dealings with the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, which desires to establish a casino in Stark County. The story recounts that Pullins founded the Ohio Taxpayers Association in 2001 after breaking with the National Taxpayers Union. After a long career as a lobbyist, he earned his law degree from Capital University three years ago. He is the law director for the village of Brinkhaven on the Holmes-Knox county line, and a member of the Federalist Society.

Pullins was associated with Larry Householder when the latter was speaker of the Ohio House. The animosity between Pullins and Collier goes back to 2000, when Pullins and Collier each sought appointment to the same vacant seat in the Ohio House. Pullins attacked Collier at that time for allegedly owing back taxes and writing bad checks. Pullins now contends that the appointment process was flawed and a special election should have been held. That animosity led to these quotes in the Repository:
“Householder had him as puppet,” Collier said. “This guy’s in trouble every week. He attacked me in the newspaper. He sent information to members (of the Legislature) to try to keep the appointment from taking place. He helped my Democratic opponent. He helps who pays him. He proved himself for who he is. He’s a scoundrel, liar and cheat.”

“He can call me those names,” Pullins said, “but I’ve never cheated anyone or anything. He has.”
The libel case against Collier is not Pullins' only foray into litigation:
In February, Pullins forced the removal of Knox County’s only common pleas judge from a case involving a company suing Pullins and his wife over a disputed $6,950 home-repair bill. Pullins countersued for $431,000 and the company, Complete Comfort System, then sued Pullins for libel.

Pullins and his wife also are engaged in litigation against their neighborhood association, and claim Attorney General Petro succumbed to pressure from campaign contributors to drop an investigation of the association.

Mark Anthony, a spokesman for Petro, said no investigation was ever launched and Pulllins “remains seriously confused. We don’t have jurisdiction. He’s obviously trying to draw other people into this personal beef.”
In his libel complaint, Pullins calls Collier's statements “patently false” and made with malice and in an attempt to harm his reputation. He alleges that Collier’s comments caused him “physical and mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment and great loss of reputation.” He also alleges lost earnings and requests $1 million in compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys fees and costs.

Seeking to unseat Collier in the November general election is dairy farmer and entrepreneur Duane Grassbaugh (D-Howard), who also ran against Collier in 2004.

Monday, May 29

Memorial Day Parade

Today is Memorial Day. I join with all Americans of every political persuasion in honoring the sacrifice of our fallen heroes, who gave their lives in service to our country.

This is a bitter holiday for all of us who perceive (and are willing to admit, a much smaller group) that this deadly and protracted war in Iraq was not necessary, was not properly planned, has alienated our allies, has made our country less safe, and is not likely to result in a stable country of Iraq, much less a stable Middle East. We support and honor our troops, and pray for their safety and their quick return, and we also pray for a speedy end to this travesty of a war.

Today I marched in a Memorial Day Parade in University Heights, Ohio. I wore a Sherrod Brown tee shirt and a straw hat and walked with one of my dogs, the real yellow dog Sammy, who wore a red bandana with a Sherrod Brown sticker on it. We accompanied a car festooned with Sherrod Brown signs. We handed out Sherrod Brown stickers, tossed candy to children, and waved. Quite a few people cheered and applauded specifically for Sherrod. I was giving stickers mainly to kids, but a tall white-haired man asked for one. I said "Voting for Sherrod?" and he gave me a funny sideways look. "I've got a brain," he replied.

The Strickland people had a terrific banner, and lots of volunteers, even with other parades going on in other locations at the same time. It seemed like a lot of people along the street called out to them, saying things like "Go, Ted!," "He's our guy!" and in one instance "Better than what we got now, that's for sure!"

Stephanie Tubbs Jones was represented by three supporters and a decorated car. I thought I caught a glimpse of her later in a different car, which was following along after the parade, so perhaps she arrived a little late. The man on the right is Chris Nance, a Tubbs Jones aide. A Strickland guy came over before the parade and asked Nance if he could put a Strickland sticker on their car. He said, "No, we can't do that." I asked him later if there were any developments that he could tell me about as a result of the meeting on Friday between Strickland, Tubbs Jones, and Arnold Pinkney. He said no, but discussions are continuing.

This is former representative Barbara Boyd, who is running for her old 9th District seat, in her brother's black Corvette. She usually drives a big red minivan. "You get more respect in a Corvette," she said.

Boyd is running against Rev. Jimmie Hicks Jr, a long time Democrat and Cleveland Heights city council member who is running as a Republican. You can see for yourself how many times it says "Republican" on his sign.

Suzanne Bretz Blum, running for Common Pleas Judge, posed with members of Team Blum while they were getting everything ready.

Unfortunately, it was very hot and during the parade Sammy began to suffer too much to continue. So, I had to leave the parade about half way through and take the poor pup home, where he recovered quickly and is doing fine.

Thursday, May 25

Gov & US Sen: Strickland (D) and DeWine (R) Lead in New Poll

Faminehorse at Psychobilly Democrat has just posted the results of a new poll from the University of Cincinnati:
Ted Strickland (D) 50
Ken Blackwell (R) 44
Other 2
Undecided 5

U.S. Senate:

Mike DeWine (R) 52
Sherrod Brown (D) 42
Other 1
Undecided 5
These results contrast sharply with the last Rasmussen poll, which showed Strickland with a 16 point lead and DeWine trailing Brown by 3 points.

UPDATE: The Cleveland Plain Dealer "blog" Openers looks a little deeper, noting that Strickland and Brown both trail their rivals in name recognition, and despite his labor backing Brown trails DeWine in union households 54-43. Democracy Guy is all over it.

2nd UPDATE: The AP story on this poll, as reported in the Akron Beacon Journal, takes a closer look at the favorability ratings:
When asked whether they had a positive opinion of the candidates, people of all parties gave Strickland a 10 percent favorability rating. Blackwell's was lower at just 3 percent, fueled by a heavy unfavorable sentiment among registered Democrats. The rating measures the percentage difference between voters with positive and negative opinions of the candidate.

DeWine was viewed most positively, receiving a 15 percent favorability rating, compared to 7 percent for Brown.

The poll also revealed a significant lack of information about the candidates among registered voters. Forty-five percent of voters surveyed - and particularly independents - said they know too little about Blackwell to judge him. Fifty-one percent said they still need more information about Strickland, with only those in his southeastern Ohio congressional district claiming adequate knowledge.
3rd UPDATE: Okay, so now I've studied the internal numbers myself and this is what jumps out at me:

* Among African-American voters, Strickland leads Blackwell 55% to 32%, less than Brown's lead over DeWine among this group (67% to 17%), with a relatively large 13% undecided in each race. However, Blackwell's favorability rating among African-American respondents is -13 (26% to 39%), while Strickland's is even (12% to 12%), and notice how many fewer responded at all as to Strickland. Strickland has work to do, but there's plenty of hope here.

* Strickland leads Blackwell among Independents 46% to 27%, and among Moderates 47% to 36%. That's huge. Brown trails among Independents 38% to 47%, and among Moderates 31% to 57%.

* Unfortunately for Brown, DeWine's numbers don't show as much of a problem with his ideological base as I would expect. DeWine's support among Conservatives is 67%, only four points lower than Brown's support among Liberals (71%).

* Brown leads 50% to 43% among those 65 or older. He trails by 6% among those 46 to 64, and by double-digits among those in younger brackets. However, this is a poll of registered voters, not likely voters, and older voters are more reliable.

* Brown is merely tied in his geographic base of NE Ohio (47% to 47%), but leads in SE Ohio (53% to 44%), while trailing elsewhere, especially in DeWine's SW Ohio base (34% to 61%). What's the deal with SE Ohio -- is it a Strickland effect?

Ohio House 58th: White (R) Sworn In Today

Retired executive Dan White (R-Bronson Township), winner of the Republican nomination in the Ohio House 58th District, has been appointed as interim Representative to replace resigning incumbent Kathleen Reed (R-Norwalk) and will be sworn in today, along with 14th District appointee Mike Foley (D-Cleveland). The 58th District is in Seneca, Huron and Lorain Counties. White will face Matthew Barrett (D-Amherst), who received 46.01% of the vote in 2004, in the general election.

Rep. Reed was named Kathleen Walcher in 2004 when she reported strange incidents of harassment to the Norwalk police, which she blamed on "trial attorneys and Democrats" determined to drive her from office.

Wednesday, May 24

Ohio House 61st: Luther (R) Certified as Winner by Thirteen Votes

According to the web site of former county auditor and Ohio House of Representatives candidate Brant Luther (R-Alliance), all four counties in the 61st District (Carroll, Mahoning, Tuscarawas and Stark) have now certified and released their official election results, and Luther has defeated city councilman and three-time candidate Randy Pope (R-Alliance) by thirteen votes. Luther had led by ten votes according to unofficial results. Because the margin of victory is less than 0.5%, there will be an automatic recount.

In a statement, Luther says:
"I am very grateful for the trust of the Republican voters of the 61st District. Merrilee and I and our team worked extremely hard to get the word out about what I stand for, and what I believe. I am so pleased that the voters heard our message, and I am honored to be the Republican nominee. This has been a spirited Primary campaign, but it is now time to set our differences aside and begin the serious work to make sure we elect a consistent Conservative Representative to speak for us in Columbus. . . . I will be getting the word out about my plan to fight for tax cuts; slash wasteful spending in Columbus; and reduce job-killing frivolous lawsuits and rebuild our economy so families in the 61st District can pursue the American dream. We will never get Ohio back onto its feet and begin to attract new jobs if we don't get our taxing and spending problem under control.

This campaign will be about ideas, and who has the best ones to turn Ohio around so that we can get Ohio back on track. . . . There is a lot of work to do between now and November, but I am confident that when the voters have the opportunity to research my record of serving the public with integrity and backbone, they will choose Brant Luther to stand up on their behalf as a voice for much-needed reform at the State House."
Luther faces Canton attorney Mark D. Okey (D-Carrollton) in the general election. Incumbent Rep. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown), who is running for Ohio Senate in the 33rd District, won this seat with 65.66% of the vote against Pope in 2004.

US Sen: Brown (D) Demands Action on Stem Cell Research

One year ago today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill co-sponsored by Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) that would repeal the restriction placed on stem cell research by George W. Bush. Broadening the scope of stem cell research is supported by 72% of the American public, and by a majority of each major Christian denomination, and the measure would pass if brought before the Senate today. Nevertheless, this legislation has been blocked by a small group of conservative Senators, including Brown's opponent Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville).

Brown is marking the anniversary by posting a call to action on The Huffington Post, urging readers to sign an online petition to end the standoff.

In his post, Brown says that the House vote "gave hope to the 100 million Americans who suffer from serious medical conditions" by holding out "the promise to cure and treat cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and spinal cord injuries." Crediting the "courageous work of the late Dana and Christopher Reeve and many other patient advocates" with building public support for the bill, Brown notes that conservatives such as Orrin Hatch, Gordon Smith, and Nancy Reagan support expanding stem cell research. As for his opponent, Brown says:
"Senator DeWine has changed his position on other issues. I don't see any reason why he can't do the same for stem cell research. Ohio families shouldn't have to wait till next January for a new U.S. Senator to vote the right way. We need to change course today."
Please join me in signing the petition today.

Tuesday, May 23

Ohio Sen. 5th: McLaurin (R) Financial Troubles Reported

The blog Dayton Politics is reporting that Ohio Senate 5th District candidate Donald McLaurin (R), pictured, who is the mayor of Trotwood, Ohio, appears to be in serious financial straits. This link to the web site of the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts reveals that a judgment for $242,835.37 with 15% interest has been entered against McLaurin in favor of Pramco III, LLC, with the result that judgment enforcement proceedings (including a foreclosure action on McLaurin's residence) are underway.

Dayton Politics previously reported that McLaurin's property taxes on his residence are delinquent.

The Ohio Senate 5th District encompasses parts of Darke and Montgomery Counties and all of Miami County. McLaurin opposes incumbent Sen. Tom Roberts (D-Trotwood), who won this seat with 52.46% of the vote in 2002.

Cong. OH-15th: GOP Seeks to Remove Morrison (I) From Ballot

Trying to prevent incumbent Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) from losing votes to a challenger on the right, GOP officials from three counties are trying to have ultra-conservative independent candidate Charles Morrison II (pictured) removed from the ballot, as reported in the Columbus Dispatch here:
Charles R. Morrison II, who ran unsuccessfully against Pryce in GOP primaries in 2002 and 2004, filed to run as an independent this year against the incumbent and Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy.

He can’t do it, Republicans contend, because he’s one of them.

Ohio law defines independent candidates as those who claim no party affiliation, and Morrison voted in the Republican primary one day after filing his nomination papers on May 1.

"Charles Morrison was, is and remains a Republican," said Franklin County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse, who filed the protest along with his counterparts in Madison and Union counties.
Morrison filed plenty of valid signatures by the May 1 deadline, but the GOP contends that he has affirmed his GOP party affiliation by circulating petitions to run for the GOP state central committee and for a county GOP central committee at the same time that he was collecting signatures for his independent candidacy.

The campaign of Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D) has issued a statement calling this a sign that Pryce is running scared:
This is a desperate attempt by Deborah Pryce and Ohio Republicans to shield voters from Deborah Pryce's record of fiscal irresponsibility and record spending. It looks like the 'little deficit hole' has turned into a big political problem for Deborah Pryce with her conservative base, and she knows it.

Monday, May 22

US Sen: Brown (D) and Reid Announce Clean EDGE Plan

On Saturday I went to a press conference held by U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in front of the Great Lakes Science Center on Cleveland's waterfront, standing at the base of the new wind turbine that is expected to provide 7% of the GLSC's electricity once it is up and running. It was one of those crisp, breezy, brilliantly sunny days we get, where the lake-chilled wind battles the sunlight's warmth for supremacy. A gaggle of reporters, camera crews, campaign aides, political activists, and at least two bloggers (Bill of Callahan's Cleveland Diary and I) milled about on the plaza waiting for the event to begin. A pair of placard-bedecked LaRouchies tried to call attention to the Great Ethanol Swindle and how Nuclear and Fusion Are Our Only Hope - sorry, I did not accept their xeroxed information packet and cannot provide details on those topics.

Brown and Reid arrived with additional speakers Rev. Lois Annich, a Presbyterian minister, and Jennifer Tucker, a graduate student in nursing, each a wife and mother whose families are adversely impacted by high gas prices. They clustered around a small sign on a stand that said "Lower Gas Prices - Secure America." The rest of us stood in a semi-circle, just far enough away to make it very difficult to hear their unamplified voices in the breeze (especially Reid, who speaks rather softly).

Sherrod Brown spoke first and explained that the purpose of the event was to unveil the Clean EDGE Initiative, the Democratic plan to lower gas prices and move America toward energy independence. "EDGE" stands for Energy Development for a Growing Economy -- not a bad acronym at all. Senate Democrats had introduced the Clean Edge Act of 2006 a few days before. The plan combines immediate actions and long-term responses to the gas price crisis. In the short term, motorists would get a "gas tax vacation," suspending the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline (24 cents on diesel) for 60 days, paid for by repealing the obscenely huge subsidies for oil companies instituted by the GOP; the Federal Trade Commission would get the authority to fine big oil companies for gas gouging; and to make that authority more effective the FTC would also get immediate access to oil company books and records. Long term, the plan would build a regional reserve system to stabilize prices; increase investment in bio-fuels (like ethanol) and the facilities for distributing it (25% of new vehicles must be flex-fuel capable by 2010, 50% by 2020, and a goal would be set of selling alternative fuel at 10% of gas stations by 2015); and invest in hybrid and fuel cell development. The overall goal is to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption by 6 million barrels per day (40% of what we import) by 2020, with the federal government leading the way by reducing its own oil consumption. Brown emphasized the hardship of high gas prices on Ohio families, and said "it is time for Congress to stand up to oil companies and on the side of middle class families." He also stressed the role that Ohio could play in the development and production of alternative fuel technologies, which would bring jobs back to the state, and warned that we can expect no improvement in gas prices and foreign oil dependency from a Congress and a President whose campaigns are funded by big contributions from oil companies. Brown's opponent, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville), has received more than $330,000 in campaign contributions from oil companies over his political career.

Harry Reid started by saying that he has had many good and bad days in Washington DC, but "no day was better than when Sherrod Brown announced he would run for the Senate." Then he said that the wind turbine behind them "represents the future of Ohio just like LeBron James represents the future of baskeball," which was a big applause line. He pointed out that America consumes 21 million barrels of oil every day, 60% of it imported, and "we cannot produce our way out of this crisis" because only 3% of world oil reserves are in the United States. "Benjamin Franklin wrote that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over hoping that something will change," he continued, and "this is what the Republicans do -- drill, drill, drill." America needs to be weaned off foreign oil, and alternative fuel technology is the way to do it. He talked about the importance of requiring service stations to sell ethanol and other alternative fuels, and the federal government must "set an example" by reducing its own gasoline consumption. He also said that he had just left New Orleans (Reid is on a speaking tour of red states), and that "most people gloss over the reason" why the terrible hurricane destruction there occurred. "Global warming is here," he said, and storms like Katrina "are not an accident." We "have at our fingertips" the technology to stop using so much oil, but "until we try something different, we will keep doing the same thing."

Rev. Annich, who is a counselor as well as a minister, followed by talking about how "good, decent, hard-working people are feeling the stress of high gas prices." She invoked the "tradition in scripture" of fighting for social justice, and said that record oil company profits from soaring prices "is a social injustice of the highest order." Jennifer Tucker talked about how she commutes from Medina to Case Western Reserve University and downtown hospitals for her graduate program, and her husband commutes to Mayfield Heights for his job, with the result that they spend between $300 and $500 per month on gasoline, financed through student loans.

During the Q and A, Reid was asked about the Democrats' plans for when they have control of Congress. If the election were held today, he said, the Democrats would take control of the Senate. Rather than talk about "what" Democrats stand for, however, he said he wanted to talk about "who" Democrats stand for, such as the 46 million Americans without health insurance, the many more who are underinsured, and the victims of cuts to veterans benefits and student loan programs. "When we take over Congress, we aren't going to spend all our time on investigations," he said, "we are going to pass legislation." Bush hasn't vetoed a single law in five years "because he hasn't had to -- there has been no functioning third branch of government." Asked about Democratic plans for investment in mass transit, Reid really warmed to the topic. He lamented that the U.S. has not invested in train facilities and talked about taking a hard look at high speed rail technologies like magnetic rail.

The press kit for the event included additional information about the scope of the gas crisis and how Republicans are "addicted to oil company cash." Since 1997, the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee in charge of overseeing mergers, chaired by DeWine, has held just one hearing to examine high gas prices, and it was two years ago. Oil companies have contributed $73 million to Bush and the Republican Congress since 2000, with Bush receiving $2.6 million in 2004. DeWine voted with the Republican majority for $10 billion in targeted tax breaks to oil and gas companies, which Brown opposed.

The gas crisis and reducing energy dependence is a great issue for Democratic candidates, and putting forward a concrete plan for dealing with it is a big boost for their campaigns. Brown is hitting the link between DeWine and oil company contibutions hard. As pointed out in the press kit, DeWine is # 13 on the list of Senate recipients of oil company contributions so far this election cycle (all 13 are Republicans; DeWine has so far received $34,150). With industry observers predicting that gas prices could continue to rise (possibly as high as $5.00 per gallon), this issue will get much more traction as the campaign goes along.

UPDATE: Video of the event, hosted on YouTube, is here. Listening to the audio, I realize just how much of the remarks I couldn't hear in person due to the breeze. Go check it out to get the full story!

Sunday, May 21

Ohio House 14th: Foley (D) Wins After Recount

The brother of Ohio House 14th District candidate Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) contacted Staff at Buckeye State Blog yesterday to report that, following a recount, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has certified Foley as the winner over Bill Ritter (D-Cleveland) by 115 votes out of about 12,000 votes cast. Official results have been posted at the Board of Elections site here.

As previously reported on this blog, Ritter angered the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats and progressive bloggers by sending out a gay-baiting campaign newsletter shortly before the election. Foley, director of the Cleveland Tenants Organization, was also backed by the SEIU.

UPDATE: As reported in the Plain Dealer "blog" Openers here, Foley will be sworn in on Thursday, May 25, as the replacement for Dale Miller (D-Cleveland), who vacated this seat when appointed to the Ohio Senate earlier this year. In a press release Foley says:
"It has been a long roller-coaster ride to get to this point. I'm relieved and excited about the results. I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and represent the people of the 14th District."

Friday, May 19

Week in Review at "American Street"

Friday is my day for guest blogging at American Street, so hop over there to read my Notes from Ohio for this week: Blackwell Dumps TEL, Strickland's Hard Sell, Montgomery Unwell and Mixing Religion and Politics, Lefty Style.

Congratulations, HeightsMom!

Ohio blogger Cindy Zawadzki of HeightsMom has given birth to a 7 lb. 12oz Democrat named Konrad! Stop by her blog and leave a note of congratulations in the comments!

Atty Gen: Montgomery (R) in ICU With Serious Nerve Illness

As reported in the Columbus Dispatch here, attorney general candidate and State Auditor Betty Montgomery (R) is in the intensive-care unit at Ohio State University Medical Center, diagnosed with a paralyzing nerve disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome. She is reportedly on a respirator. More information about this serious illness can be found at the web site of the Guillan-Barre Syndrome Foundation International.

The range of recovery time from Guillain-Barre varies radically, from a few weeks to over a year. The use of a ventilator does not necessarily indicate that Montgomery's recovery will be slow, according to the news report: "One-quarter to one-third of Guillain-Barre sufferers are placed on respirators and the need for one has little bearing on the rate of recovery." Additional information on Montgomery's condition will be forthcoming after tests and observation.

UPDATE (5/31): After several days of marked improvement, Montgomery has been moved from the ICU to a regular treatment ward, according to a report on her website. We wish her a continued speedy recovery.

Thursday, May 18

Ohio Sen. 3rd: Knocking on Doors with Emily Kreider (D)

I'm a political blogger. I comment on elections from the outside. So I was startled when Ohio Senate 3rd District candidate Emily Kreider (D-Westerville) sent me an email recently, inviting me to join her as she knocks on doors in her district, something she does five days per week. I had posted a profile of Ohio Senate races with Republican incumbents, including the 3rd District, about which I wrote that "Kreider seems like an appealing candidate for this district. Her status as a small business owner, calling for strengthening communities and helping business, and her moderately pro-life position should help her. Her personal charisma may help make up for her lack of campaign experience." So I was intrigued and accepted the invitation.

Emily Kreider lives with her husband (and campaign treasurer) Tim and teen daughters Barbara and Rachel on a residential cul-de-sac tucked behind the retail businesses on a commercial street. Kreider's campaign headquarters are located in her dining room and den. On the dining room wall is a large map of the district, while heaps of notebooks and papers occupy the dining room table. The den is the center of computer and internet operations, including a customized data base for tracking voter contacts by Kreider and her host of over 200 volunteers. In addition to door-to-door canvassing, Kreider's grass-roots campaign includes weekly phone-banking.

We talked a bit about how she got into politics while waiting for her regional volunteer coordinator, Roger Moore, to arrive. Kreider worked as a volunteer in the 2004 presidential election, and afterward she and her co-workers decided that it was important to get Democrats elected locally. Laughing, she told me that when she first approached the Ohio Democratic Party about running for the Ohio House of Representatives, she really didn't know much about it. However, she points out, her supporters don't want a career politician, they want an average person to whom they can relate. The thing she hears most often from voters, she says, is that they're disgusted with politics. Too much corruption, too much scandal.

I asked about her switch from running for the Ohio House 19th District (where long-time political activist and grandmother of three Marian Harris (D-Columbus) is now taking on incumbent Larry L. Flowers (R-Canal Winchester)) to seeking the Ohio Senate seat of incumbent David Goodman (R-New Albany). She replied that she jumped at the chance when Democratic Party leaders suggested it, because "I'll represent more people." The 3rd District cast 48.7% of its votes for John Kerry in 2004, so the potential support for a Democratic candidate exists. (Kreider added that 70% percent of the district's voters are officially listed as independents, although that number includes many who consider themselves Republicans.) Although she hasn't run for office before, she prides herself on her organizational skills (she has run a specialty toys store and a consulting business) and her one-on-one people skills (she has completed a postgraduate program for psychotherapists and worked on a child abuse and neglect prevention program for the Homeless Families Foundation and at a private psychotherapy practice). Plus, she has help from campaign aides who have worked on other campaigns, including at least one who has run campaigns for Republicans.

Trying to pinpoint her position on the ideological spectrum, I learned that this is a complicated question and not one she enjoys discussing, although she's happy to talk about particular issues. She considers herself pro-life and is the drafter of the Ohio 95-10 Plan, a seven-point proposal for state legislation to reduce the number of abortions in Ohio by 95% in the next 10 years, comparable to a national plan sponsored by Democrats for Life. On the other hand, she is endorsed by the Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio, she's a strong supporter of labor unions ("we need them more than ever"), and she supports raising the minimum wage (which she is quick to insist will not hurt small businesses). On her campaign web site she emphasizes reducing reliance on property taxes for school funding, making health insurance more affordable for small business owners and their employees, and bringing manufacturing jobs back to Ohio.

Kreider says that the number one issue that 3rd District voters bring up is school funding. This focus is heightened by recent school levies that passed in Westerville and failed in Worthington. The number two issue is the economy, frequently expressed in terms of the high price of gasoline and the outsourcing of jobs. When I asked about the issue of abortion she said that voters don't often bring it up, but she is aware that there is an image of Democrats as being pro-abortion and "this matters, especially if people don't know much about either candidate."

With the arrival of Moore, a Navy veteran who sports a NASCAR hat and talks fondly of his days as a Reagan Republican (before George W. Bush soured him on the GOP), we set out a little after 5:30 pm to knock on doors. As we approached each house, Moore consulted the walk list on his clipboard and announced the political affiliations of the registered voters at that address. "Two 'U's and a 'D'," he might say, meaning that two residents are unaffiliated and one votes a Republican ballot in primary elections. We did not stop at all-'R' houses -- not a good use of campaign resources -- but houses with one D and one R seemed to be Kreider's special favorite. "I really like those," she said, "they're very interesting."

At the first several houses we got no answer. ("Too early," Kreider advised, "more people will be getting home around six or six-thirty.") Whenever that happened, the candidate carefully wrote out a note on a Post-It, signed it "Emily," and left it on her campaign flyer hanging on the door handle. I was impressed, even more so when she told me that she sends a hand-written follow-up postcard to every voter she actually meets.

The first person to answer was a tall, thin man with a mischievous smile under a big gray mustache. "Hi, I'm Emily Kreider and I'm the Democratic candidate for the Ohio Senate in our district," the candidate said, "May I leave some literature with you?" This was the point where I would have expected the man's smile to fade but it didn't happen. Kreider's manner is personable and disarming, her smile is very genuine, and at house after house people were happy to talk to her. In this case, the voter was a retired administrator for a school bus system. Kreider asked him about the effect of privatization on school bus operations and they spoke at some length, with the candidate mostly listening. When she happened to refer again to being a Democrat, he froze and jokingly made to hand back the flyer. (Apparently he didn't hear the word earlier.) "I've consistently voted Republican," he said, but added after a slight pause, "I didn't vote this last time [in the primary], though. Nope, it was just down there at the school, but I didn't go over there." Asked why, he spoke of his perception that legislation has come to be passed by a big consortium of interests who don't care about what people like him want. After a bit more discussion he announced, "Well, you're my neighbor, I'll vote for you. I'll talk to my wife, maybe she'll vote for you too." After a few pleasantries we turned to go and he said, "Unless your opponent comes and promises me pie in the sky, I'll vote for you." Then he revised his position. "Actually, if he promises me pie in the sky, then I'm definitely voting for you."

We spoke to about eight more people before I had to leave to drive back to Cleveland. There were two women sitting on their porch, registered Democrats, one of whom asked "Now, what party is Bush in again?" The other woman suggested addresses for finding more registered Democrats. There was a young man who accepted the flyer but said that he doesn't know how he will vote until he "figures it out by watching stuff on TV." (Moore gave him an "Emily" sticker for his pickup truck.) A young couple followed their dog out onto the front porch, where the man said they were "issue-driven" conservatives. "Particularly the right to life," he said, "I would never vote for a candidate who is for abortion." Kreider referred him to the part of her flyer that says she is pro-life. At that house Kreider casually asked the woman if she went to church nearby, and invited her to attend Kreider's church. (I asked later if she did this often and she blushed, saying that she does not, the question just came out naturally in that instance.) There was an elderly retired man who spoke of how he and his emphysema-stricken wife could barely pay their expenses due to rising property taxes. Kreider listened sympathetically and mentioned her idea for revising the homestead exemption to reduce property taxes for senior adults and disabled people. Only one person shooed us away, saying that she had guests for dinner, although another looked so grim that Kreider merely offered him her flyer, thanked him, and left. "Do you think I did the right thing?" she asked me. I admitted that I thought she interpreted his body language correctly.

By the end of my visit I was convinced that Emily Kreider is, as she said, very good at one-to-one interactions. People responded positively to her. She is an excellent listener, a rare and under-rated quality, and my sense was that people relate to her as a concerned friend and neighbor rather than as a mere politician.

Before I left we spoke a bit more about the role of faith in politics. "Rod Parsley is in my district," she pointed out. (Rev. Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church in Canal Winchester is a co-founder of the Ohio Restoration Project.) Kreider is up-front about her active membership in the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Westerville, and believes it is a good thing for an elected official's religious faith to inform decision-making, but she says that she "doesn't feel it's necessary to bring it up on the doorstep." The real danger of mixing religion and politics, she added, is the diluting of faith. She recommended the book "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It," by Jim Wallis, as something that influenced her thinking on the question.

As I drove away they were walking on to the next house.

Gov: Blackwell (R) Blinks

In the game of chicken between gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) and the crushing groundswell of opposition to his campaign's signature initiative, the frighteningly draconian Tax & Expenditure Limitation Amendment (TEL), Blackwell has flinched.

Helping Blackwell to bail in order to avoid the collision, Republican lawmakers agreed to pass a watered-down version of TEL as a state statute (it would not affect local and municipal spending), and to pass a law permitting the sponsors of the TEL constitutional amendment to withdraw it from the ballot, as reported in the Columbus Dispatch:
Although Blackwell had insisted for more than a year that the state needs the amendment, he agreed to the move in the face of fierce criticism from local-government officials that the TEL plan was flawed and the fear among some Republicans that it would be a political albatross. ...

But he had insisted throughout the primary campaign that he would not back away from the TEL amendment and would wage an aggressive campaign for it.

"The fact is that a half a million people signed a petition saying that they want this to be before the people for a vote. I happen to believe in it," Blackwell told The Dispatch in April. "I’m prepared to make our public case (for the amendment), and I’m prepared to run on making that public case this fall."

Blackwell also ridiculed GOP primary opponent Jim Petro throughout the campaign for changing positions on issues, saying, "I can hold a position on an issue longer than six months without getting exhausted."
Democrats are all over it. ODP Chairman Chris Redfern said, "I’m just floored that we just witnessed the entire political underpinnings of a campaign being ripped away." Gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) says Blackwell’s willingness to back away from the amendment makes it difficult to believe anything Blackwell says he supports. "For him, in the face of political pressure, to so quickly abandon what he has said for months was so important to the future of Ohio, I think it does represent weakness," Strickland said. In a written statement to the press, Strickland elaborates:
This is one for the history books. I suppose Mr. Blackwell will be able to say he was for the TEL ballot initiative before he was against it.

I think it’s becoming clearer every day that Mr. Blackwell will say and do anything in order to try to win an election. Mr. Blackwell built his entire campaign for governor on the TEL amendment and now he is folding in the face of massive opposition. Mr. Blackwell’s flip-flop on the TEL begs the question: If voters can’t trust him to stand up for his own ideas, how can they trust Mr. Blackwell to stand up for them?

My position on the TEL amendment has been and will remain solid. I am opposed to this unwise approach to our state government, as are business leaders, educators, health care providers, fire departments, libraries and local governments across Ohio.

How will the anti-tax extremists in Blackwell's base react to this retreat by their man of principle, the rock-solid anti-tax champion? Maybe not so well:

David Hansen, president of the conservative Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said it’s not good enough to pass a state law that doesn’t limit spending by local governments and doesn’t apply to fees and other revenue. "A statute referring only to state (general-revenue funding) is only addressing part of the problem and not even the worst part of the problem," he said.
Additional coverage from the Toledo Blade is here.

Wednesday, May 17

Religious Leaders Launch "We Believe - Cleveland"

Late this morning an SRO crowd of clergy and laity packed the Brooks Theater at The Cleveland Play House to witness the launching of "We Believe - Cleveland," an extension of Columbus-based We Believe Ohio, described as a faith-based movement for compassion, inclusion and social justice. Dozens of Cleveland-area religious leaders, including pastors, priests, rabbis, cantors, imams and active lay leaders, surrounded the principal speakers during the program. Although the movement is said to have its origins in discussions among faith leaders that have been going on for many years, it has moved into the public spotlight in reaction to the activities of the Ohio Restoration Project, founded by Columbus-area right-wing evangelical ministers Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson, whose stated intention is to recruit hundreds of "Patriot Pastors" to encourage hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians to vote according to conservative positions on certain social issues, particularly abortion and gay marriage.

The event was led by Rabbi Richard Block of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, who said that the gathered clergy represented "diverse faiths, traditions, and backgrounds," but "share an understanding of God as One who loves, unites, and embraces, not as one who rejects, divides, and excludes." He cited religious diversity as a source of strength and vitality, and declared that freedom of religion must be protected. "The separation of church and state is not hostile to religion, but guarantees that religion will flourish in all its rich variety." It is not a coincidence, he continued, that America is the leading defender of separation of church and state, and is the most religious country in the world. He also said that the group is not aware of any major religious tradition that is not concerned about the plight of the underprivileged, or that tolerates indifference to their suffering.

Rev. Tim Ahrens of the First Conregational Church (UCC) in Columbus described the movement as beginning with certain religious leaders asking themselves whether the Christian church that is being presented in the public square is the one that they revere, to which the answer was a resounding "No." The first decision they made was that the movement should involve not just the Christian church, but other faiths as well. "We need to enter the public square focused on the moral issues of poverty, jobs, education, and health care for all Ohioans."

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, who was once co-pastor with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, linked the launching of We Believe-Cleveland to the struggle for civil rights, noting that May 17 marks the 52nd anniversity of the unanimous declaration by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education that "segregation or apartheid has no place in the field of education," and to opposition to the Vietnam War by clergy in the 1960s. He said that the nation is drifting back into segregated, isolated, and inadequate public education, and needs to recommit itself to decent public education as the cornerstone of a free and democratic society. Every American deserves comprehensive health care, he continued, "not just some complicated, difficult to interpret, hard to understand set of regulations that is set to expire at midnight one evening in May." The fact that fifty million Americans are without health insurance, he said, is a kind of weapon of mass destruction. Patriotism is a "quest for a more perfect union," not "a demand that you agree with me, and if you disagree then you are unpatriotic." He called for a theology of love, of justice, of inclusion, of non-violence, of forgiveness, and of reconciliation, closing by invoking the words of Dr. King:
"Vanity asks, is it popular? Cowardice asks, is it safe? Politics asks, is it expedient? But there comes a time when we must be prepared to say and do that which is not popular, which is not necessarily safe, which is not considered expedient, but which is right."
Rev. Tracey Lind of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and Rev. Dr. Marvin McMickle of the Antioch Baptist Church, both of Cleveland, then led the gathering in a responsive reading of the movement's mission statement, which expresses support for justice for all, for diverse religious expression, for the common good, and for the voice of religious traditions informing public policy, but opposes prosperity for only a few, self-righteous certainty, "discrimination against any of God's people," and crossing the lines that separate the institutions of religion and government.

Rev. Dr. Joan Campbell of the Chautauqua Institution and Rev. Dr. Ken Chalker of the First United Methodist Church followed by announcing the movement's "action steps," which include educating congregations on the moral and social issues of education, child welfare, poverty, health care, inclusion, regional equity and housing, "engaging members of our congregations in the democratic process, including voting," working with other communities to build a statewide movement, and promoting civility and respect, especially during the electoral season. Under the heading of educating congregations, the movement pledges to support the upcoming NOAH Regional Equity Summit on May 26 and InterAct Cleveland's Forum on Pluralism and Civility in June, and promises to "host an educational event on the TEL/TABOR amendment" in the fall. At this point in the proceedings Rev. Chalker departed from the carefully circumspect rhetoric of other participants and said that he was there to "kick butt and name names," referring specifically (for the only time in the event) to the Ohio Restoration Project and Patriot Pastors. He stressed the importance of letting people know that "their vote is so important for issues about which we all care - our kids, education, health care, equity in housing, and accepting diversity," and of standing "against voices saying that if you believe in God, there is only one way to vote - that is wrong!"

During the Q and A, representatives of the group denied any intention to endorse specific candidates, saying that they will "address policies" and that "policies will determine the leaders"; resisted the idea that the movement sprang up solely in reaction to the Ohio Restoration Project; denied that the movement would contribute to the nastiness of election campaigns; disputed the claim of right-wing religious leaders that their opposition to abortion and gay marriage is no different from past clergy's opposition to slavery or support for civil rights; and acknowledged as a boundary to their activities that they would not explicitly, or by obvious implication, endorse any particular candidate for office. In connection with the last answer, Rabbi Block made the point that "God is not affiliated with a political party," and that "religion should not be the servant of the state, but the conscience of the state, and the state should not be the tool of any sectarian group."

Gov: Strickland (D) Warmly Received at Cleveland Campaign Stop

A mostly African-American crowd of at least 150 roared their approval yesterday at the Harvard Community Services Center in Cleveland's southeastern 1st Ward as gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) promised a state government that is inclusive and committed to an "urban agenda" of improving economic opportunity, safety, and schools.

City Councilwoman Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) fired up the listeners with a rousing introduction. Opening with a theme of "carpe diem," she called on voters to "seize this time" and accept the "challenge of turning Ohio around" by using the "tool in your toolbox" of voting for the Strickland/Fisher ticket. Speaking specifically to her "African-American brothers and sisters," Turner warned:
"The other side is going to run a race about race -- but this race should be about the quality of services, about education, and about jobs. This race is about electing someone who genuinely cares about your family and it's future.
Turner also linked the race to 2008, igniting the audience by declaring that "we can pick a Governor who will serve the state, but more importantly, we're on the way to the White House." Reviewing Strickland's background as a teacher and his humble beginnings as the son of a steelmill worker, Turner asserted that his rural experience puts him in touch with the urban experience. She said that Strickland came and said that he might not understand the urban agenda, but that he sought the help he needed to understand and improve urban conditions.

Handed an energized crowd, Strickland responded with equal enthusiasm. After praising and thanking Turner, he joked that he was late because he had been meeting with "a bunch of ministers," and one "can't tell when they will stop talking." (I overheard someone saying later that the meeting featured 52 ministers.) He then said that the meeting with ministers included Strickland, running mate Lee Fisher (D-Cleveland), and "the Congresswoman" (presumably Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland)), and that the pastors "put their hands on us and blessed us," which had Strickland feeling "I can do anything today!" I took this to mean that Strickland and Tubbs Jones have resolved their differences and have publicly signalled their intention to work together, particularly since an AP reporter later mentioned that he had attended the meeting. If my understanding is correct, this is very welcome news.

"Ohio needs a brighter future," Strickland proclaimed, because jobs are leaving the state, too many young people who are incarcerated have no jobs when they come out (tremendous applause), and young people are neglected. The only way to solve these problems, he said, is to "join together, to bring heads and hearts together." He decried the prevailing "individualistic" attitude of expecting each person to fend for him or herself, pointing out how "none of us get through this world alone," using examples of how we all "depend on our fellow man" throughout our lives. "We're in this together," he asserted, echoing the campaign theme of U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown (D-Avon), "and we need to get back to where we cared about each other." Bringing up the politically charged idea of "values" as a campaign issue, Strickland tied his theme to the Golden Rule: "We need to treat others the way we'd like to be treated." In Ohio, he said, "some are doing really well, but the middle class and those struggling to get by aren't doing well at all." (Loud cheering and applause). Pointing out that millions in funds available for social programs remain unspent by the state, Strickland said that "the kind of administration we want is about people caring about each other."

Saying "we're in trouble in America," Strickland turned briefly to national issues: the tragedy of Iraq casualties and of veterans who return to face cuts in veterans benefits, the cutting of Medicare and Medicaid benefits, federal borrowing from China to pay for the deficit, and "union and non-union workers" who can't depend on their pension benefits. "Things are bad in America, but they are worse in Ohio," he continued, zeroing in on the sorry condition of school funding in this state. Probably the loudest applause of the afternoon, however, greeting his next few points:
"People are losing confidence that when they go to the polling place, they'll be able to vote, and their vote will be accurately counted."
This is a government characterized by incompetence and corruption, he continued:
"People in Ohio are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and they're ready for a change. Lee and I have a plan to start turning Ohio around. We want to include everybody, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, or their religious belief. We want a government that is inclusive. We want a government that has African-Americans in the cabinet [and on boards and commissions]. We want to include everyone."
When the wild cheering subsided, Strickland turned to urban conditions, saying "we can't have a healthy state unless we have healthy cities," and further that we won't have healthy cities without economic opportunity, personal safety, and better schools. He announced his determination to have an administration "that is committed to working for you, and for people in communities like this one all over Ohio."

Strickland concluded by linking the 2006 election in Ohio to the presidency. "We're fighting for the presidency in 2008," he said, and "we're running against the man who went to Florida in 2000" to help Katherine Harris give that election to George W. Bush. "I don't need to remind you" what that opponent did in 2004 to put Bush back in the Oval Office, he continued, and even the election two weeks ago "had problems." Continuing, he said "we're going to put in a fair apparatus" for the election in 2008.

Running mate Lee Fisher, the former attorney general, echoed Strickland's themes. He praised Strickland as a tireless worker who will be a "24/7 Governor." Recalling the advice of Ruby McCullough, former director of the Harvard Community Services Center, that "when things are going tough, follow your heart," Fisher proclaimed that Strickland lives this credo. "Yes, we have a plan, but what we want most is a leader who speaks what he believes, not what he thinks people want to hear." Saying that Strickland took his impoverished upbringing as an "opportunity" to spend his life "lifting others up" as a minister, teacher, psychologist and Congressman, Fisher contrasted that with their opponent, whom Fisher described as having "spent his entire career turning people against each other." Their opponent "believes that if he can divide people, enough will vote for him out of fear." Strickland, on the other hand, says "No - we don't divide, we bring people together." Strickland will "hang up a sign saying 'Everyone is Welcome Here.'" Fisher concluded with a stirring refrain, to resounding applause: "The stakes could not be higher, the choice could not be clearer, and the candidate could not be better!"

This was a rousing and successful campaign stop. Strickland was obviously comfortable with his message and very personal and genuine in delivering it. It seemed to me that Strickland had a tremendous rapport with the crowd, and that his speech sounded themes that resonated very well. This was not a merely polite reception, or an audience applauding out of a sense of duty, but an audience that really loved the speech and was ready to embrace the speaker.

UPDATE: Moments after posting this account I spoke to Strickland's communications director Jess Goode, who confirmed that the meeting with pastors was "very positive," but indicated that they had no public announcement to make, and referred me to Tubbs Jones on the matter of her willingness to make an endorsement. He also referred me to an entry today on the Plain Dealer "blog" Openers, which provides more detail on the pastors meeting:
"A group of Cleveland's influential black clergy interviewed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland today for about 60 minutes, asking him several questions about how he will help blacks as governor.

United Pastors in Mission, which represents more than 50 Cleveland-area churches, wanted to size up Strickland before the group endorses a candidate in the fall. The group interviewed Republican candidate Ken Blackwell in March. ...

[T]he group asked Strickland, among other questions, how he will improve school funding and access to health care and help blacks find jobs after prison [and] about its feeling that the Democratic Party has shut out black leaders.

The meeting was closed to reporters but [Rev. C. Jay] Matthews and others said Strickland responded candidly and offered specific plans.

Asked for his impression of Strickland’s performance, Matthews said: “Great response. Good response. Well-ordered response. Addressed the concerns head on. A good meeting.” ...

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a powerful black official and fellow Democrat who has refused to endorse Strickland thus far, spoke to the group before Strickland. ...

Tubbs Jones said that Strickland has apologized on behalf of his supporters and that she is comfortable with his attempts to mend fences. But she did not say when and whether she will endorse his campaign."

Tuesday, May 16

Ohio House 90th: Grassbaugh (D) Promises Change; Collier (R) Backs Bob Ney

Duane Grassbaugh (D-Howard) has a campaign website up in support of his second bid to unseat incumbent Thom Collier (R-Mt. Vernon) in the Ohio House 90th District, which serves Morrow, Knox, Richland and Ashland Counties. Grassbaugh's campaign is a forthright call for rejecting the corrupt Republican status quo:
"[T]he Republican majority in this state has managed, many times over, to only serve themselves, special interests, big business and big money. They are party to ethical impropriety in governance both nationwide and in Ohio. Our sitting governor is a convicted felon. ... Ohio cannot afford such a reckless "I-ME-MINE" philosophy any longer. It is TIME for CHANGE. ... If YOU are sick and tired of this daily mis-management at the state level by a Republican majority, then listen to what my campaign has to say. I want to serve YOU. I want to help re-invent the Ohio economy, attract 21st century jobs. As 90th District Representative, I serve you, NOT special interests, big business and big money."
Meanwhile, the incumbent has put himself squarely on the side of public corruption by coming out strongly in support of embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath). Speaking at GOP candidates forum earlier this year, Collier spoke up for Ney, as reported in the Mount Vernon News:
Saying Ney was one of the No. 1 targets of the Democrats in the November election, Collier cautioned the committee to not let the media be Ney’s "judge, jury and executioner."

"The man needs a chance to get his views heard and out in the public," said Collier. "We need to get behind Bob Ney and support him and encourage him."
Great quote! Doesn't leave much doubt about who is for clean government in the 90th District.

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Seeks In Camera Review of "Privileged" Documents

Attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown) continues to hammer away at the Republicans' defenses in their ongoing effort to minimize and cover up the Tom Noe/Coingate scandal. Reacting to the Republican-dominated Supreme Court's dubious executive privilege ruling, which allows Governor Taft (R) to refuse access to certain government records relating to investments by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation despite the lack of any Constitutional or statutory provision directly authorizing such action, Dann is calling on the Justices to conduct an in camera (literally, in chambers) review of the records in dispute. This procedure, frequently employed when litigants seek to invoke attorney-client privilege, requires the court to inspect the records privately and determine whether they are indeed privileged, and whether there is a compelling need for disclosure that overcomes the privilege.

All five Republican Justices who joined in the executive privilege decision received campaign money from Tom Noe. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, Justice Judith Lanzinger, and Justice Terrence O'Donnell (up for reelection this year) have put into escrow some of that money, which had been laundered through Taft's former aide Douglas Talbot.

Even if Dann's strategy is not successful in gaining access to the disputed records, it is an excellent remedy to pursue because it continues to put the ugly problem of public corruption and cover-ups in public view where it belongs. Visit Dann's campaign blog and leave a comment expressing your encouragement and support! Better yet, contribute to his campaign.

Monday, May 15

Gov: Blackwell (R) Hounded by New Blog

An intriguing new blog called Onward Christian Soldier has appeared, with the avowed purpose of "following the political meanderings of Kenneth J. Blackwell, Ohio's Republican gubernatorial candidate--and God's." The first half-dozen posts are lengthy and thoughtful comments on such Blackwell foibles as waffling on his own TEL Amendment, the Blackwell-Dispatch feud, and the aftermath of the Blackwell-Petro scorched-earth primary. [UPDATE: As noted in the comments, check out this very cool stained-glass window graphic!]

The author is identifed only as Pope Urban II, and his or her blogger profile is worth a visit just to peruse the "location" and "interests" entries. This is a blog worth following.

Hat tip to Lisa Renee for mentioning this blog in a comment on BSB.

Ohio House 63rd: Cassell (D) Pleads No Contest to DUI Charge

The Dayton Daily News is reporting that 63rd District State Rep. Tim Cassell (D-Madison) pleaded no contest to a drunken driving charge on Friday after rear-ending another car, causing a minor neck injury to the other driver, after midnight near an entrance ramp to Ohio Highway 2. Cassell failed a field sobriety test. He was sentenced to a year of probation and two days of community service, was fined about $1,000, and his driver's license was suspended for six months, with work privileges after 15 days.

Cassel apologized in a statement: "I made a big error in judgment, and I am taking responsibility for my actions."

This news is potentially devastating to Cassell's reelection bid. He won his Lake County district in 2004 by the tiny margin of 0.9% over Republican B.J. Kresnye. He faces accountant Carol-Ann Schindel (R-Painesville) in November.

Cong. 13th: Cheney (R) Fundraising for Foltin (R) in Cleveland Today

Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin (R), who likes to pretend that he's not tied in with the dismally unpopular Bush administration, will see that fantasy squashed today when Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at a fund-raising luncheon for Foltin at Cleveland's Renaissance Hotel, as reported in the Akron Beacon Journal here. Opponent Betty Sutton (D-Barberton) will waste no opportunity to remind 13th Congressional District voters of the connection. In fact, while in Washington on Friday to attend events organized by Emily's List, Sutton did just that, as noted on the Cleveland Plain Dealer "blog" Openers:
Sutton said the fact that Vice President Dick Cheney is holding a fundraiser next Monday for her GOP opponent, Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin, shows Foltin is aligned with the special interests that Cheney represents, like the oil companies Cheney assembled behind closed doors to craft the nation's energy policy.

"It is clear to me that the people of the 13th District are not interested in having business continue in the way that Dick Cheney has been conducting it," Sutton said. "They are looking for people who will stand up to the special interests as opposed to people who will stand up for the special interests."
UPDATE: Sutton is all over this one. Shortly after Cheney left the Renaissance Hotel, she was on the scene to score points: "The events of today make it clear that there's a stark contrast between the candidates in this race. We don't need another yes-man for George Bush and Dick Cheney in Washington." You go, Betty!

Sunday, May 14

Rove (R) Indictment is Reported

Jason Leopold at Truthout.com is reporting that Karl Rove has been indicted.
UPDATE: No confirmation from any other source. Some doubts and some support on DailyKos.com here.

Friday, May 12

Gov & US Sen: Strickland (D) and Brown (D) Lead in New Rasmussen Poll

New numbers about to be released by Rasmussen show a wide lead for Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) over Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) in the gubernatorial race and a small (statistically insignificant) lead for Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) over Sen. Mike Dewine (R-Cedarville) in the U.S. Senate race (4.5% margin of error):

52% Strickland
36% Blackwell
6% Some other candidate
10% Not sure

44% Brown
41% DeWine
6% Some other candidate
10% Not sure

Lt Gov: Fisher (D) Makes a Good Impression

Last night I attended a meeting of the Cleveland Heights Democratic Club, at which former Attorney General and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher (D-Cleveland) spoke. I sat near the front and scribbled notes furiously. During the Q and A, before responding to my query, Fisher asked me if I am a reporter. Unprepared for the question, I just said I was not, not attempting to bring up or try to explain my status as a blogger. Regrettably, under the circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to proceed to act like a reporter and provide an account here of what the candidate had to say.

Nevertheless, I feel comfortable with at least recording my personal reaction to the gentleman, whom I have not previously seen. Fisher is an elegantly tall and distinguished looking man, who speaks in an easy and comfortable manner, although he tends to be a bit wordy. He conveys a sense of humility along with intelligence and competence, which is rare and very appealing. His speaking style signals education and refinement. His remarks weren't fiery or rousing, although in fairness the occasion didn't really call for that. He spoke at considerable length without referring any notes, yet his talk was clear, well organized, and coherent. I loved that he answered hard questions very directly, and that he accepted comments and criticisms thoughtfully. I left with the sense that he is an asset to the ticket and would be an exceptionally capable chief executive.

I plan to attend a public appearance by gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland at the Harvard Community Center next Tuesday, May 16, at 12:30 p.m., which will be my first chance to hear him in person, and I plan to provide a detailed account of his remarks on these pages.

Roundup of Statewide Primaries at "American Street"

Friday is my day for guest blogging at American Street, so head over there to read my roundup of last week's primaries for statewide offices.

Thursday, May 11

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Issues Strong Statement on Noe

Attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown) shows how it's done, as far as a political campaign staying on top of breaking news. Reacting to the report that disgraced Toledo Republican money man Tom Noe plans to change his not-guilty plea in the federal prosecution against him, Dann stood in the rain in front of the statehouse around 11:00 pm last night in order to do an interview with NBC-4. Here is the text of his statement to the press:
Guilty pleas would only serve to accelerate the march toward ultimate accountability for one of the biggest crooks in Ohio history. Tom Noe's illegal funneling of $45,400 in contributions to President Bush was a shameless perversion of the American political system and the worst crime of its kind in the history of modern election law. Yet shockingly, it is the least of Tom Noe's problems. No plea deal will be enough to escape the 53-count indictment he faces for his crimes at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Given his closeness to Bob Taft, Betty Montgomery, and other prominent Republican leaders, I suspect that Mr. Noe may not be the biggest fish to fry in this corruption scandal.

Gov: Blacks' Biggest Problem with Blackwell (R) Isn't Taft or TEL, it's Bush

Sam Fulwood III has a must-read column in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer entitled "Blackwell Not a Friend to Blacks." Keying off George Will's "ignorant comment" that gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) "appeals to blacks by being black," Fulwood blasts the Republican fantasy that Blackwell will ride the African-American vote to the Ohio governor's mansion and then take his crossover magic nationwide as a vice presidential candidate in 2008.

First, Fulwood reviews the short and unhappy history of previous GOP "Great Black Hopes" J.C. Watts, Alan Keyes, and Colin Powell. Then he asserts that "black people across Ohio haven't climbed aboard [Blackwell's] wobbly bandwagon," and "Cleveland's black ministers aren't going to push this Trojan horse candidate on their congregations." Why? Because Blackwell "frightens" Fulwood and other blacks who have paid attention to his career. "His entire political career has been inside the cozy club of conservatives who stand in opposition to what rank-and-file black voters say they value most." Many black voters agree with Blackwell on abortion and gay rights, but they "won't overlook that Blackwell and his right-wing cronies want to cut taxes without regard to the violence that would do to public education, health-care and social-service programs."

But the most striking roadblock for Blackwell is that blacks won't forget that he delivered Ohio and therefore the nation to George Bush:
"Few black voters will forgive Blackwell for trying to suppress the black turnout in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. As Ohio's Secretary of State, he served as the Republican National Committee's leading storm trooper in the state, paving the way for George Bush to seize control of the White House. ...

"Black voters would be wise to recall the late Justice Thurgood Marshall Jr., who warned of Negroes who suck up to the enemies of their people.

"'There's no difference between a black snake and a white snake,' Marshall said. 'They both bite.'"

Well, I have to admit, I had been assuming that Blackwell's biggest problems with black voters were going to be things like his ties to Taft, his role in permitting the Noe/Coingate scandal, and his draconian Tax and Expenditure Limitation (TEL) amendment, but Fulwood reminds me that those pale in comparison to Blackwell's Bush problem. As Bush's campaign manager for Ohio, there's no way that Blackwell can wriggle out of being the man who wrought Bush upon us, and he did it by suppressing the black vote in Ohio's tainted elections. So how do Ohio's black voters feel about Bush? A Cleveland Plain Dealer/Mason Dixon poll in late April showed that 98% of African-Americans in Ohio disapprove of Bush's job performance. That is not a typo! That's 98% as in virtually every single person. White Ohioans disapproved of Bush by the less dramatic proportion of 67%.

So Taft and TEL aren't the biggies, it's Bush.

Wednesday, May 10

Volz Contributions to Ohio Republicans

Hat tip to Dayton Politics for this link to a list of contributions made by Neil Volz, the former top aide to Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath) who yesterday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to corrupt that public servant, from 2002 to 2006. Here are the Ohioans on the list, all Republicans:

$3,735 - Rep. Bob Ney (18th)

$1,000 - Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (14th)

$1,000 - Former Rep. Rob Portman (2nd)

$1,000 - Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (12th)

$1,000 - Rep. Michael G. Oxley (4th)

$500 - Rep. Steve Chabot (1st)

$500 - Sen. Mike DeWine

$500 - Lucas County Auditor and former 9th District candidate for Congress Larry A. Kaczala

$300 - Rep. John A. Boehner (8th)

$250 - Deborah Pryce (15th)

$ 250 - Insurance Director and former 15th District candidate for Congress Ann Womer Benjamin

Tuesday, May 9

Cong. OH-18th: Noose Tightens Around Ney (R)

With today's news that Neil Volz, former aide to Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath), has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to corrupt the embattled Congressman, it appears that Ney's remaining days in office are numbered, and the number is very small. As reported in the Columbus Dispatch:
Volz, 35, a longtime Ney confidant who joined Abramoff’s lobbying firm in February 2002, has told prosecutors that he helped provide Ney with free trips to Scotland and Lake George, N.Y.; tickets to pro basketball, baseball and football games; and free meals in exchange for Ney’s promise to help Abramoff’s business clients.

By doing so, Volz added details to the case against Ney and confirmed key testimony by Abramoff, former lobbyist Tony Rudy and one-time public-relations executive Michael Scanlon. Abramoff, Rudy and Scanlon have pleaded guilty of trying to bribe Ney.
Additional main stream media coverage appears in the Akron Beacon Journal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Coverage in the blogs appears on Buckeye State Blog, Dayton Politics, Ohio 15th, and the LICOPAC Blog.

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Responds

The following reply by Attorney General candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown) to my open letter was forwarded to me today by Alex Goepfert, a Dann press staffer who has recently taken on responsibility for coordinating online communications:
Dear Ohio Progressives, Bloggers, and Grassroots Democrats,

Recently, I read several posts reaching out and encouraging me to increase my dialogue with the progressive community. I enthusiastically welcome this conversation and I want to take a moment to respond.

We face a critical battle in this election. Betty Montgomery is the poster child for everything that is wrong with the GOP’s pay to play culture. With Jim Petro gone, she is the most corrupt candidate on the ballot.

Betty Montgomery’s corruption comes with a shocking price tag for Ohio taxpayers. According to independent auditors, if the State Insurance Fund of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had been properly invested, “it would have realized an annualized return of 8.1% per year and would be nearly $1 billion greater in value than it is today.”

That is the stunning price of Betty Montgomery’s incompetence and appalling lack of oversight.

The stakes of this race for Attorney General are enormous. Big oil and drug companies, credit card issuers, predatory lenders, and other opponents of change have no greater friend than Betty Montgomery. She is the ultimate champion of the status quo. As long as Betty Montgomery continues to shuffle from office to office, ordinary Ohioans will be locked out and ignored.

I promise you, I will hold Betty Montgomery’s feet to the fire each and every day from now until November 7th. I will take on the tough fights necessary to pry the Attorney General’s office out of the hands of corrupt campaign contributors and narrow-minded special interests. I am willing to take on these fights alone, as I have in the past. But I’d much rather stand with the Democratic Party and with all of you.

In this spirit, I look forward to a productive dialogue with the progressive community. You’ll be hearing more from me and from my campaign. For my part, I welcome your ideas, your energy, and your support. The stakes are high for all of us. Let’s get to work.


Marc Dann