Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Sunday, June 11

Ohio2006 Is On Vacation Until June 30

I am leaving tomorrow for several weeks in the great north woods. I'll be hearing the wind in the tall pines and the loons out on the lake, but I won't be anywhere near an internet connection. So, Ohio2006 will be on hiatus until my return. In the meantime, in the words of Linda Richman:
Talk amongst yourselves ... I'll give you a topic ... Ohio politics ... discuss!
I'll look forward to resuming my blogging with renewed energy when I return.

Saturday, June 10

Ohio House 14th: Foley (D) Meets the Bloggers

Yesterday State Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland), newly appointed to the 14th Ohio House District seat formerly occupied by State Sen. Dale Miller (D-Cleveland), did a Meet the Bloggers interview, the audio of which will be available next week. Significantly, this was the first MTB interview with a member of or candidate for the Ohio General Assembly. We have scheduled current state representative and Ohio Senate candidate Lance T. Mason (D-Cleveland) for July 13th and hopefully will do many more, from both sides of the aisle. The interview was in the front room at Talkies Film & Coffee Bar in Ohio City, attended by George Nemeth, Gloria Ferris, Scott Bakalar, Yellow Dog Sammy, Tim Ferris, Tim Russo, and Bill Callahan.

I did not take notes this time and will not try to summarize the entire conversation, but here are some pictures to give some sense of the event. This first photo, stolen from George's Flickr, captures the relaxed, informal nature of the proceedings:

As Tim Ferris said at the outset, the idea of MTB is to have a conversation like you might around the dinner table. Although there is some effort to spread the questions out among the various bloggers, there is ample time and flexibility to follow up on particular topics and let the conversation develop naturally. Foley seemed to understand and was quite at ease. He wrote to me later that it was fun to sit around and talk politics for an hour, especially after being on the campaign trail so long where you generally have to do your three minutes and get out:
I asked about how Foley got started in politics, and he talked about how politics was part of daily life for his family while growing up in Dayton, Ohio. He later earned a degree in philosophy, met his future wife in Cleveland, and settled down here. Their kids go to public schools. His law degree is from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, and he worked for nearly ten years as director of the Cleveland Tenants Organization. We talked extensively about his campaign, his philosophy about being a legislator in a minority party, and the issues of greatest concern to the residents in his district (basically, jobs and education). The so-called "hot button" social issues of abortion and gay marriage are not major concerns. Foley will be working with 93rd District State Rep. Jennifer Garrison (D-Marietta) on the Democratic approach to the school funding crisis, and Bill made the interesting suggestion that the two of them ought to get people representing the urban perspective (from Foley's district) together with people representing the rural perspective (from Garrison's) to work on the issues face-to-face.
Foley's primary election was distinctive for two reasons: it took the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections a very long time to announce a winner, with the lead shifting back and forth between Foley and Cleveland public school teacher Bill Ritter (D-Cleveland) as the vote count dragged on, and Ritter stooped to the level of sending out a reprehensible gay-bashing mailer to the entire district not long before election day, raising the ire of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats and progressive bloggers. We talked about those events from several perspectives, but it was Scott who asked specifically about how it felt for Foley to have to go through all that:

It turns out that Foley ran for office once before (I think he said it was for city council) and lost by a large margin, so he could compare that experience (he was depressed for a day and then got over it) to the agony of thinking he might lose by just a tiny margin. At the point when he had a ten vote lead and absentee ballots were yet to be counted, however, he thought he was in good shape because he had "worked the absentee votes very hard." (I got him to explain what that means, which turned out to be a very fascinating look at the nuts and bolts of campaigning in this type of race.) The initial counting of absentee ballots alarmed him because Ritter got more of them than Foley, but the final count went Foley's way and gave him the victory by more than the 0.5% automatic-recount margin. Ritter requested and paid for a recount anyway, but it resulted only in subtracting two votes from Foley's ultimate margin of victory.

Cong. 15th: Suggestion for Upgraded Pryce (R) Web Site

If you go to the campaign web site of 15th District incumbent Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) you'll find a notice that her "online campaign" is being upgraded. We have a suggestion for the new site: feature the above photograph prominently. In fact, use it for wallpaper. Pryce's old site had no photos with and practically no mention of the increasingly unpopular president, despite Pryce's near-perfect record as a loyal Bush rubber-stamper.

Hat-tip to Ohio15th for linking to the photo.

Friday, June 9

Disenfranchising Voters But Not Breaking the Law, at "The American Street"

Friday is my day for guest blogging at the national blog The American Street, so traipse on over there to read my rumination entitled Notes from Ohio: Massive Voter Disenfranchisement, But “We Broke No Law”.

Ohio House 46th: Dansack (D) Reacts to Gasper Charges, Announces Campaign Appearances

In the course of his employment as a legal assistant in a Toledo-area law firm, 46th Ohio House District candidate Mark P. Dansack (D-Monclova Township) speaks daily to injured workers whose benefits are dependent on the same investment fund that was entrusted in part to Toledo-based rare coin dealer and Republican fundraiser Tom Noe, who has been charged with mismanaging and stealing millions from the fund. Reacting to the prosecution and guilty plea of a former Bureau of Workers Compensation official, Dansack issued this statement:
With the indictment of Terry Gasper, the former Chief Financial Officer of the Ohio BWC, one can only wonder how many others will be implicated, which calls into question the lack of oversight in Ohio and the perils of one party governance in Ohio. Without the "coingate" investigation, many of these betrayals of the public trust may never have been uncovered, illustrating the dangers of allowing one group to have total control over state government.

I still contend that Senate Bill 7, passed in March, represented a "slap in the face" to injured workers in Ohio who count on the insurance fund to received their treatment, medicines, and compensation. Clearly there was no reason to rush for a "reform" bill before all the ramifications of the BWC's scandals and investment losses were completely investigated and understood.
Dansack has a number of appearances scheduled for the coming days as his campaign picks up steam. He will appear tomorrow (Saturday, June 10) at the Miller Lite Pizza Challenge, to be held at the Lucas County Recreation Center in Maumee, Ohio. On Monday, June 12, at 7:00 pm he will speak at a meeting of the Spencer Township Democratic Club. On Fathers' Day (Sunday, June 18) he'll be at the Holland Strawberry Festival Parade from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.

Ohio House 16th: Patton (D) Decides Not to Seek Nomination [UPDATED]

UPDATE: Just a few hours after I posted the following, I got a call from Connor Patton in which he informed me that he has decided not to seek the 16th District nomination after all. He said that Jennifer Brady will be an excellent candidate and that he wishes her great success. He also said that it would be counterproductive for two Democrats to be competing at this point, when there is a Republican candidate out there and a race to be won, and Brady needs to be able to get her campaign started immediately.

This is my third recent post about the Democratic nomination for the 16th Ohio House District. On Tuesday I wrote that successful write-in candidate Michael O'Shea was going to be replaced on the ballot, but had no information about the two potential replacements except their names. Yesterday I added some information about one possible nominee, Jennifer Brady (D-Westlake), based on her email and a telephone conversation with her. I have now spoken to the other, Connor Patton (D-Rocky River), and have a little background information from his perspective.

Patton is 30 years old and is presently finishing a degree in political science at Cleveland State University. He says that he grew up in a family with a history of public service and community activism and has been interested in politics since he was a child. His father was a legislative agent for the Ohio Association of Fire Fighters, and he has one grandfather who was a speechwriter for two Congressmen and another who founded the West Side Irish American Club. Patton has just finished serving as manager of the 16th Ohio House District primary campaign of Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland), and previously worked on the city council campaign of Colleen Corrigan in Cleveland's 21st Ward. He has previously worked as a Deputy Clerk in the Cuyahoga County Probate Court, as an intern with the Ohio Department of Commerce, and as a union laborer.

Of his rival for the nomination, Patton says that "she is a great person" and he has "nothing bad at all to say about her," but feels that he has better credentials. Regarding her statement that she has the support of the ward leaders from all five cities in the district, Patton says that he is simply not aware of whether that is the case and is looking into it. He believes that it is possible that if all the ward leaders have expressed support for Brady, they may have done so before learning that there was another potential candidate seeking the nomination. The matter is to be decided by a vote of all precinct Central Committee members in the district, and unfortunately no time frame has been set for that vote. (According to Patton, the rules require only that the replacement be named at least 76 days before the election.) Patton is very concerned that a nominee should be selected soon, in order to get a campaign up and running as quickly as possible.

Sup Ct: O'Neill (D) Speaks at Cleveland Heights Democratic Club

Tonight I heard Appellate Judge William O'Neill (D-South Russell), a candidate for the Supreme Court of Ohio, speak at a meeting of the Democratic Club of Cleveland Heights. This is a truly an extraordinary man, running a unique campaign.

An appellate judge since 1996, selected as presiding judge in 2000, O'Neill is also an experienced litigator who tried hundreds of cases; a single father who has raised four children since his wife died ten years ago; a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Ohio National Guard; a Vietnam veteran with a Bronze Star; and a registered nurse who works two shifts a week in the pediatric emergency department at Hillcrest Hospital. In fact, he was late arriving for this event because a sick child stopped breathing and required resuscitation.

What makes his campaign utterly unique, however, is his absolute refusal to accept campaign contributions from anyone. "Money and Judges Don't Mix," his home-printed flyer proclaims, "No Money From No Body." The Judge believes it is wrong to "raise millions to get elected and then sit on contributors' cases." In short, as he said tonight, "our Court is not for sale."

O'Neill has a printing press in his garage to produce his flyer, and plans to distribute one million copies by Labor Day through a network of volunteers in all 88 counties. Aiding his efforts to get his message out, the New York Times sent a reporter and photographer to prepare a story on his unusual campaign. ("They didn't believe there really was a printing press in my garage," O'Neill says, with evident satisfaction.) The Columbus Dispatch also did a front page story.

To explain why his no-contribution campaign is so important, O'Neill tells the story of the creation of Ohio's no-fault workers compensation system in 1921, and the ruling by Democratic Chief Justice Celebrezze in the 1970s that the workers compensation law does not shield from liability a company that caused the deaths of employees through intentional misuse of toxic chemicals. Four years later, Celebrezze was defeated by the first multi-million dollar Supreme Court campaign, funded by insurers and manufacturers, and since then every campaign except O'Neill's unsuccessful 2004 bid has followed the same pattern. It is wrong, he says, for Justices to take money and then sit on cases involving the people who gave campaign contributions. As he put it, "do you want to have your case decided by a judge who got $100 from your opponent's attorney?"

O'Neill is very strong on the issue of Ohio's unconstitutional school funding system. He notes that he and his parents were all products of public schools (he grew up in a low income household on the east side of Cleveland), and he says the General Assembly "should be ashamed of themselves" for failing to fix the school funding system despite repeated Supreme Court rulings that it is not "thorough" or "efficient" as required by the Ohio Constitution. O'Neill believes that the Supreme Court has the authority to block the paychecks of Ohio legislators as a sanction, or to hold them in contempt of court.

O'Neill has personal views on certain social issues that I find alarming. He thinks that it would be okay to teach "intelligent design" in public schools, and he opposes abortion in all cases as "the taking of human life." (On the other hand, he is morally opposed to capital punishment, and he opposed the anti-gay marriage amendment. He says that he is "deeply offended" by Republicans' obsession with what people do in their bedrooms.) However, he insists that his personal views on such issues are irrelevant to how he would rule as a Supreme Court Justice. "There are a lot of laws that I don't agree with that I nevertheless enforce," he says, and in particular he declares that he will follow the law on the legality of abortion.

O'Neill has a new campaign web site and is actively recruiting volunteers and volunteer coordinators.

Thursday, June 8

Cong. 2nd: Wulsin (D) Calls Net Neutrality Essential to Healthcare

On the eve of a critical floor debate in the House of Representatives, 2nd Congressional District candidate Dr. Victoria Wells Wulsin (D-Indian Hills) has a distinctive reason for supporting net neutrality: "It saves lives."

A public health doctor who has dedicated her life to defeating disease and workplace injuries, Wulsin says that "an open and neutral internet is absolutely necessary in order to develop the innovative technologies and systems that will improve health outcomes and reduce costs." As examples, she cites "paperless recordkeeping" to ensure that doctors and nurses have the information they need; "putting health records online and giving patients control of their records;" and "making research information freely available to doctors and organizations in poor countries" to improve the the fight against infectious disease. These improvements to the health care system depend on "the principles of openness, accessibility, and accuracy that make for good governance and, of course, communities like the netroots." However, they will be "utterly impossible" if telecommunications companies "discriminate between different users and organizations" or "stifle creativity and communication by exerting their monopoly power like they're trying to do."

Wulsin notes that she also supports net neutrality for other, non-health-related reasons. Because the internet "holds the potential to revolutionize our economy," to "re-energize our democracy," and to "arouse human creativity and collaboration," she says, the internet must be protected "from those who would monopolize its beauty and deprive our community of this great gift. The net must remain neutral and open, and our freedom to use it must not be curtailed."

Wulsin faces incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) in the general election.

Secty of State: Hartmann (R) Assailed by Blogger on ID Theft Issue

Blogger Jill Miller Zimon of WritesLikeSheTalks had an excellent letter to the editor published in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Republican secretary of state candidate Greg Hartmann's statements about identity theft are evasive and contradictory ("Identity theft becomes issue in statewide race," June 2).

His decision to say more later about what he would do to prevent identity theft is nonsensical. His campaign Web site boasts that he "has been featured in dozens of news accounts - including a national Fox News broadcast - for his groundbreaking work in protecting Ohioans from identity theft." Yet he fails to provide even a single link to such an account. His "My Plan" section fails to mention any evidence of "groundbreaking work" and, where the site does address the Internet, it says he wants to expand use of the Internet for efficiency's sake without a single mention of how he'll keep Ohioans' information secure.

Hartmann might describe his efforts as groundbreaking, but without any specifics to indicate that he has been, can be or even wants to be successful at protecting Ohioans' private, personal information from identity theft, voters should be extremely wary.
Wary, indeed. Hartmann's opponent Jennfier Brunner (D-Columbus), on the other hand, has taken the lead on this issue with a very specific five-point plan for protecting private information and fighting identity theft.

Ohio House 16th: Brady (D) Seeks Nomination

This afternoon I communicated by email and telephone with Jennifer Brady (D-Westlake), a housewife and political activist who is seeking to be placed on the general election ballot as a replacement for successful write-in candidate Michael O'Shea (D-Rocky River), who has withdrawn. I met Brady at a meeting of Democracy for America - Cleveland last December. She is active in the MeetUp group Westside Democrats, and was just elected precinct member of the county Democratic central committee. In a MeetUp listing that I located for Brady, she described herself as a stay-at-home mom who has been active in politics since about 1998.

Brady says that O'Shea filed to run as a write-in candidate for the purpose of preserving a place on the ballot for a replacement, and that he has always supported Brady to fill that role. She writes that getting on the ballot "is a matter for a vote of the precinct committee members," which she hopes "will take place shortly." She is "looking forward to running for office with the help of Michael O'Shea who has agreed to be my campaign manager," and notes that she also enjoys the support of "the ward leaders from all five cities [in the 16th district] who have given me their endorsements," and also Kevin Kennedy who previously ran for the office and is now the city council president of North Olmsted. Brady is optimistic about her chances in the general election:
We have a great opportunity here in the Sixteenth District. Whereas the district has historically gone Republican, there has been a great renewed interest in Democratic ward clubs and there is a new organization of newly active Dems in the Westside Meet-up. Together with these developments and an awareness among independents that one-party rule has proved disastrous for Ohio, we can move forward for an exciting campaign on the issues.
Brady says that at least one other person, a college student named Connor Patton, has come forward to seek the nomination. The eventual nominee will face Ed Herman (R-Rocky River), who ran against Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) in 2004. The incumbent, Rep. Sally Conway Kilbane (R-Rocky River), is term-limited.

ODP Dinner: Biden Press Conference

The Ohio Democratic Party 2006 State Dinner was five days ago, so posting about it now probably isn't very newsworthy. However, I promised that I would have more to say about Sen. Barack Obama's keynote speech, so clearly I am not finished with this thing yet. What I’m going to do is write about Sen. Biden's press conference and some other miscellaneous events and meetings in this post and call it my second-to-last, and in my final post about the ODP Dinner I’ll write about Obama’s speech.

I agree with Pho and Redhorse that issuing separate credentials for bloggers was hugely significant. Like them, I would have been happy to attend the event with a blogger credential and pass on sitting at a table and being served a banquet dinner for which I did not pay, which would have obviated much of the furor in the blogosphere over how the blogger table came about. However, I’m glad that I accepted Sen. Obama’s generous offer and sat at the blogger table. It was in my "reporting" of the event that I was frustrated and disappointed with myself, and hopefully learned a lot of lessons for the future (such as the need to bring a digital recorder, not rely on a notepad and pen). Attending and socializing and letting the proceedings just wash over me was tremendous fun, because there was so much excitement, enthusiasm, and good cheer on all sides.

I mentioned in an earlier post that after visiting the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus pre-event I went to a press conference and heard Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) speak. As I walked into the room, however, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island) and Susan Turnbull of the Democratic National Committee were answering questions from reporters (and bloggers). Redfern was saying that the ODP learned a great deal about how to talk to voters about the new voting machines in the successful primary write-in campaign of 6th Congressional District candidate State Sen. Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville), including emphasizing that voters can ask questions and can get assistance. The party will work with county Boards of Election to ensure that Democratic poll workers are well trained. He also said that the ODP has attorneys ready to go in all 88 counties to seek redress in the weeks before the election, not just on election day, including on the critical issue of the numbers of machines in polling places. Another part of the overall project is to address provisional ballots. The Secretary of State and Attorney General were able to side-step an examination of the provisional ballot and numbers of voting machines issues by getting court claims dismissed after the 2004 election, but the ODP is not letting go of these issues.

Sen. Biden opened by saying that everyone in Washington is excited about Ohio and very interested in seeing a Democratic governor elected, and he senses an opening for electing a Democratic senator in Ohio as well. Previewing his later speech, he said that the American public has "closed the door" on the Bush administration, having found out that it "lacks the competence to get the job done." However, people think that the President is up for re-election in 2006, and that is not the case. The Congressional races are critical, because we are stuck with Bush for two and a half more years. Administration policies have led us in the wrong direction, clearly in national security and foreign relations, but also in health care and the economic plight of the middle class. Bush has NO energy plan. A lot of damage can be done in 2 1/2 years, so message # 1 has to be "Elect Democratic candidates!" Asked whether Biden's proposal to reorganize Iraq on religious and ethnic lines has gained any traction, he said yes, and he is afraid that conditions in Iraq will make it look better every day, since the chances of a unity government there appear to be fading. On the question of whether investigations will be a priority if the Democrats take control of Congress, Biden said his "overwhelming and strong recommendation" would be against that. Democrats should be trying to figure out how to build a consensus. People are upset and angry that Congress has been reluctant to take Bush on, but notice that Republican Senators like McCain, Hagel, and Lugar have never disagreed with Biden's criticisms of the administration. For example, they all have been calling for direct talks with Iran for a long time. Three years ago Bush labeled Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the "axis of evil" as if he had a plan for dealing with them, and in every instance they have become more dangerous since then. The American public wants results. Asked about the Supreme Court, Biden said that if we don't win the Senate and don't win the White House in 2008, we will wind up with seven Scalias on the high court. Then he added, "we don't need fifty senators to stop the worst from being confirmed." He outlined the Senate agenda for the next three months (gay marriage, flag burning, and the most controversial of the Court of Appeals nominees), and said that the Republicans "have no chance of passing these, but they are trying to inspire their base."

As he was leaving, Biden shook hands with the reporters present, and when he got to us bloggers he asked "Who are you?" When we identified ourselves as bloggers, he said "Oh, you guys are the power nowadays!" Great quote. I'm thinking of putting it at the top of my blog template.

After the press conference, I made my way down to the enormous hall where the dinner tables seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. I met a number of candidates and campaign workers in person whom I had known only through email. In particular, I was delighted to meet Jean Herendeen Ackerman, who ran a strong primary campaign for the Ohio House of Representatives and lost by only 68 votes. Among the many who visited the bloggers' table over the course of the event were Dave Harding of the Mary Jo Kilroy Congressional campaign, Jesse Taylor of the Strickland for Governor campaign, and Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Mark Naymik.

I have only a few scattered notes for most of the speeches given. I noted that Biden spoke strongly in favor of building consensus, not emulating Karl Rove's strategy of winning merely by energizing the party's base. He said that the Democrats must try to win in more than just the same 19 states, and that "if we're not competitive in about 12 red states we can't lead even if we win." It also struck me when he said that "history will judge George Bush harshly, not for the mistakes he has made, but for the opportunities he has squandered," and posed the question of how much good could have come from the leadership of a truly strong president after 9/11. Sherrod Brown told the story of how a voter in Dover/New Philadelphia had given him an antique brass lantern, which replaced the canary in the cage as a device to warn miners about low oxygen, to put into his Senate Office as a reminder of the people for whom he is running. He emphasized how Mike DeWine is a rubber stamp for Bush, and asked everyone attending to talk to five people about supporting his campaign. I recall that Barbara Sykes was inspiring but I did not take notes because of things happening at our table. Dann said that wiping out public corruption would give Governor Strickland a billion dollars a year of additional money to help turn Ohio around. Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman, who introduced Obama, said he is proud to support Ted Strickland, and that he is a Democrat because "Democrats believe the common good is better than good for a few, and that working for the common good is noble."

When Obama began his keynote speech they turned off the lights in the hall, leaving me aghast, clutching my pen and notebook in the dark. At first I tried to write by the dim glow of a candle on the table, then remembered that my cell phone has a tiny built-in LED flashlight. From notes scribbled in that tiny pool of blue-ish light, I will describe Obama’s keynote speech as best I can in my final ODP Dinner post. Stay tuned.

Gov: Fisher (D) Joins Chorus Calling for Blackwell (R) Recusal

I received an email from the gubernatorial campaign of Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), indicating that at 10:00 am this morning at the King Arts Comlex in Columbus, Strickland's running mate and former Attorney General Lee Fisher (D-Cleveland) will add his voice to those already calling for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) to step down from the task of overseeing the fairness of the election in which he himself is running for governor. This follows the lead editorial in yesterday's New York Times, which concluded with this:
But there is one clear way that Ohio's election system is corrupt. Decisions about who can vote are being made by a candidate for governor. Mr. Blackwell should hand over responsibility for elections to a decision maker whose only loyalty is to the voters and the law.
Also yesterday, Ohio’s Senate and House minority leaders called on Blackwell to reverse his decision to complicate and hinder voter registration drives and to step down from overseeing this year’s gubernatorial election. Sen. C.J. Prentiss (D-Cleveland Heights) made this statement:
Ken Blackwell can’t be trusted to fairly administer this year's elections. This decision to criminalize traditionally accepted voter registration methods is just another example of Blackwell’s willingness to trample voting rights. This proves that he will do anything to try to get elected. Candidate Blackwell is allowing his personal interest to guide his decisions as Secretary of State.

As Secretary of State his duty is to oversee a free and fair elections process that encourages Ohioans to vote. However, Blackwell suppressed votes to help elect George W. Bush in 2004. Just imagine what he’ll do to elect himself in 2006. The title of Secretary of State does not give him the authority to disgrace the people who have fought and bled to protect our right to vote.
Ohio House Minority Leader Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) also issued a statement:
Mr. Blackwell is on the wrong side of history. Registering voters is crucial to expanding the number of citizens who vote. Sadly, there is ample evidence that Ken Blackwell has manipulated the elections system to disenfranchise voters, and he's doing it again. Ohioans are fed up with more than a decade of corrupt, one party rule. Perhaps Mr. Blackwell is afraid of what they will have to say on Election Day?
Blackwell's campaign has so far rejected these calls for Blackwell to step down, pointing to the fact that other Ohio secretaries of state have supervised elections while running for office. As quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer today, Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said:
When Bob Taft was secretary of state and ran for governor, when every other secretary of state in the history of the state of Ohio has run for another office while they served in that office, why is it different for Ken Blackwell?
The difference, as I have heard secretary of state candidate Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) point out several times, is that former secretaries of state have not abused their office the way that Blackwell has. Apparently restrained by a sense of propriety or fear of public retribution, no secretary of state before Blackwell has engaged in such blatant misuse of the office to promote partisan issues and candidates, to suppress voter registration, and otherwise to manipulate elections.

Wednesday, June 7

Ohio House 19th: Harris (D) Endorsed by Celeste; Hackett to Help Raise Funds

Governor Richard F. Celeste has endorsed grandmother of six, former state official, and long-time activist Marian Harris in her race for the 19th House District seat in the Ohio House of Representatives. Celeste said:
I have known Marian Harris for almost thirty years. Together we worked to make Ohio a better place. She is one of those individuals who believes that when you work for a political candidate you have a right, even an obligation, to expect the very best public service from him or her. And she worked hard to insure that the Celeste administration served all the citizens of Ohio—regardless of party or status.

Now Marian is putting her personal convictions on the line for her constituents. What a wonderful opportunity—to elect someone who knows how state government works and who is dedicated to making it work right after the recent record of abuses. I urge you to support Marian Harris for State Representative.
Harris responded, "I am proud to have the endorsement of a great Governor of this state. I hope to serve the people of my District and the people of Ohio as well as Governor Celeste did." Harris served in several capacities in the Celeste administration. As Chief of the Office of Family Support Services for the Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Harris implemented a respite program for parents who chose to keep their youngsters with MRDD at home. As Harris said:
The relief parents experienced at being able to keep their child at home and have a night off or a weekend away was heart warming – and from a practical point of view, it saved the state money by not institutionalizing these youngsters.
In the mid 1980’s, she coordinated Governor Celeste’s “Capital for a Day,” a program that brought state government to 34 different Ohio cities. In each city, the Governor and his Cabinet spent 24 hours meeting Ohio citizens and hearing first hand their concerns.

The Harris campaign also announced today that Paul Hackett will appear at a fundraiser for Harris on Saturday, July 22, in the late afternoon - details to be worked out. Harris has raised over $17,000 to date from more than 170 contributors.

Contribute to the Harris campaign here, and sign up to work as a volunteer here.

Gov: Strickland (D) at Cuyahoga County Central Committee Meeting

Last night I attended a meeting of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Central Committee at Euclid High School, where gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), his running mate Lee Fisher (D-Cleveland), treasurer candidate County Auditor Richard Cordray (D-Columbus), and attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown) spoke to an enormous and enthusiastic crowd of precinct committee members, county party officers, and local judicial and legislative candidates.

Registration was set to start an hour before the meeting, so I had plenty of time to meet and greet. Apart from talking with my dynamic new city leader, Austin Dunn, and some members of my local Democratic club, I was pleased to meet 10th Ohio House District candidate Eugene R. Miller (D-Cleveland), who was passing out literature for Cordray; campaign co-coordinator Elaine Fortney, who is doing great work for secretary of state candidate Jennifer Brunner as well as my friend and court of appeals candidate Melody J. Stewart (D-Euclid), who was also present; 7th Ohio House District incumbent Rep. Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), a very cordial and genuine man; 16th Ohio House District candidate John M. Celebrezze, who I would like to get to know better; the incandescent 21st Ohio Senate District candidate Rep. Shirley Smith; and the personable and multi-talented Rep. Lance T. Mason, running for the 25th Ohio Senate seat of term-limited Eric Fingerhut. I had heard Mason sing a beautiful rendition of an anthem at an earlier event, so I hoped he would sing at this meeting, which he did not. However, he did a nice job of praising County Party Chairman Jimmy Dimora while nominating him for re-election, and then joking that Dimora has "all of the virtues and all of the vices that I so admire," a big laugh line for this pumped-up crowd.

Dimora opened the meeting by stressing the importance of precinct committee members, the "front line soldiers" of the party, and thanking us for "coming to the plate when we need you the most." He described 2006 as a "vital election" and promised that "Ohio will be a blue state in 2006," and that "we will be poised for 2008 when we take back the White House." He outlined our responsibilities, including recruiting good poll workers, electing ward or city leaders and county party officers, "giving presence to Democratic clubs" (which I first heard as "giving presents," causing me some consternation), and of course turning out the vote.

Mayor Bill Cervenik (D-Euclid) welcomed us to his city, referring to the portrayal of William Wallace in the movie "Braveheart" for the slogan "Unite the Clans!", which he adopted as a rallying cry to bring together the diverse communities and factions of the party. He also said that as a mayor of an inner-ring suburb he "cannot tolerate any more Republican ... (pause) ... well, I can't really call it leadership!" and called on us to let people know about how the Democratic party cares about every single human being.

After the nominations, voice vote election, and swearing-in of county party officers, Dimora introduced Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher to a standing ovation. Fisher called 2006 "the single most important election in our lifetimes" and said we "learned in 2004 that Ohio is the pivotal state in choosing the president." Since the future of the whole world depends on who is president, and Ohio is the key to the presidency, and Cuyahoga County is the key to Ohio, therefore the future of the world is in our hands as precinct central committee members. (Great, I thought, no pressure there.) He noted the presence of Cordray and Dann, and said they would agree that their races depend on the gubernatorial race. He then reviewed the story of Strickland's life, from growing up on a dirt lane called Duck Road, where Roy Rogers and Branch Rickey were also born; having no indoor plumbing until he was in high school; being the only one of nine siblings to go to college; his ordination as a Methodist minister and his Ph.D. in psychology: and his decision that instead of choosing an easy career "I want to work with the least among us," leading to his work as a prison psychologist at the notorious Lucasville prison. Noting that Strickland won re-election easily in 2004 while Bush defeated Kerry in his district, Fisher pointed out that Strickland could have chosen to stay safely in Congress for a long time, but chose instead to run for governor because "if Ohio ever needed a leader with a moral compass it is now."

Strickland started by pointing out that he has probably spent more nights in Cuyahoga County during the campaign so far than in any other county. He said that the most important people in this election are not Fisher or Strickland, but the old, the young, and the struggling, and said that the state is at risk. "What's happening in Columbus and Washington is similar," he said, "Incompetence, corruption, and sometimes criminal behavior," and the reason is the abuse that arises from control of all of government by one party. Republicans inherited a big surplus and a country largely at peace, and now the surplus has been squandered and "our sons and daughters are dying in a war that George Bush chose to start." Bush has no plan in Iraq, and "he does not know what he's doing when it comes to foreign policy." At home, the Republicans have neglected the 40 million Americans without health insurance, and have not funded the No Child Left Behind law. The only way this country is going to be returned to the people, he continued, is if Ohio is returned to the people of Ohio.

"Ohio is in serious trouble," Strickland went on, citing horrible statistics about the alarming state of Ohio's economy and education system. "People say 'What do you plan to do about all of that?'," and he replies to them, "I'm going to be a law-abiding governor, and I'm going to work to make Ohio a law-abiding state -- it's tough to argue with that." This was a huge applause line, which in itself is sobering if you think about it. If you apply that plan to Ohio, he said, "the implications are profound." He proceeded to talk about our obligation to have a lawful system for funding education ("What is it that Taft and the Republicans don't understand in the word 'unconstitutional'?"), saying that "no problem is more important than school funding," and about the need for the minimum wage amendment to maintain a decent living wage. He said that "Lee and I have a plan to turn around Ohio," and noted that their own recent polling shows that 72% of Ohioans say Ohio is on the wrong track.

Strickland mentioned members of his family who are laborers, including three nieces who are a concrete finisher, a pipe fitter, and an electrician, all union workers, and declared that "people deserve a living wage, health benefits, and a vacation occasionally." This is the standard of living that Democrats before us believed in and fought for, and it is in danger, he said. "It is time for all Democrats to stand together in common purpose for the opportunities that all people deserve." In Washington D.C., he said, Karl Rove, George Bush and Dick Cheney are sitting around a table talking about Ohio (although Rove is also talking about being indicted for outing that CIA agent), and they think that Ken Blackwell is the person to win Ohio for them. Blackwell, he said, is writing a book with "one of those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth characters," and we all remember how he went to Florida to help Katharine Harris deliver the nation to George Bush in 2004. "We know what Ken Blackwell did to try to make sure that Democrats couldn't get out and vote in 2004," he continued. Blackwell is the one who wanted to put TEL into Ohio's constitution, and said that TEL was important to Ohio's future until he got the nomination, when he flip-flopped and got rid of it. "They're trying to trick us," Strickland continued, "Because there is a Tel-Lite out there," which may not apply to localities and schools but is a trick to accomplish much of the same thing. "He's the father of TEL and TEL-Lite," he said, which "will cripple the state" and "make us a fourth-class state" for years to come. "You are fighting for your children, for your parents, for your neighbors, for your state, and ultimately for your country," he concluded. "We are going to take back Ohio in 2006," he said, and then build an infrastructure "to take back our county in 2008." The crowd stood and roared their approval as Strickland and Fisher waved, shook hands with people on stage, and exited.

Dann and Cordray spoke briefly. Dann said "I'm going to end the pay-to-steal system in the State of Ohio." He told the story of how a supporter called out to Harry Truman to "Give 'em hell, Harry!", and Truman replied "We're going to tell them the truth, and they'll just think it's hell!" Dann promised to do the same, and to end the "corruption tax" that saddles our state and prevents adequate funding of our educational system.

Cordray used a nice visual of holding up a shiny coin and saying that as Treasurer he was going to end the wasting of state funds on such investments.

As with the ODP 2006 State Dinner last Saturday, the crowd at this event was huge, energized, and electrified by the candidates. The craving for strong and successful campaigns is palpable, and they loved hearing bold predictions of victory in November. Every Democrat senses that a change in the party's fortunes in Ohio is in the works.

Tuesday, June 6

Ohio House 64th: Letson (D) Takes on Law (R)

At the ODP 2006 State Dinner last Saturday I had the opportunity to meet Warren attorney Tom Letson, the Democratic challenger to first-term incumbent Randy Law (R-Warren) in the 64th Ohio House District. I've heard that this race is very much on the mind of Ohio Democratic Chairman Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island). The party still feels the sting of Law's unexpected victory over incumbent Daniel Sferra (D) in 2004 and is determined to win back the seat this year with Letson.

Letson practices law in the Warren firm founded by his father, Letson, Kragalott and Stack, mostly in municipal and domestic court, but he is no stranger to electoral politics. He says he has been interested in state politics since his youth. He ran against Michael Verich in the primary election for state representative in 1982 (the district had a different shape and number then), and against Peter Kontos for common pleas judge in the Democratic primary 10 years ago. Apparently believing that the third time is the charm, Letson said in an newspaper interview when he declared his intention to run, "I'm the most qualified person to do the job for the people of the 64th district because I've had more time interfacing with the real problems of this district than anyone else that's going to run."

Letson has lived in the Warren area for over fifty years and is married and has a grown daughter. He earned his bachelor's degree from Kent State University and his law degree from the University of Akron. He worked his way through law school by working at Copperweld as a machinist. Letson cites as relevant experience his work as a house parent for mentally retarded adults, and as a Workers Compensation representative for the United Steelworkers Union, jobs which have shown him "the problems that people face in very real life in our community."

I asked Letson what were the biggest issues on the minds of residents of his district, and he answered without hesitation: employment, education, and healthcare. He talked about how critical it is to keep jobs here in Ohio, and to have the kind of high quality educational system that will encourage qualified workers to stay in the state. (He mentioned that his own daughter has obtained a law degree and is feeling the pull of pursuing opportunities in attractive locations out of state.) He also talked about the tragedy of retired steelworkers who get informed that they have no healthcare benefits. However, he said, there are prospects for revitalzing the economy of the area, and he mentioned that efforts are underway to lure Leedsway Telecommunications Limited, a manufacturer of computer monitors and notebook computers, to build a new manufacturing facility in the Warren area. Asked to identify his role model as a legislator, Letson thought it over and mentioned former Ohio senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), two leading moderate voices.

Letson said that his campaign web site would be greatly expanded from its current state, but it already features a fairly detailed statement of his positions on the economy, education, healthcare,and living wage. On the economy, he cites statistics to show the mess that the Republican administration have made, and pledges to work to diversify Ohio's economy in order to strengthen it:
Ohio must adapt to new economic realities if we want to be a national leader. Our state continues to rely heavily on manufacturing and agriculture, the foundation of Ohio's economy, and we must remain committed to these legacies and to the labor unions and other organizations designed to fight for our citizens. However, it is important to diversify our economy. And that's why I pushed to develop and expand Ohio's high-tech industry, while advocating for job retraining programs designed to assist citizens switching careers.
On education, Letson decries the Republicans' failure to fix the unconstitutional educational funding system, and says that "test results clearly show the charter school experiment to be a failure" and thus no solution to school funding problems. He says that he believes that "health care is a right for all people," and it is "immoral for seniors to have to choose between living costs and prescription drugs." Keeping healthcare costs low "is just good economics," and "the state has a responsibility to look after the sick and the elderly, the poor and the disabled, and those who cannot look after themselves." Finally, as to the issue of a living wage, Letson supports the proposed constitutional amendment to raise Ohio's minimum wage to the federal rate of $6.85 an hour.

Ohio House 16th: O'Shea (D) to be Replaced on Ballot

I just spoke to personal injury attorney and city prosecutor Michael O'Shea (D-Rocky River), who won the Democratic nomination in the 16th Ohio House District as a write-in candidate, and he informs me that he has notified the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party that he will be withdrawing from the race. He says that he is likely to be replaced on the general election ballot by Jennifer Brady or Connor Patton.

I checked the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections web site and they have already removed O'Shea's name from the official results of the May 2 primary. I also called Executive Director Cindy Marizette of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, who emphasized that no official action has yet been taken but confirmed that O'Shea is out and that Jennifer Brady and Connor Patton are two names that have been mentioned as replacements.

Monday, June 5

ODP Dinner: OBLC Pre-Event

I arrived at the Veterans Memorial at about 5:00 knowing that I wanted to go right to the "pre-event" hosted by the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus. I am proud to say that my state representative, state senator, and congresswoman are all powerful African-American women, and each is a person I greatly admire, so I was pleased to find them all there.

At the will call table I encountered Barbara Boyd, my former state representative who is running for her old seat. She was wearing a beautiful yellow jacket upon which I complimented her. (Unfortunately, my solo picture of her did not come out, since I hit the wrong darn button on the camera.) When the young person behind the table asked if she could help me I said "Yes, I'm a guest of Senator Barack Obama. Do you have my ticket for me?" And you know what, I said the first part really, really loud, because it was such a thrill. Just the first of many thrills during the evening.

Entering the room I looked for people I knew or hoped to meet. It was a pleasure to see Julian Rogers, who ran a valiant primary campaign for the Ohio House of Representatives and is now working as the northern field supervisor (not sure that title is right) for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign, and I had a quick chat with attorney general candidate Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown). I introduced myself to Clayton Luckie, who is running in the 39th Ohio House District in Dayton, and also to State Sen. Tom Roberts (D-Trotwood), and of course gave them my blogger card ( which I had designed and printed up just that morning). But the biggest thrill was introducing myself to my state senator, the Senate Minority Leader C.J. Prentiss (D-Cleveland Heights), who is term-limited, and telling her that it had been an honor voting for her and thanking her for her public service. Now, you could tell a lot of legislators that and they would be pleased to hear it, but Sen. Prentiss' reaction was to give me a huge hug.Wow. She is tremendous. I also met her husband, Mark Charney, who said that he has read my blog and seemed delighted to learn that we live in the same town.

State Auditor candidate State Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) called everyone's attention to the podium for the brief program. (In the picture, Sykes is at the podium, Prentiss is on the right in the white dress, my current state representative Rep. Claudette Woodard (D-Cleveland Heights) is in the background on the right, and Rep. Annie Key (D-Cleveland, who ran a strong second in the crowded primary to replace Prentiss, is on the left in blue.) Sykes is a tremendously energetic, magnetic person. On this occasion, the excitement in the room and her usual vivacity combined to make the crowd almost giddy, so we roared with laughter when gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), standing off to one side, tried to interrupt her to make some suggestion about the presentation and she sang out "Now, will you just let me handle this?" She compounded the hilarity by saying something like "Just because he's going to be the next Governor he thinks he gets to run everything," and turning to him and saying "You're not governor yet!"

When Ted Strickland eventually got to the microphone he said "You'll be pleased to know that I've been allowed to say a few words!"

Sykes complimented the crowd, saying "We look good, we sound good!" She also said some serious things about the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus, including that it is working for poor people who can't help themselves, but it was mainly a big happy celebration. She called all of the members of the OBLC who were present to the stage, then all candidates running for office. The audience loved it when Sykes asked, "Isn't it great to have a big room full of happy Democrats?" and closed by saying "See you at the Finish Line!"

Here is Sykes with the Mayor of Columbus, Michael Coleman:

This is when all the current OBLC members, candidates and other guests had been called up to the stage and introduced:

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) is on the far left, Prentiss is next in white, then Key in blue, I'm not sure who the gentleman is but he might be Ohio House candidate Dale Mallory, then Sykes and Woodard in white, and Barbara Boyd is on the far right in her shimmering yellow jacket.

After all of that, I left the OBLC pre-event thinking that I would find the Ohio Women's Democratic Caucus pre-event, but instead found my way to the press conference, where I eventually heard Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) speak to the media. What I did not know is that I had already missed Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) at the press conference, and by staying there for Biden I missed Obama when he addressed the OBLC! There was simply too much going on in too many different places. I did manage to meet some legislators and candidates I had written about in the hallway and foyer after the press conference, such as Rep. Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland), who is running to become my state senator in place of Sen. C.J. Prentiss; Adam Van Ho, who ran a solid primary campaign for the Ohio House; Rep. Jennifer Garrison from the 93rd Ohio House District way down south, with her spouse Rus Garrison; and I enjoyed seeing 3rd Ohio Senate District candidate Emily Kreider, pictured below with her campaign coordinator Susan Deardowksi (Kreider is on the right), with whom I enjoyed doing a little door to door campaigning not too long ago:

Sunday, June 4

Obama at the ODP Dinner

Last night I attended the ODP 2006 State Dinner as a guest of the headline speaker, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). I'm grateful for the opportunity and it was an experience that I will always treasure. Unfortunately, by being in the wrong place at critical moments, I missed both Obama's pre-dinner press conference and his appearance at the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus pre-event, and due to practical limitations I was unable to get much out of Obama's visit to the bloggers table that he sponsored. However, his keynote speech was magnificent, and it's absolutely clear to me that the man has the potential to be a transformative figure in the history of our nation, signalled by his vision, intelligence, compassion, and charisma. To hear him speak is to be inspired and energized, period. There is much speculation right now about his political future, but however that plays out, you just know it is going to be truly exciting.

I will write about Obama's speech in a later post, but here I want to say what little I can about our interaction at the table. Obama joined us for about ten minutes, during much of which I heard little because I was across the table, the room was very loud, and there was an insane crush of autograph seekers thrusting programs at Obama and dictating what to write, along with other interruptions. I did not get the opportunity to ask a question, and the session ended abruptly when U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown began his speech.

For a detailed account of what Obama said, I must refer you to Pho's Akron Pages, since Pho was sitting next to Obama and appeared to be taking extensive notes. The few snatches of conversation I could hear were more or less as follows. Obama greeted us each, sat down, and said "What's going on, guys?" Pho asked him what he thinks about the role of bloggers in politics. Obama explained that he sees blogs as having tremendous potential for energizing people and building the political community. His background is in community organizing, so he's very conscious of "bottom-up" politics. Also, internet-aided Meetups were a "great tool" in his Senate campaign. The danger of blogs, he said, is if we are only talking to each other, so he sees a need for blogs to be reaching out to interact with people who have other points of view.

Redhorse asked Obama a question relating to the Senate campaign of Paul Hackett, and the hard feelings and animosity among some bloggers that still remain over the controversial way it ended. I couldn't hear very much of Obama's reply, but he made an excellent point about how writers in general can create an ideal of perfection in their musings, and then have a tendency to get frustrated with a candidate who is unable to live up to that ideal. "Blogs are useful as the conscience of the Democratic Party," he said, "but also important is recognizing that one is operating in the real world." Bloggers have got to get over what happened,when we have an opportunity to make a critical gain in the Senate. Now we have a candidate with impeccable credentials, he said, and Ohio is the number one pickup opportunity, so it would be a terrible thing to waste it. To the extent that Sherrod Brown has poor relations with the blogging community, Obama said that he would speak to him about it. Jill asked about bloggers maintaining their individuality when acting collaboratively (apparently responding to something I couldn't hear), and I couldn't make out much about Obama's response except that he urged bloggers to be a little more flexible. In response to a question by Angela, Obama indicated that he supports net neutrality. There was at least one more question but I managed to catch only a few words and can reconstruct nothing meaningful from my scribbled notes.

My only photo of the bloggers at the table a sadly blurry, but to try to give some sense of the occasion, here it is. From the people partly visible on the left to the person partly seen at right, the bloggers are Editor and Mrs. Editor of Ohio 2nd Blog, Redhorse of Psychobilly Democrat, Pho of Pho's Akron Pages, Cindy of HeightsMom, Yellow Dog Sammy of Ohio2006, Staff (a/k/a Pounder) of Buckeye State Blog, Angela of Diary of a Community Technology Advocate, and Eric of Plunderbund. Jill of WritesLikeSheTalks sat at another table and is not in the picture.

Friday, June 2

Stark County Comm'r: Bosley (D) Assails Regula (R) Over Decrepit 911 System

Township trustee and businessman Todd Bosley (D-Louisville) is running for Stark County Commissioner against first-term incumbent Richard Regula (R-Bethlehem Township), the son of veteran 16th Congressional District incumbent Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Navarre). It's what prompted Bosley to run that makes this an amazing story.

A little over a year ago, distraught parents of a child who nearly died when help arrived late following their 911 call approached Bosley as their township trustee to do something about the sorry state of the Stark County 911 emergency system. Bosley's inquiry led him to Regula, who conceded in their discussion that the system needs updating, but claimed that the funds for the upgrade were simply not available. Bosley, however, determined that there was a balance of a half million dollars lying unspent in the county's 911 account. That's when he decided to run for the county commissioner position himself.

Regula, scion of a powerful political family and recipient of campaign cash from PACs (reportedly including PACs connected to Tom Noe and Jack Abramoff) has a big advantage over Bosley in campaign resources. According to Bosley's campaign manager Kevin Fisher, however, the two candidates are running neck and neck. Bosley is running an intensive grassroots campaign, and the biggest thing he has going for him is the compelling nature of the 911 system issue.

As Fisher puts it, the unreliability of the 911 system is an issue that "impacts anyone who lives in, has family in, or even drives through Stark County." And, to help the campaign hammer this issue home to voters, Bosley can rely on a powerful news report broadcast by Cleveland's WEWS Channel 5 in February 2005. Read the transcript of the report here, or better yet watch the video on Bosley's campaign web site here.

The report describes three appalling Stark County 911 disasters: a man who died in December 2003 after his first 911 call was disconnected; a 13-year-old girl who died in July 2003 after 911 operators misdirected the call several times; and a 2-year-old girl who nearly died in December 2004 after the 911 operator transferred the call to a distant firehouse instead of one nearby.

Outside the city of Canton, which has its own state-of-the-art 911 emergency system for non-cell phone calls originating there, all Stark County 911 calls go to the basement of the Stark County Sheriff's Department, where the equipment has not been updated since it was installed in 1987 and "the only thing operators have to figure out where you are is a map tacked on the wall, and binders with addresses." According to Fisher, Regula has done nothing to improve the 911 system since becoming county commissioner, although he did install his father's campaign manager as head of the county EMT unit.

This sequence near the end of the Channel 5 report is absolutely devastating to Regula:
"You've got misdirected calls, outdated equipment, and 911 essentially has become its own emergency," said Bosley.

Stark County Commissioner Rich Regula agrees the system need to be upgraded, but defends it as a system that works.

"It takes time," said Regula.

Reporter Angie Lau: "It's one thing to say, it takes some time, but people's lives are at stake."

Regula: "Absolutely, they are at stake ... but you have to understand, it was a revenue shortfall ... but 99.9 percent of the calls are being handled properly."

But Nimishillen Fire Chief Rich Peterson disagrees. Peterson is also the president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Stark County, which has asked to reconvene the 911 Commission to fix the problem. "Sometimes it gets sent to the wrong center ... sometimes the call is dropped on the way to the dispatch center, there's no way you can pick the call back up," said Peterson.
The word on the street is that Ralph Regula is running his last campaign for the Congressional post that he has held since 1972, and the main reason he is running again this time is to keep the seat warm for his son Richard. Richard would be well positioned to run for Congress in 2008 without giving up his county commissioner post if he fends off Bosley in this race.

Donate money to the Bosley campaign here, or sign up to volunteer here.

More Obama

Continuing to anticipate the appearance by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) at the Ohio Democratic Party 2006 State Dinner tomorrow night, I've been checking more websites of bloggers who have spoken with Obama recently. Here is an excerpt of an interview by Flash of the Minnesota blog Centrisity (Obama's words in boldface):
Do you think your more active involvement on the National party scene may improve the level of discourse between the two parties?

You know, one of my dear friends and political mentors was a guy named Paul Simon [the late Democratic Senator from Illinois, and one-time presidential contender].

I’m aware of him.

He was one of these guys who had what would be considered a very liberal voting record. Yet he always did well in conservative areas. Nobody could ever figure out why except for the fact that he had mastered the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. I think that’s one thing that American politics generally would benefit from is being able to disagree, sometimes forcefully, without name calling and without viciousness.

Right, you had a little harsh criticism from Sen McCain about a month or so ago. How would you meet the challenges you face now as you risk your independent perception and are more public traveling at various Democratic events throughout the country.

Well, you know, look, I’m a Democrat and I’m proud of being a Democrat. And I’m proud of what the Democratic Party Stands for. You’ll notice that most of the time when I’m talking I’m talking affirmatively about what the Democrats stand for. And if I’m critical of the Bush Administration, for example, it’s going to be based on their philosophy. I'm not going to call them evil, or bad intentioned, but I am going to say that they have made a lot of big mistakes in terms of running the country.
The part about "disagreeing without being disagreeable" made me think. My usual knee-jerk reaction is to assess Democratic candidates largely on the basis of how aggressive they are. For example, in these pages I expressed doubts about former 14th Congressional District candidate and former U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) as being perhaps insufficiently zealous, and I praised the current candidate in that district, former State Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Barberton), for being a fighter. I have lauded energetic criticism of incumbents by such Congressional challengers as former U.S. Rep. Bob Shamansky (D-Columbus), Law Director Zack Space (D-Dover), and County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus). I'm not ready to back off my notion that Democratic candidates must be aggressive, but reading this interview with Obama made me focus on the equally important dimension of likeability. Sharp attacks get attention and play well with the base, but too much vitriol destroys a candidate's rapport with crucial moderates and independents.

When I was a very young trial attorney, acting as second chair to a senior litigation partner in the trial of a relatively small commercial case, I was given the opportunity to cross-examine a single opposing witness. Eager to make a good impression, I attacked the witness for testifying in the courtroom that a contract had been signed in his business office, having previously testified in a deposition that the document had been signed at his attorney's office. I savaged the witness for a few minutes about it, finally asking triumphantly "Well, were you lying then, or are you lying now?" The judge ordered the witness not to answer the question and called counsel up to the bench for a sidebar conference. The judge said nothing to me but asked the partner, "Len, I thought [your firm] was going to stop hiring a**holes after that bad experience you had with that last guy." The partner assured the judge that I would be set straight and I struggled through the rest of my cross-examination without the histrionics. The partner settled the case during the next recess. The lesson I had to learn is that you have to give the jury a factual basis on which to rule in your favor, but what really wins the case for you is getting the jury to like and respect you more than your adversary.

Not an exact parallel, but that's what this called to mind.

Them Scandals are Leaping, on "American Street"

Friday is my day for guest blogging on the national blog American Street, so stroll on over there to read my report on how the Coingate and Abramoff scandals are a-leaping.

Secty of State: Brunner (D) Speaks to City Democratic Clubs

Tonight I attended a joint meeting of the Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, and Beachwood Democratic Clubs, with guests from Cleveland Wards 3 and 4 as well, where Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) was the featured speaker. Auditor candidate Rep. Barbara Sykes had also been advertised as a speaker, but she did not attend and no explanation for that was provided.

Brunner opened her talk by saying that she wants to restore trust in the election process and change the way that current Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) runs elections. She has solid credentials for the task. She served as legal counsel to U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) when he was Secretary of State, served on the Franklin County Board of Elections, and was a judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, having defeated the governor's choice for a judgeship in 2000 and won re-election in 2002. (Sherrod Brown was 29 when he was elected Secretary of State, while Brunner is now 49.) She says that the fact that she was a judge shows that she will be fair, and the fact that she left her judgeship shows that she is committed.

Brunner said that Blackwell has abdicated responsibility for problems in elections. He has bascially said to county Boards of Election, "come up with your own solutions," so that Blackwell cannot be blamed and Blackwell can instead blame the boards when things go wrong. In the case of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, however, this strategy is hampered by the fact that the chairman of the board is Bob Bennett, who is also chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. This is why the Cuyahoga board is proceeding with its own investigation of what went wrong in the May primary, instead of being subjected to an investigation by Blackwell's staffers.

Referring to the 2004 general election, Brunner recounted how Blackwell was ordered by a court at 4:00 pm on election day to allow people who had requested an absentee ballot but hadn't received one by that day to vote by casting provisional ballots. However, Blackwell went to court after election day and got an order that prevented those absentee ballots from being counted. Brunner said, "We'll never know if the election would have been different, because the effect of what Ken Blackwell did can't be quantified." She met with presidential candidate John Kerry after the 2004 election and told him that while Blackwell did various things to affect the outcome of the election, those things were done legally.

Talking about what she would do specifically to make elections better, Brunner focused on having better poll workers. She advocates better training (including better videos and manuals), more uniformity of procedures among counties, and using split shifts so that people aren't deterred from becoming poll workers by the 14 hour day. Younger poll workers are needed. She also said that the Secretary of State needs teams of investigators for checking into instances of alleged voter intimidation. Talking about the non-election functions of the Secretary of State, Brunner criticized Blackwell for outsourcing 100 jobs in the area of UCC filings, which resulted in thousands of social security numbers ending up online. She also talked about her recently proposed five-point plan for combatting identity fraud, including a certification that would help victims clear their credit.

Some of the most interesting things Brunner talked about came up during the question and answer period. On the topic of electronic voting machines, she said that her reading leads her to believe that the source code of such machines should be open, but the issue requires further study. While HB 3 does not allow voting machines to be connected to the internet, Brunner is concerned that the machines may be vulnerable to manipulation through infrared access (such as Bluetooth technology). To her, the perfect machine would be one that allows the voter to touch the screen to input information, then uses the information to fill out a numbered paper form that the voter can see, feel, and touch, which form would then be counted on an optical scanner. However, with millions having been spent on electronic voting machines, she said, we are probably stuck with the ones we have. She said that she is open to innovations such as mail-in voting, as is done in Oregon and has resulted in 90% participation, but that she would never advocate internet voting. She is open to the concept of voting on the weekend or on a holiday so that more people would vote and poll hours would not need to be so long, but she pointed out that this would probably require a constitutional amendment. As Secretary of State she would advocate for repeal of the voter ID requirement in HB 3, and in fact testified against it before the law was passed. She said that there is a lawsuit being prepared to try to stop the voter ID requirement before the general election. If she is stuck with the voter ID requirement as Secretary of State, she declared, she could issue the IDs at the voting place.

Gov: Strickland (D) Endorsed by Tubbs Jones, Jackson & Fudge

This afternoon in a gleaming community center at Arbor Park Village, a newly constucted housing development in a previously blighted portion of Cleveland's economically distressed 5th Ward, a crowd of campaign aides, reporters, camera crews, local elected officials, and labor union supporters wearing black and gold "IUPAT for Ted Strickland" tee shirts gathered for a hastily scheduled press conference. After months of negotiations, which became very intense during the past few weeks, Cleveland-area African-American political leaders Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland), Mayor Frank Jackson (D-Cleveland), and Mayor Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville) publicly announced their endorsement of Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) for governor. This press conference followed similar events today in Dayton and Columbus featuring African-American big city mayors Rhyne McLin (D-Dayton) and Michael Coleman (D-Columbus).

Tubbs Jones introduced Fudge, in her second term as mayor of suburban Warrensville Heights, who pointed out that there are more small cities than big cities in Ohio. She said that the people of Warrensville Heights need a governor who will address economic issues, school funding, and health care, or as she put it "deal with things that are important, not things that are not important," a veiled reference to divisive social issues championed by Republican candidates. "Ted Strickland has the ability and the understanding of government to bring Ohio back to greatness," she said.

Tubbs Jones then introduced Jackson, who said that the fate of Cleveland and the fate of Ohio are tied together. "We need a governor that understands urban issues," he continued, including inner city, inner suburb, and outer suburb issues. "Ted Strickland understands that and that is why he should be the next governor of the state of Ohio," he said, "As governor, Ted Strickland will make sure that the needs of Cleveland and all of Ohio's urban areas are understood and addressed."

For her own part, Tubbs Jones recalled her 25 years of representing the people of Northeast Ohio as judge, prosecutor and member of Congress, and of travelling throughout the state, and said that "the people of Ohio need a fighter, someone willing to fight for those in need of affordable healthcare, an education that counts, and living-wage jobs." Ohio needs someone "willing to make tough decisions" and "willing to uphold constitutional law as set forth by the Supreme Court of Ohio." Acknowledging the widespread speculation about their negotiations, Tubbs Jones said that she and the mayors acted with careful deliberation because they "bring to the table voters who are looking for a true leader." She concluded by saying that "Ted Strickland is the man to turnaround Ohio. I am 100% committed to Ted Strickland."

Strickland began by saying, "This is the one I have been waiting for." He recalled the occasion of Tubbs Jones' endorsement of Frank Jackson in the mayoral race last year, and said that he had a similar feeling about the power of Tubbs Jones' endorsement of Strickland today. He praised Jackson's "humble spirit" and the "air of kindness about him," but didn't "mean to imply there wasn't steel in that backbone." Jackson is "a rare combination -- a kind person and a strong leader." Strickland then compared "what happened over the last weeks and months to what happened in the Republican Party." The Republican primary featured "nasty words like 'hypocrite'" followed by a hasty photo-op as a show of unity. He questioned whether that display of unity was sincere. Strickland, Tubbs Jones and the mayors, on the other hand, engaged in lengthy "conversations about Ohio and what the office of governor should mean to the people of Ohio." Cities have been neglected by the current government, he said, and "Ohio cannot be a healthy state without healthy cities." Strickland talked to the mayors about their cities' needs, and entered into "a common agreement to work with common purpose for a common agenda," in order to move Ohio's cities forward in a positive direction. "It will be us against the problems that face Ohio." Concluding, Strickland pledged that "if you help me become the governor of this great state, then you will have a friend and partner as governor, and we will do great things for Ohio."

Tubbs Jones next introduced the four pastors who sat in a row beside the podium during the remarks: Rev. Stephen Sullivan of the Gethsemane Baptist Church, Rev. Paul H. Sadler, Sr. of the Mt. Zion Congregational Church, Tubbs Jones' cousin Bishop F. E. Drury (?) of the Church of God in Christ, and Rev. E Theophilus Caviness of the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church.

Asked about speculation that the length of the discussions arose from hard feelings, Tubbs Jones referred again to her and the mayors as bringing "a lot of voters who are looking for guidance," and "before I endorse, I want to make sure that these are people who understand their needs." She also said that she doesn't have to publicize her discussions with candidates in the press, and that she and the mayors were "careful not to put their disagreements in public," but there are no disagreements now. "I will work my butt off to elect this man as governor." When Jackson was asked what commitments were made to gain his endorsement, he said that there is presently an anti-urban agenda in Columbus, and that the specific needs discussed included education, economic development, and brown fields, which need "dollars and facilities to clean them up." When Strickland was asked what lessons he learned from the discussions, he said that he "learned that you don't take friends for granted." He also talked about the "need to have someone at a high level of state government -- a high level policy position -- to look at everything that happens through the lens of its effect on big cities," and that in allocating transportation dollars the needs of cities must be given more weight. In education, he said, it is "absolutely essential that a child who goes to a big city school has access to a high quality education," which is crucial to Ohio's future. Under the current adminstration, he said, resources are being snatched away from big cities. "What's happening today is not simply a political endorsement from political leaders, but a shared commitment to make sure that urban areas have the resources and facilities they need." Finally, Tubbs Jones said that the discussions included making sure that a diverse group of people are involved in decision making in the gubernatorial campaign and in the state government to follow.

Thursday, June 1

Secty of State: Brunner (D) Wins UAW Endorsement

Former Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus), the Democratic nominee for Secretary of State, received a phone call this afternoon notifying her that she has won the endorsement of the United Auto Workers of Ohio. The call came just before the joint press conference by gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland), Mayor Frank Jackson (D-Cleveland) and Mayor Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights) at Arbor Park Village in Cleveland.

Noe Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

Toledo-based Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally contribute $45,400 to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, violating the Federal Election Campaign Act by making contributions in the names of others, and making a false statement about the true source of the contributions, which caused the Bush campaign to file a false report. See coverage in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch, and Akron Beacon Journal.

The thing that just kills me about this episode is the absolute joke it makes of the notion that Republicans are the party of "personal accountability":

* Noe, the Republican heavy-weight fundraiser, is living in the Florida Keys while awaiting trial on state charges involving the mismanagement and outright theft of millions from the Workers Compensation Bureau investment fund - tough gig! Noe's lawyers are fighting to keep him out of jail on the federal conviction pending trial on the state charges, so that he can consult with his attorneys to prepare for trial. Where, on his yacht?

* Noe "took the conviction in stride, chatting with family members on a bench outside the courtroom before the hearing began and making occasional calls on his cell phone." Mr. Accountability, alright.

* Noe gave $45,400 to 24 friends and associates in order to make illegal contributions to the Bush/Cheney campaign. At least four of those people freely admitted that they knew what they were doing was illegal. A lawyer for three of the illegal conduits (officeholders and a former mayor) "said they were not in danger of being charged because they cooperated with investigators." Now there's personal accountability for you. Perhaps not on the scale of the planners of the Iraq debacle (who won medals) and the superior officers in charge of Abu Ghraib when torture was perpetrated there (who got promotions), but along the same lines.

* The Bush-Cheney campaign donated $6,000 it received directly from Noe and his wife to charity, but the Republican National Committee has not disgorged the money that Noe channeled illegally through his friends and associates. (Similarly, three Republican Supreme Court Justices have put Noe donations funneled to them through an aide to Gov. Bob Taft into escrow, but they have not disposed of it.) Ohio Democratic Party chairman Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island) is calling for the RNC money to be donated to the state workers' compensation bureau, which makes sense, but the RNC "is waiting for a directive it expects from the court about what to do with the money." That's got personal accountability written all over it, yes sir.