Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

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.

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