Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Monday, July 31

Sen: Brown (D) To Hold Medicare Press Conference in Cleveland

An email from the campaign of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon):
11:00 AM
Ernest J. Bohn Center
Cleveland, OH 44113

With enrollment in the Medicare Part D drug plans closed, seniors and people with disabilities are encountering new problems. Many Ohio seniors are being forced to pay full price for their prescription drugs because they have hit the doughnut hole – a gap in their plan’s coverage. As the insurance companies switch the drugs they cover, some Ohioans are finding that their plan has dropped the drugs they need. Those seniors who missed the May 15 enrollment deadline are blocked out of coverage until 2007.

Congressman Brown will outline his plans to provide a simple, affordable benefit that requires Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices – like the VA does. Instead of producing windfall profits for the pharmaceutical industry, Brown’s plan would provide seniors and people with disabilities a windfall savings.

Brown will be joined by Ohio seniors and people with disabilities who have fallen into the doughnut hole, whose drug costs have gone up, and who will face late enrollment penalties when they choose a plan.

Gov: Strickland (D) Responds to Smear in Interview

Hat tip to the excellent blog Dayton Politics for linking to this story in today's Athens News, in which gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) and his spokesperson Keith Daley comment on the ugly and baseless rumor-mongering that got Republican operative and former Ohio Restoration Project employee Guy Lankford into trouble, and eventually fired, last week:
The race for Ohio governor got dirtier last week with several personal allegations made against Democratic nominee Ted Strickland. ...

Lankford, who was working as a "social conservative coordinator" for the Ohio Republican Party, sent an e-mail to a group of "pro-family friends" attacking Strickland's church attendance, work ethic, voting record and other issues. The e-mail also alleged that Strickland and his wife, Frances, live in separate states, and included a link to an article on [controversial Republican operative Scott] Pullins' web site that questions Strickland's sexual orientation. ...

Strickland ... on Friday denied all of the charges in an interview with The Athens NEWS, and said they show that the Republicans will do anything to win the governor's election.

Keith Dailey, spokesperson for Strickland, pointed out that Strickland has a home in Lisbon, which is in the 6th District, as well as another home in Columbus, about five minutes from the airport.

"Frances obviously lives in Ohio," Dailey said. He added that while Frances Strickland does have family members in Kentucky whom she visits, she lives with her husband in Ohio.

"I think they're just grasping at straws," Dailey said. He added that the attack is full of lies and innuendos, and it is "kind of sad that they would drag Ted's family into this."

As for the issue of whether Strickland goes to church, Dailey pointed out that Strickland is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church and has served as a pastor, as well as serving in other positions for the church.

Strickland said that the 2004 presidential election showed that the Republican Party would use personal attacks and any other means to win an election, and this is just another example of those attacks.

"They are scared to death of losing power," Strickland said. "They know the polls show the people of Ohio are ready for change." ...

Strickland said he was disappointed to see the allegations made against him, but not surprised.

"Nothing surprises me anymore," Strickland said. "Unfortunately, there are people in the extreme radical right end of the Republican Party that will do anything to hold onto power. This is just an example of that."

He added that the personal attacks were "hurtful" and that they were just innuendos and outright lies.

"That's what desperate people do when they know the voters are rejecting them," Strickland said. "The voters are rejecting this crowd. They are tired of what's happening in Ohio. They want change." ...
The article goes on to quote Pullins, who concedes that he has no basis for his outlandish insinuation except that it seems "weird" to him that the Stricklands married "late" (age 46) and have no children. He also tries to shift the blame for spreading rumors to gubernatorial primary candidate Bryan Flannery (D-Strongville), whose faltering campaign resorted to wild finger-pointing and slander in the last days before the May 2nd primary.

Auditor: Sykes (D) Leads Taylor (R) by 17 Points in Poll

A new poll by commissioned by AFSCME and conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group shows State Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) with a 17 point lead over State Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green) in the contest to replace incumbent Betty Montgomery (R), who is running for Attorney General:

39% Sykes (D)
22% Taylor (R)
39% Undecided

The poll was conducted June 27 through July 2 with a sampling of over 400 Ohio households and has a margin of error of 4 points.

This race is profiled in the Akron Beacon Journal in today's edition here. An excerpt follows:
The auditor has the power to look at the books of public agencies and nonprofit organizations and call into question their management and spending. ...

The auditor also will have a seat on the state reapportionment board to redraw the boundaries of state legislative districts after the 2010 census -- one of the most important political events in the state.

Whoever wins the 2006 election is in a good position to be re-elected in 2010 and serve on that board. ...

Republican Mary Taylor is white and a resident of suburban Green, and has been in public office since 2001.

Barbara Sykes is black and from Akron, and has been in public positions for more than 20 years.

But in spite of Taylor's shorter tenure, her campaign fundraising outstripped Sykes by more than $2 for every $1 in the April-June reporting period, according to campaign reports filed after the May primary.

Sykes, one of eight children born to an Arkansas sharecropper, is one of the most influential black women in Ohio politics -- prominent enough to have run for state treasurer in 1994 against another black candidate, J. Kenneth Blackwell.

She is president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. To her party's chagrin, she has sometimes negotiated with Republican colleagues to increase her black caucus' clout.

Sykes was elected to the Ohio House in 2000 when her husband, Vernon, was prevented from running for re-election because of term limits. She also served on the Akron City Council in the 1980s and worked in the Summit County executive's office between council and the legislature.

Sykes, 51, the mother of two, had planned to retire from public life this year because of term limits, but was encouraged to run statewide by state Democratic Party leaders and Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman.

``The thing about the auditor is it's not sexy,'' Sykes said. ``You're not talking about jobs and schools, but it's the job of the auditor to talk about making sure the money is there for schools.''

Sykes has been a critic of money flowing to charter schools that are operated by for-profit management companies.

One of Taylor's largest financial supporters is David Brennan, the Akron entrepreneur who founded the state's largest education management company, White Hat Management. ...

Democrats criticized {current Auditor] Montgomery for being one of the last state officials to become involved in a growing scandal over questionable investments at the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

Taylor said the problems in the bureau were rooted in communications and internal controls, not the auditor. She said extra attention should be paid to high-risk areas such as the bureau.
Taylor apparently is stuck with trying to defend Montgomery over the BWC mess.

Friday, July 28

Cong. OH-15: Morrison (I) to Contest Removal from Ballot

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that erstwhile independent candidate Charles Morrison will go to court to contest his removal from the Ohio 15th Congressional District ballot by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati). Morrison's views are to the right of incumbent Deborah Pryce (R), so his presence on the ballot would presumably help challenger Mary Jo Kilroy (D).

Sen: Brown (D) to Hold Press Conferences on Medicare Part D [UPDATED]

Responding to a TV ad by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that praises Sen. Mike DeWine for voting for the new Medicare Part D prescription coverage, challenger Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) will hold a press conference in Cincinnati on Sunday to highlight serious problems in the structure and implementation of the flawed legislation.

Brown's campaign has issued the following invitation to seniors and disabled persons adversely affected by the law:
Are you upset about Medicare Part D?

Do you have to pay exorbitant prescription drug costs on top of your monthly premiums?

Are you one of the 7 million Americans who will soon fall into the ‘donut hole’ gap in coverage?

Then come join Dr. Victoria Wulsin at a press conference for U.S. Senate Candidate Sherrod Brown

This Sunday, July 30th at 2:30, Norwood Retirement Community, 1500 Sherman Avenue

Come join us to show that Ohio seniors and disabled citizens deserve better!
UPDATE: Okay, the Cincinnati press conference is part of a series that includes at least Lima and Columbus as well:
Medicare News Conference: Lima
Sunday, July 30, 11:00 AM
Allen County Health Department
219 E Market St, Lima OH

Medicare News Conference: Columbus
Monday, July 31, 11:00 AM
3426 Corban Commons Drive
Columbus, OH
This Columbus Dispatch story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ads and Brown's counterattack makes me absolutely furious. The reporter relates the following numbers from a poll release this week:
A survey released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than eight in 10 seniors who are enrolled in a Medicare drug plan are satisfied, although nearly two in 10 reported a major problem using the benefit.
Then the story quotes two so-called political experts who question why Brown keeps challenging DeWine about it, since most people who signed up seem satisfied. That is so wrong! Those statistics from Kaiser do NOT mean that Medicare Part D is a successful program. First, the numbers cited concern only those who signed up. In fact, as reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer a few days ago here, 60 percent of seniors responding to the Kaiser survey didn't even sign up for the program. So, the real situation is that 42% of those surveyed have signed up and are satisfied, 8% signed up and are unhappy, and 60% are so unhappy with the program they didn't sign up at all! Even if it were legitimate to just look at those who signed up, 80% is NOT a satisfactory approval rate for a program of this type. That means that one in five - one in five! - are having serious trouble with it. That's horrible! (The rest of Medicare, by contrast, is extremely effective and popular.) Also, there are other findings in the poll that show what a mess it really is:
* Of those enrolled, 62 percent said changes are needed in the program.

* Only 46 percent of those enrolled said they are saving money compared with what they spent last year.

* Only 44 percent correctly responded that members cannot switch plans whenever they wish, and about a third either did not know if their plans have a coverage gap or did not answer the question, showing that many seniors don't understand the basic rules of the program.
That shows, as stated by Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, in the PD article, "we have an extravagant, wastefully flawed program that does too little good for too few people."

Ohio House 61st: Okey (D) Web Site Up

I have just learned that 61st Ohio House District candidate Mark Okey (D-Carrollton) now has a campaign web site up, and it looks very sharp. Okey, a Canton attorney, is running for the House seat vacated by popular incumbent Rep. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown), who is running for the 33rd Ohio Senate District seat of term-limited incumbent Sen. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown).

Okey comes from a family that has a long history of public service, including relatives who have been judges, county officals, a Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, and two members of the Ohio House of Representatives. He has practiced law in partnership with his father for 30 years, and also manages the family farm operation (producing soybeans and corn), and he's an avid outdoorsman. On his site he stresses improving education, helping working families (including raising the minimum wage), affordable health care, helping Ohio farmers, protecting senior citizens, and hunting and fishing issues (protecting gun ownership and preserving natural resources). I intend to look into this race and this candidate in much greater depth in a future post.

Okey is opposed by former County Auditor Brant Luther (R-Alliance), who squeaked by repeat candidate Randy Pope (R) in the Republican primary by 13 votes out of 8,019 cast. The 61st District is in Carroll, Mahoning, Tuscarawas and Stark Counties. Boccieri won re-election against Pope in 2004 with 65.66% of the vote.

Secty of State: Brunner (D) Endorsed by Emily's List

In a huge boost for the campaign of Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus), EMILY's List announced yesterday its support for the former judge, election official, election law attorney, and legislative counsel under a former Secretary of State, Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon).

EMILY's List is the largest political action committee in the nation and biggest financial resource for pro-choice women running for elective office. From the press release:
"Jennifer is an ideal candidate: smart, determined, concerned about her community, and highly qualified," said Karen M. White, national political director of EMILY's List. "Her experience in local politics, courts, and elections speaks for itself, and Jennifer's record shows that she is Ohio's best opportunity for positive change, and the best choice for Ohio's Secretary of State."

Brunner is one of the most qualified candidates for the office of Secretary of State in Ohio's history. If elected, she will be the first Secretary of State to have served on a local board of elections before progressing to the position of the state's top election official. She has served as legislative counsel to then Secretary of State Sherrod Brown, and also as a private practice elections lawyer, a special prosecutor for election fraud, and a judge.

"Jennifer understands the problems facing Ohio and she has the knowledge and strength to fix those problems," continued White. "EMILY's List is confident that Ohio voters will take note of Jennifer's efforts over the past two decades to keep their votes effective and fair, as well as her successes at revolutionizing their courts and protecting their communities, and elect her Secretary of State."

Cong. OH-2: Wulsin (D) Challenges Schmidt (R) to Debate

Energized by polling that shows her race against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) tied at 44% each, and reporting 50% more-cash-on-hand than the incumbent, challenger Dr. Victoria Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) yesterday kept the pressure on by challenging Schmidt to seven public debates.

Why seven? "The people in each county of the 2nd Congressional District deserve a formal candidate debate between the two of us," explained Wulsin in her challenge, delivered to Schmidt by letter and fax, "I sincerely hope that you will agree to one debate in each county: Adams, Brown, Clermont, Hamilton, Pike, Scioto and Warren." She also wrote:
There is perhaps nothing more important to our democracy than transparent government, and a public forum would be an ideal setting to formally share our thoughts and opinions on public policy matters with the people of southern Ohio.
"I doubt that Schmidt will accept the challenge," said Mary Huttlinger, Wulsin’s campaign manger. "Schmidt has spent a full year running and hiding from her responsibilities to the people of the 2nd District. She’s going to continue hiding from them for as long as she can."

I also doubt that Schmidt will agree to debates, at least not any time soon. The conventional wisdom is that front-running incumbents always avoid debates, and Schmidt acts like she fits that description despite Wulsin's favorable polling and fundraising lead, and the fact that respected political analyst Charlie Cook called the race competitive. (Other pundits disagree.) On the other hand, having displayed such magnificent debating skill on the floor of Congress (where she famously taunted decorated Marine veteran Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) as a coward), she may decide it's to her advantage to accept.

Ohio House 29th: Gray (D) Says "It's Not a Black Thing"

Candidate Brent Gray (D-Cincinnati), taking on entrenched incumbent Rep. Louis W. Blessing Jr (R-Cincinnati), asked me to publish the following piece he's written on race in the gubernatorial election. I won't necessarily publish submissions from candidates, but the recent race-inflected flyers distributed in Cuyahoga County by Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) and his detractors makes this seem particularly pertinent:

It's Not a Black Thing: You Need to Understand

As the primary election emerged towards its conclusion, Black radio station ads promoting Ken Blackwell asked for our vote to elect him the next and first African American Governor in the state of Ohio. This message rang out like a stray bullet from a drive by shooting. Terrible analogy you say? Probably. So is the political philosophy of a former democrat turned neocon and extreme right-winged fundamentalist who is far removed from the black community and its concerns.

Following the primary, I engaged a prospective voter in conversation and asked the question: Who do you like for Governor and why? "I'm going to vote for Blackwell because he represents the Black man,â" he said. It became apparent to me that he wasn't aware that Mr. Blackwell opposes affirmative action but supports educational slots for legacies. He wasn't aware that Mr. Blackwell does not support an increase in the minimum wage and calls the constitutional initiative an ill-conceived idea. He wasn't aware that Mr. Blackwell, as co-chair of President Bush's re-election campaign, desecrated his position as Secretary of State by disenfranchising voters in highly populated Black/Democratic precincts across the state during the 2004 election. This blatant act of suppression should have warranted his award of a complimentary imperial grand wizard hood and robe.

Sixteen years of failed leadership, 2 historical tax hikes, corporate welfare, escalating property taxes, scandals and corruption, 1.3 million Ohioans without healthcare, unprecedented job loss, excessively high statewide unemployment rates specifically in the black community, record foreclosure rates and bankruptcies topped off with the lowest governor approval rating in history. I did not just describe an ice cream sundae. These are the issues that warrant your consideration in this upcoming election. It is not the number of scriptures you can quote.

Had enough of the same or is it time for a change?

There is an old adage that reads, don't look at the messenger, listen to the message. My intent is not to marginalize the accomplishments of the candidate. It is to do as Frederick Douglas penned, "agitate, agitate, agitate." We are committed to motivate people to vote in their economic interest versus their "values." It is irresponsible to vote based on divisive frames such as race, class, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. I urge you to champion progressive initiatives that have a positive impact on all of humanity and defend those causes that provoke social change for a better day.

Ask the tough questions like: Will there be economic inclusion or gentrification and exclusion, quality education or disproportionate incarceration, liquor stores or opportunities with open doors? Send a message to the radio stations and throughout the Black community stating that we will not be placated by pigmentation. It is the biased viewpoint of this candidate that rips at the worned fabric of a strained community and annihilates the hope of prosperity that will mend it. If it were true that Mr. Blackwell postulates himself in comparison to the great Martin Luther King, Jr., then he would be familiar with a segment of the "I Have a Dream" speech that reads "they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Mr. Blackwell, the race card wont be played in Ohio's spades game today. You don't have any more tricks and you've been set. Game over!

Brent Gray

10253 Menominee Drive

Cincinnati, Ohio 45251-1727

Wednesday, July 26

Ohio House 72nd: Henry (D) Takes on McGregor (R)

A friend wrote me to say that former Mayor and 72nd Ohio House District candidate Dale Henry (D-Springfield) has a new and improved web site, and that the SEIU has thrown their support his way. I have heard that this could be a close race, so I did some research to find out more about Henry and about the district.

Springfield comprises about 60% of this district located in Clark County, just northeast of Dayton. The incumbent, Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield), is a businessman appointed to the 72nd District seat last August, following the retirement of veteran legislator Merle Kearns (R-Springfield) to become Director of the Ohio Department of Aging. Kearns had served in the house since 2001 and was previously in the Ohio Senate for 10 years. She defeated Rep. Ron Rhine (D) by 57.16% to 42.84% of the vote in 2002, in one of those contests between incumbents brought about by redistricting, and defeated less-formidable challenger Richard Spangler (D) by 59.79% to 40.21% of the vote in 2004. However, Kearns had the benefit of her long legislative service in those races, while newly appointed McGregor was the loser in his only previous election campaign (a challenge to popular Clark County Commissioner Roger Tackett (D) in 2002). According to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the 72nd District is "a true swing district, with the partisan index hovering right near 50 percent," and the resignation of Kearns makes this race a toss-up, "in which both parties will need to invest significant dollars ... likely even more than the combined $276,000 spent in the ’02 Kearns v. Rhine race." The candidates' fundraising to date shows McGregor substantially ahead, although neither is near the level of 2002's expenditures. In the post-primary filing in June, Henry reported $22,140 in contributions received and $1,991.07 on hand, McGregor reported $29,845 in contributions and $45,500.17 on hand.

Dale Henry is a former Springfield City Commissioner (elected in 1989 and re-elected 1993) who served two years as Mayor and six years as Assistant Mayor. Among the programs he helped initiate are a Domestic Violence Task Force, a city program to evict tenants and board up structures involved in drug trafficking, a Neighborhood Assistance Liaison, residential parking spaces for the disabled, and the area’s first bikeway along an abandoned railroad corridor. Upon leaving the City Commission he became Deputy Director of the Clark County Board of Elections for three years, and since 2004 has been a substitute teacher in the Springfield Public School District. Henry ran unsuccessfully for the 73rd Ohio House District in 1998 and 2000 (losing to Ron Rhine in the primary), and for the 10th Ohio Senate District in 1996.

Henry has an appealing personal background and a long record of civic activities. He has been married for 33 years and has three children and three grandchildren. He served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971, obtaining the rank of Acting Sergeant. From 1968 to 1999 he was an assembly worker for General Motors, International Union of Electrical Workers Local #801. While working at GM he earned undergraduate degrees from Clark State Community College in 1979 (Landscape Design) and Wright State University in 1999 (Urban Affairs). He has served as Commander of both an American Legion Post and the Clark County Veterans Council, as a board member for the American Red Cross, Nehemiah Foundation, and Rocking Horse Center, as project chairman for the restoration of the Gammon Underground Railroad House, and as Chaplain of the local lodge of the Masons. He belongs to the Church of Jesus Family Worship Center, the South Limestone Gateway Association, the Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Committee, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This man never rests.

As for why he is running for the General Assembly, Henry writes on his web site that "[f]or too long, the Republicans and the special interests have been cutting deals that leave regular folks like us out in the cold." He says he "knows it’s time to clean things up for good." As state representative, Henry "will make state government accountable to us and will make a real difference in our community." In particular, he pledges to:
* Fight for the district's fair share of state funding for schools and senior programs while easing the property tax burden, saying that he's " tired of local homeowners having to pay the price because the state government isn’t living up to its commitments. That’s why [I]’ll fight to ensure communities like ours aren’t losing out to richer areas."

* Seek to end corruption and bring accountability back to state government by cracking down on the lobbyists and special interests, putting an end to insider deals that cost working families, and holding those who use public dollars accountable to the taxpayers.

* Help raise Ohio's minimum wage and bring more good family-wage jobs to the area by fighting for more investment in job training and economic development efforts.

* Find common sense solutions to bring down the cost of health care: "From letting small businesses band together to bargain for better rates to pushing for lower drug costs for everyone, Dale Henry knows that affordable health care is a right we all deserve."

* Fight for more support for our police and firefighters.
Henry's campaign has drawn many labor endorsements, including the Ohio AFL-CIO, Teamsters Local Union 957, National Association of Social Workers, IBEW Local 683, SEIU District 1199, and the Ohio Education Association.

Sup Ct: Downloadable Flyer for O'Neill (D)

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm very impressed with Supreme Court candidate William O'Neill, and I'm intrigued by his unprecedented "No Money From No Body" campaign. As an appellate judge who has decided thousands of cases and earned the highest possible marks from numerous bar associations, he's indisputably qualified to sit on the high court. The only question is whether his unorthodox campaign can reach enough voters by election day.

O'Neill's opponent, Justice Terrence O'Donnell, retired from the judiciary in 2002 after losing a multi-million dollar election campaign which is remembered as the dirtiest in judicial history. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Bob Taft in 2003 and has since accepted campaign money illegally laundered by Tom Noe and his associates. He has put that money into an escrow account, but has not returned it or given it to charity.

Judge O'Neill prints a flyer on a printing press in his garage, which he hopes to distribute to one million people by Labor Day. Hoping to take this effort to the next level, I've reformulated his flyer as a downloadable document in Microsoft Word format, available by clicking here. I am asking all my readers who care about breaking the stranglehold of special interests and corporations on our Supreme Court to download the flyer and email it to everybody in your email addressbook, or print out copies and pass them along to your friends and relations!

Secty of State: Brunner (D) Unveils "Blueprint for Business" Plan

Yesterday Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) announced her five-point "Blueprint for Business" plan for "making Ohio a more efficient and welcoming place for businesses to locate and succeed." At the press conference, Brunner said:
The Office of Secretary of State should be a catalyst for improving the ease for new start-up businesses and for companies to move to Ohio. As Secretary of State, I will work with our business communities to create a business climate that makes it easier to create more jobs for Ohioans.
The most striking part of the plan is undoing current Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's pernicious trick of paying for his burgeoning outsourcing of office functions by dramatically increasing filing fees (which go into special funds), so he can brag that general revenue funding for his office has decreased. That claim makes it sound like he's made the office more efficient, when the opposite is true. By making businesses pay for his increased spending, Blackwell has damaged Ohio's business environment and deceived the public. As explained by Brunner:
While the current Secretary of State touts level or decreased general revenue funding for the office in the past few years, the real story is told by looking at the increased spending by the office through these special funds. The funding for this increased spending is on the backs of business in Ohio, making it even more difficult to do business in this state and to compete against businesses from other states or nations who do not similarly share this burden.
The full text of Brunner's plan, with a lot of detail on particular items like the electronic signature issue, is available in .pdf format here. In brief, the five points of the plan are:
1. Eliminate the current “one size fits all approach” to forms and filing fees by revising forms for better legal compliance, and restructuring filing and document fees to better reflect a business’ ability to pay and the urgency of the need for documents. This is where undoing Blackwell's inflated filing fees comes in, replacing them with a variable fee structure adapted to different kinds of filers.

2. Support small business growth and development by providing specific, useful information in an easy-to-use online format and access to customer service technicians who can be reached by telephone, electronic mail and walk-in service. The e-mail part is a very good idea.

3. Create an International Business Relations Office, housed within the Secretary of State’s office, to facilitate and encourage international investments in Ohio. This is such an obviously good idea it's amazing that it hasn't been done before.

4. Research and determine the value of electronic signature implementation, which would allow for the use of digital signatures in electronic commerce, using a system based on stringent certification and operating standards. This is the wave of the future, and it's just the kind of thing to which our present do-nothing Republican administration is completely oblivious.

5. Create a Secretary of State’s website that is simple, secure and easy to use.
It's not reflected in the bullet points, but the full text of the plan spells out Brunner's determination to cut down the outsourcing of office functions that Blackwell loves. Here is an excerpt where Brunner details the problems with this outsourcing:
The outsourcing of business services in the Secretary of State’s office has made many business service functions less accountable to the public. No longer are state employees who must answer to the Secretary of State providing critical services to Ohio’s business customers. When things go wrong—and they have—service is slower to address business complaints, because there are more layers of people to get to the heart of the problem and address it, than when state employees are providing the services. Current and unnecessary problems that have resulted for businesses include:

§ The placement on the Secretary of State’s website of 1.2 million social security numbers in Uniform Commercial Code filings, for which a federal class action was filed to remove those numbers from the public domain.

§ Over-standardized business forms that limit language on formation documents that is required by the Ohio Corporation Law (OCL) and the Uniform Corporation Code (UCC). As a result, these standardized forms are requiring the corporate attorneys to file amendments to the formation documents in order to comply with other federal and state requirements. These amendments create additional costs to a corporation and often hinder time-sensitive business mergers and acquisitions.

§ Turnaround time for many documents has decreased to the point that to get reasonable service a corporation has to pay nearly twice the amount listed on the fee structure to expedite documents. Currently, corporations pay an additional $100 to expedite document turnaround, and the quickest time is next day. Many times same day service is necessary but not available. A graduated fee for expediting document turnaround based on time sensitivity should be examined.
It may be especially skocking to me because I practiced law for a decade, but that's a nightmarish litany of incompetence, delay, and expense for a public service agency that ought run smoothly and efficiently.

Brunner's opponent, Hamilton County Clerk Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati), has been touting his own 20-point plan to improve the Secretary of State's office, so I checked his web site to see how his ideas stack up against Brunner's "Blueprint for Business" plan. Of Hartmann's 20 points, only four concern business services:
* Increase the online availability of forms that are filed by businesses and establish the Secretary of State’s Office as the entry point for doing business in Ohio, through an in house one-stop-shop.

* Restructure the Secretary of State’s customer call center to achieve greater efficiency and a higher level of quality service for customers.

* Create a business blog that will be a daily resource center dedicated to updates pertinent to Ohio’s business community.

* Advocate for more timely changes to Ohio law as business technology changes.
Not a whole lot of creativity or innovation there. As to the first point, Ohio already has a "one-stop" web portal for doing business in Ohio (called the "Ohio Business Gateway"), so I don't see how a separate "one-stop" page at the Secretary of State web site makes things more efficient. The second point is vague but okay, although I notice he didn't think of adding e-mail communication. As to the third, blogging is trendy but I don't see what a blog would add to the "Special Features" updates that already appear on the Secretary of State site. Finally, that last bit isn't an idea, it's an IOU. Nothing here about restructuring filing fees, reducing out-sourcing, helping international businesses, or technological advances like electronic signatures.

Not much of a contest.

Gov: Blackwell (R) Attacked by "Blacks Against Blackwell"

The tactics employed by gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) to pry African-American voters away from the Democratic Party are stirring up a response that he isn't going to like.

Blackwell has been trying to woo black voters in populous Cuyahoga County with a full-color flyer that features a photo of a large-headed, goggle-eyed black man frightened by the sight of Strickland’s name. Now the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that "a renegade group" called "Blacks against Blackwell" has begun distributing a flyer that groups Blackwell with President Bush and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas:
"Our color -- but not our kind" reads the flyer, complete with photos. "Joined at the hips and lips. The bad bunch. This trio has worked hard to suppress votes, erase civil rights and kill public education. In November, vote Ted Strickland for Governor of Ohio."
Sounds like Blackwell's offensive flyer has tapped into some real anger and resentment.

Cong. OH-5: Weirauch (D) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) Co-Host "Just Desserts" Event for Women

Robin WeirauchThis sounds like a great event. Robin Weirauch (D-Napolean), who seeks to unseat Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Old Fort) in Ohio's 5th Congressional District, will join with popular Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) to co-host "Just Desserts," a "meeting of women to talk about the real issues," on Sunday, August 6, from 3:00-5:00 pm at the Bowling Green Women's Club, 134 N. Prospect, Bowling Green, Ohio. Women are invited to bring a dessert to share. RSVP to Robin for Congress Finance Director Amanda Dlugiewicz at amanda-at-robinforcongress-dot-com.

Nine-term dinosaur Gillmor, by the way, is seriously bad news. Click here to read a report at People Have the Power about Gillmor's role in restricting state measures to protect public health against dangerous pesticides, ham-stringing the EPA on such regulations, and further slowing U.S. cooperation with an international environmental treaty.

Tuesday, July 25

Gov: Strickland (D) Endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police

The campaign of Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) announced today that he has been unanimously endorsed by the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP is Ohio’s largest law enforcement organization, representing more than 24,000 officers and their families at the local, county, state and federal level.

Nick DiMarco, president of he FOP, commented on the endorsement:
Congressman Ted Strickland has a long relationship with us and has consistently supported law enforcement. Ted is an honest and decent man. Not only is he what law enforcement in Ohio needs, we believe he’s what the state of Ohio needs, and we unanimously endorse him.
Accepting the endorsement, Strickland said:
Ohio’s law enforcement officers serve with bravery and distinction every day, and I’m honored to receive their support. Together, we will continue the work to ensure our communities are safe and that justice is provided for all Ohioans.
Law enforcement endorsements are always a good thing, and this one is big. Also, I just have to say, with Republicans continuing to spread falsehoods about Strickland (accusing him of supporting gay marriage when he opposes it, claiming he doesn't attend church when he does, arguing that he doesn't really support gun rights when his record of supporting them is clear, even making insinuations about Strickland's marriage), I just like hearing an affirmation once again that Strickland is "an honest and decent man." A very sharp contrast to the slanderers on the other side.

UPDATE: The Cleveland Plain Dealer "blog" Openers says this is the first time in over ten years that the FOP has turned away from the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Sen: Brown (D) Turns "Smoke" Debacle Into Fundraiser

Showing encouraging tenacity and creativity, the senatorial campaign of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) has morphed the faked image of a smoking World Trade Center tower from the disastrous 9/11-themed TV ad by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville) into a special fund-raising drive to combat misleading attacks.

Called "Clear the GOP Smokescreen," the fund-raising appeal describes the widespread criticism of the ad over its political exploition of 9/11, and the embarrassing fiasco of the doctored image, and says that "with help from Karl Rove and the masterminds behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- who produced the controversial ad -- DeWine has attempted to shroud Ohio in a thick smokescreen of smears and distortions in an effort to hide the truth." After describing the Democratic response to the ad, and two recent polls showing that Sherrod continues to lead DeWine by eight points (the Columbus Dispatch and Zogby/WSJ), the appeal states that "we need your support to prevent DeWine from clouding the truth again."

This would be a very good time to help the Sherrod Brown campaign keep up the counterattack against this despicable smear campaign.

Ohio House 92nd: Phillips (D) Fundraiser in Columbus This Sunday

The campaign of City Council member and state representative candidate Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) sent me an email about an ice cream social fundraiser they will be hosting this Sunday, July 30, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at 2211 Cheltenham Road in Columbus. Francis Strickland, spouse of gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), will speak. The suggested donation is $25 or $92.

Phillips is a solid candidate and this is definitely a race worth watching. The 92nd House District has the highest proportion of Democrats of any district now held by a Republican. It includes the university town of Athens (as well as the rest of Athens County), Meigs County, Morgan County, and a portion of Washington County. The incumbent is Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens).

Phillips is the Executive Director of the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, formed in 2003 to work toward a real solution to Ohio’s school funding crisis and advocate for high quality education opportunities. Previously she worked as Project Coordinator for the Community and School Connection, part of Rural Action, which involved helping citizens participate in planning for state- funded building projects, community use of old school buildings, and school funding issues. Phillips is an experienced mediator, formerly on the Board of the Athens Area Mediation Service, who has served as a volunteer mediator in domestic relations and small claims cases and has provided training to area school children in conflict management and peer mediation.

Phillips defeated teacher Michael Struble in the May primary by 70% to 30% of the vote, while Stewart was unopposed. House minority leader Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) has said that the 92nd House District race will be one of the most important to the Democratic party this election year, due to the high proportion of Democratic voters in the district and the presence of a local Democratic favorite (Strickland) at the top of the ticket.

Cong. OH-14: Katz (D) Releases Iraq Plan

Congressional candidate and law professor Lewis Katz (D-Pepper Pike), who seeks to unseat incumbent Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Painesville), has unveiled his plan for withdrawing American troops from Iraq while assuring Iraq's future stability. "Our troops have accomplished all that has been asked of them by this administration," writes Katz in his press release. "They have toppled a ruthless dictator and laid the foundation for an independent Iraq. The time has come to bring them home. My plan will accomplish that while making sure Iraq does not slide any further into chaos."

Katz's plan, the full text of which is available in Word format here, consists of "three R's": reducing the number of American troops in Iraq, replacing them with a coalition made up of troops from America's allies in the region such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and redeveloping Iraq's infrastructure by opening the country to investment from countries around the world. "Until now the majority of redevelopment contracts have been secured through a no-bid process limited to American corporations. This policy has resulted in limited world interest in Iraq. In order to speed redevelopment, that has got to change," Katz writes.

"Sadly, the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have failed to provide any kind of realistic strategy for getting our forces out of Iraq," Katz continues. "My plan is intended to fill that leadership void." Katz notes that LaTourette has been a consistent supporter of the Bush Administration's failed Iraq policies. "Congressman LaTourette has been one of the president's chief enablers of this disastrous war. It's time he was called to account for his role in this war."

Katz's plan is endorsed by Joseph Hoar, a four-star general in the United States Marine Corps; Professor Michael Scharf, director of the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center at Case Western Reserve University and a nominee for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize; and Professor Amos Guiora, director of the Institute for Global Security Law and Policy at Case Law School and a counterterrorism expert.

Concluding, Katz states that "the nation has arrived at a crossroads in its Iraq policy," and has "a clear opportunity to turn away from the situation wherein America bears all the costs of lives and treasure in Iraq." It is "up to the nations of the Middle East to secure the region's destiny, he continues, and by pursuing his plan "we can assure Iraqi independence and stability, and bring our troops home."

Cong. OH-1: Cranley (D) Highlights Oil Votes by Chabot (R)

With oil companies set to announce another round of obscenely high profits and consumers paying record high prices at the pump, now is a good time for Democratic challengers to focus on all that Republican legislators do for their friends and financial supporters in the oil and gas industry. Today's press release from John Cranley (D-Cincinnati) does a great job of that on vulnerable incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati).

Chabot, first elected as a "Contract with America" radical reformer in 1994, then described tax breaks for big oil companies as "corporate welfare that the government can’t afford." My how Chabot's views have changed. In May of this year Chabot voted to give oil companies a free ride to drill in waters owned by the American public (a plan that was defeated). A year ago he was among the negotiators who helped finalize the Bush Energy Bill, which handed $14.5 billion in tax breaks to oil companies.

As Cranley notes, Washington has changed Chabot, helped along by $64,000 in campaign contributions from big oil PACs since his first election, including $1,000 from profit record-breaker Exxon-Mobil in the most recently reported quarter. Something to think about while you're standing at the gas pump, watching the numbers whirl.

Gov: Blackwell (R) Refuses to Release Tax Returns

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) has refused its request to make public his federal and state tax returns filed during the previous three years. A spokesman for Blackwell's opponent, Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), said the congressman will release his returns, adding:
Given what has gone on in Columbus, there is need for more transparency and accountability in government and Ted has nothing to hide.
Indeed, I wonder what Blackwell wants to hide? Earlier this year his campaign took a hit when it was revealed that he owned shares in Diebold (the manufacturer of voting machines) and a company connected to gambling. What other interesting companies might be found among his personal assets?

Secty State: Brunner (D) Calls Out Hartmann (R) On Support for Blackwell

This editorial in the Youngstown Vindicator, headlined "Hartman [sic] Keeps GOP Establishment at Bay," shows how secretary of state nominee and current Hamilton County Clerk Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati) is trying to distance himself from gubernatorial candidate and current Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) regarding Blackwell's shamelessly partisan mismanagement of Ohio elections. Hoping to gain some support in heavily Democratic northeast Ohio, Hartmann told the Vindicator that he has no intention of "going along for a ride with the top of the ticket" and sees himself as a "new face" on the Republican scene. The editorial states that Hartmann has "vowed to not take active roles in political campaigns" and that Hartmann views Blackwell as having "done some positive things as secretary of state, but there is room for improvement." A little later it says that "Hartmann isn't embracing his fellow Republican." This follows Hartmann's attempt earlier this month to protray himself as a "reform-minded" candidate by releasing a 20-point plan to "improve" the secretary of state's office (although without directly criticizing its current occupant).

Is it true? Is Hartmann an outside reformer, not tied in with the GOP establishment? Not a chance, and opponent Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) is not about to let Hartmann get away with pretending otherwise. Brunner, who resigned her judgeship to run for Secretary of State, served in the Secretary of State's office under then Secretary of State Sherrod Brown, now a Congressman running for Governor. She also was a member of the Franklin County Board of Elections and practiced election law for 13 years. In her press release, Brunner says "the only distance between Greg Hartmann and Ken Blackwell, is Greg will go the distance to finish what Ken Blackwell started--to raise penalties to keep new voters from being registered," referring to Hartmann's intention to increase the penalties for violating recent voter registration rules adopted by Blackwell and now under review by a federal court judge in Cleveland.

Brunner also points out that in a fund raising letter to supporters Hartmann wrote "it's critical to the future of our [the Republican] party that we keep this office in Republican hands," after touting his roles in working hard to elect Republicans "at every level" and as President Bush's Hamilton County campaign chair just two years ago. A report on Cincinnati station WCPO last month noted that Hartmann is a "hand-selected, well-financed associate of the Ohio GOP" who has "focused most of his campaign efforts so far on local Republican clubs, chambers of commerce and business groups." Hartmann "has amassed a formidable $627,000 in campaign money," including support from "GOP heavyweight donors Carl Lindner and Richard Farmer of Cincinnati and Iams Corp.'s Clay Mathile, all billionaires." As noted in Brunner's press release, Hartmann "became the state GOP's nominee as a result of a deal cut within the party to ensure him the nomination for the office." In short, Hartmann is a party insider, and there's no "distance" between him and Ken Blackwell at all.

Sunday, July 23

Gov & Sen: Strickland (D) and Brown (D) Lead in Dispatch Poll

A huge 20% lead for gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Ted Strickand (D-Lisbon), and a significant 8% lead for senatorial candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon), according to a poll by the Columbus Dispatch released today:The pollsters contacted 1,654 registered voters during the period July 11-20, much of which was after the advent of DeWine's attack ad.

The internal numbers are very interesting. In the gubernatorial race, Strickland does much better among Democrats (81%-2%) than Blackwell among Republicans (61%-12%). Strickland picks up 18% of those who voted for Bush in 2004 and 28% of those who voted for Gov. Bob Taft (R) in 2002. Independents favor Strickland by 47% to 14%, and in a very surprising finding black voters favor Strickland by 68% to 14%; Blackwell's support in previous statewide contests has ranged from 20% to 30%. This latter number should be treated with caution, however, because there were only 99 black respondents in the poll.

In the senatorial race, DeWine's Republican support is also soft but not as soft as Blackwell's. Brown polls at 82% to 8% among Democrats, while DeWine's numbers for Republicans are 75% to 8%, with independents going to Brown by 42% to 27%. Brown picks up 13% of Bush voters and 22% of Taft voters. Union households favor Brown by 60% to 24%, and black voters also favor Brown by 78% to 10%.

It should be noted that neither poll leader is above the important 50% line, and the numbers of undecided voters are sufficient to swing the results in either contest.

Saturday, July 22

Sen: Brown (D) Will Meet the Bloggers

At the Blogapalooza fundraiser for Meet the Bloggers tonight, held at The Town Fryer in Cleveland, Ohio, George Nemeth of Brewed Fresh Daily announced that senatorial candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) will do a Meet the Bloggers interview on Saturday, August 12, at noon, location to be announced.

Sen: Brown (D) Counteroffensive Gains Ground

A front page headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer today declares "Security Votes Lose Context in Senate Race." The text of the article goes on to explain at some length why the current charges by incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cincinnati) against challenger Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon), in a TV ad that shows pictures of 9/11 and characterizes Brown's voting record as "weakening" national security, "may not be deserved" and "sorely lack context." The reporter places Brown's pre-9/11 votes for intelligence budget cuts in their correct context of a CIA that was error-prone, bloated, and still focused on the vanished threat of Soviet Union. "The whole point was that we knew there was a slush fund at the CIA, that they had a lot of money set aside," Brown is quoted as saying about the votes. "We knew they had a lot of problems at that agency, where they weren't doing their jobs, and we were sending them a message." Brown was joined in these votes by some prominent Republicans, such as Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati). The reporter points out that the message sent by the these votes to the CIA (i.e., to improve its operations and focus on genuine threats) has been "flipped on its head" by the DeWine TV ad.

The effect of DeWine's inflammatory ad (produced by the same firm that created the notorious Swift Boat smear campaign against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) during his presidential campaign) was initially blunted by the disclosure that the image of the burning World Trade Center had been doctored. (The ad was pulled and then resumed with a different image.) This new questioning of DeWine's underlying charges further undermines DeWine's assault.

A lot of credit goes to Brown for responding rapidly to DeWine's attack. When the Swift Boat ads appeared in the summer of 2004, the Kerry campaign hesitated for a few weeks before responding. They saw the attack as obviously scurrilous, the ad buy as relatively small (as it was, but cable news coverage spread the lies far and wide), and they didn't want to help the enemy by calling attention to their spurious claims. Many now regard this delay as the single worst mistake of Kerry's unsuccessful presidential bid.

Determined not to repeat Kerry's error, Brown responded immediately to DeWine's ad by pointing to past instances when DeWine misled voters, including making false statements regarding conviction rates of his opponent during his campaign for Greene County Prosecutor in 1977. The Ohio Democratic Party followed up with a responsive ad, calling DeWine's charges "sad" and a "smear" and countering DeWine's portrayal of their respective voting records on national security. As noted by blogger Mark Adams on the new Ohio community blog As Ohio Goes, both DeWine's portrayal of Brown's voting record and part of ODP's response have been determined to be misleading by FactCheck.org.

The initial media response to DeWine's ad was merely to repeat the thrust of his charges. Just getting the media narrative to shift from that kind of mimicry to an examination of whether DeWine's attack has any basis in fact is a significant victory for Brown in this phase of the campaign.

Friday, July 21

Ohio Sen 25th: Mason (D) Meets the Bloggers

I didn't have time to post this before I rushed out of town last Friday, but it's too important to leave undone. On July 13th, State Rep. Lance T. Mason (D-Cleveland), who is running for term-limited State Sen. Eric Fingerhut's 25th District seat, did a Meet the Bloggers interview at the Arabica coffee house in University Circle. Mason is an exceptionally articulate, thoughtful, and personable candidate. It makes me very excited for the future of the Democratic Party in Ohio that we have people of such high caliber seeking to move up to a higher office. He has big shoes to fill, running for Fingerhut's seat, but he gives every indication of having the intelligence and character to do just that. I think there are very big things ahead for him.

Mason grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where his introduction to politics came at a fund-raiser for Richard Celeste, and he subsequently worked on a campaign for present Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones. He graduated from Wooster College and received his law degree at the University of Michigan School of Law (a very highly ranked school). After a stint at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, he served as an assistant prosecutor under Stephanie Tubbs Jones. He worked on her Congressional campaign, and ultimately was selected by the Congresswoman for the critical position of District Director. In 2002 he was appointed to the Ohio House of Representatives to replace Peter Lawson Jones.

We had a wide-ranging discussion of issues and politics. (The audio of our interview is available here.) He reports that the key issues on the minds of voters in his district are economic development, education, and affordable healthcare. I thought that his comments about school funding and renewable energy were impressively articulate and detailed, and he had thoughtful things to say about term limits, bipartisanship, and gerrymandering, among other topics.

Mason is opposed by former Euclid mayor David Lynch, who ran for Mayor of Cleveland last year. Mason declined to talk about his opponent very much, but he did question how much Lynch really wants the job of state senator, pointing out that Lynch was reportedly a potential Lieutenant Governor running mate for Ken Blackwell or a potential opponent for County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, and that Lynch pulled petitions for the state senator race just one day before the deadline, and finally that Lynch has also expressed interest in the position of Director for the Port of Cleveland.

I tried to get Mason to identify a role model as a politician and as a legislator, but he demurred. However, it is clear that he is very influenced by his former employer Rep. Tubbs Jones and his predecessor in office, County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones.

This is a person to watch in the years to come.

Sup Ct: O'Neill (D) Announces Hackett and Gwinn to Serve as Campaign Co-Chairs

This came as a surprise, but it's terrific. I love that Hackett and O'Neill are both combat veterans with an unorthodox approach to politics -- it makes perfect sense for Hackett to get O'Neill's back. From the press release:
The O'Neill For Justice Committee broke new ground today with the appointment of Iraqi War Veteran Paul Hackett and County Chair Association President Susan Gwinn as statewide co-chairs of the committee.

In making the announcement Judge O'Neill said, "Gwinn and Hackett are ready to let the world know that business as usual in Ohio government will not get the job done." Judge O'Neill won the Democratic primary by over 100,000 votes while maintaining his pledge to take "No Money From No Body". The Judge is in his second term on the 11th District Court of Appeals and has consistently maintained that "Money and Judges Don't Mix"

Judge O'Neill explained the need for co-chairs in simple terms. "We now have active committees in 24 counties, and I need high profile people to raise the volume and spread the message between now and election day. Paul Hackett is a walking legend in Southwest Ohio and Susan Gwinn, heads the largest grass roots organization in Ohio - The Ohio County Chairs Association. They are a perfect fit for the O'Neill For Justice Committee."

. . . Hackett and Gwinn will now head a state-wide speakers' bureau for Judge O'Neill and coordinate volunteers in all 88 Ohio counties.

To date, Judge O'Neill has been endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party; United Steelworkers of America; United Food & Commercial Workers; the Ohio Education Association; and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. . . .

Friday, July 14

Ohio2006 on Break for a Week

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I will be leaving tomorrow morning for a week out of town (along with the dogs!) and will look forward to resuming my blogging after July 21.

Sup Ct: O'Neill (D) Meets the Bloggers

Appellate Judge William O'Neill (D-South Russell), who is running for the Ohio Supreme Court without accepting any campaign contributions at all, did a Meet the Bloggers interview this morning at Talkies Film & Coffee Bar on Market Avenue in Cleveland. His unique campaign is not quixotic whimsy but a compelling implementation of his bedrock conviction that money and judges don't mix, and that Supreme Court seats should not be bought and sold like stock market seats. Few would disagree with his premises, but O'Neill is the only judge ever (so far as I can determine) to put these principles into practice by refusing to accept campaign cash in a statewide election.
I have blogged about O'Neill's background and qualifications recently, so I will not try to summarize that part of our discussion today. Our conversation roamed freely to O'Neill's experiences in Vietnam, as a government attorney, and as a pediatric emergency room nurse, a pursuit that he took on fairly recently in response to "an inner voice" that told him "there's got to be more in life," reacting to the fact that as a judge he "surrounds himself with angry adults."

O'Neill said that he decided to run for the Supreme Court at the funeral of former attorney general Anthony Celebrezze, Jr, while thinking about how Celebrezze had given young Democrats like himself two things: (1) a start in politics, and (2) someone to admire. Not having come from a background of politics or money, and having achieved success, he felt that he could not rest on his accomplishments but must give back more.

O'Neill said that his goal as a Supreme Court Justice would be to restore balance to the court. He sharply criticized the three sitting Justices (including his opponent, Terrence O'Donnell (R)) who have put into escrow illegal campaign contributions connected to disgraced Republican fundraiser Tom Noe.

Jill of the great blog Writes Like She Talks became very animated discussing O'Neill's proposal to use a $10 filing fee from each of the 3 million lawsuits filed in Ohio every year to out $30 million each year into a Judicial Selection Fund to take the place of campaign contributions to judges.

One big key to O'Neill's chances for success is his flyer, which states his message in plain and compelling language. He has been printing this flyer in his garage, with the goal of distributing it to one million people by Labor Day, largely through the efforts of volunteers.

Although he will not accept campaign contributions, O'Neill seeks volunteers willing to donate their time, and he has no objection to campaign efforts by others on his behalf. Readers who want to help can register to volunteer and/or download an "O'Neill for Justice" sign from his web site, and you can also download a copy of his flyer in ".pdf" format here to print and distribute to family and friends.

UPDATE: A cleaner vresion of the flyer in Microsoft Word format can be downloaded here.

Ohio House 43rd: Dyer (D) Launches Web Site

On Wednesday I hopped down to Akron to meet with 43rd Ohio House District candidate Stephen Dyer (D-Green) and Pho of the excellent blog Pho's Akron Pages at Angel Coffee Company on Market Street. Dyer, 33, is a staff attorney for Summit County. He faces another first-time candidate, assistant prosecutor Christine Croce (R-Green), in the contest for the vacant seat of State Auditor candidate Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green). We had a long conversation about Dyer, his district, Summit county politics in general, Dyer's new campaign web site, and ways for Dyer to reach out to the blogosphere.

Dyer has been interested in getting into politics since high school, having been initially inspired by a year-long student protest over the firing of an African-American music teacher after he marryied a white woman. He earned an undergraduate degree in English from Tufts University in 1994, a masters degree in journalism from Kent State University in 1999, and very recently received a law degree from the University of Akron. After his graduation from Tufts he worked for Governor Mike Barrett of Massachusetts and interned with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), then switched careers to become a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal after graduating from Kent State. He is married (his wife Melissa is a registered nurse) and they have a young son named Logan. The family recently moved from Tallmadge to Green.

Dyer's inspiration for running for the General Assembly comes from writing the same stories about incompetent government over and over again, revealing the current state government's lack the will to solve problems. In particular, he brought up an Akron Beacon Journal series he co-wrote (and for which he and his colleagues were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) titled "Ohio: Look at the State We're In," which examined Ohio's troubling slide in many quality-of-life measures. In particular, he cites the mishandling by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services of a Medicaid-funded program for screening for breast and cervical cancer as a classic example of government incompetence. Because of poor decisions that Ohio officials made on how to operate the program, far fewer cases of cancer were detected or treated in areas of Ohio than in comparable areas in West Virginia or Kentucky where the program was handled differently. The exposure of this discrepancy resulted in the firing of the program's director, but the way that the program is handled has still not been changed. Dyer says that Ohio has the 4th or 5th highest breast cancer mortality rate in the country, while West Virginia is at the national average. It is just one example of a problem "that could easily be fixed if there is a will, but there is no will ... except a will to keep one's seat." (The specific article in which this was reported, "Tests for Uninsured go Underused," Feb. 23, 2003, is not publicly available online.)

We also discussed Dyer's very specific ideas about fixing the unconstitutional Ohio system for school funding, based on comparison with other states like New Mexico. Dyer indicates that 45 states have dealt with lawsuits over unconstitutional school funding, and only Ohio seems to have failed to make any improvement. "Why do we always shoot for mediocracy, for the middle -- why don't we try to be the best?" Dyer asks. "Why doesn't anyone say that we can take on the big challenge of funding schools and make it the best system in the country?" The Ohio Republican Party doesn't challenge anyone, making it hard to figure out its recent political success.

On the topic of legislative oversight, Dyer made the interesting comment that a state agency like the federal General Accounting Office is needed, with nonpartisan professionals committed to fair analysis of topics submitted by legislators. He also pointed out that Ohio desperately needs a real legislative record. Presently, although Ohio is the 7th largest state, it is impossible to obtain detailed records of floor and committee debates or even of floor votes.

Going door-to-door to meet voters, Dyer finds that education is the # 1 issue on peoples' minds, followed by health care and jobs. He senses that school funding as an issue fell on deaf ears in the past, but after repeated votes on property tax levies people are paying more attention this year. Gay marriage never comes up as an issue, and abortion is brought up infrequently. Dyer is pro-choice, saying that "abortion is a terrible personal decision that the government should not be involved in." He likens this view to the position of the Founding Fathers of the nation, and comments that he would "rather take the position of John Adams than that of Pat Robertson." Dyer says that his role models as a politician include Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, but as a legislator he is inspired by people like Ralph Regula and George Mitchell who can "reach across the aisle" in order to build coalitions and "get things done for the district." He points out that he is willing to listen to ideas advanced by Republicans, and cites State Sen. Kirk Schuring and State Rep. Scott Oelslager as examples of Republican legislators who he believes are similarly willing to listen to the other side and to question their own party leadership.

Personally I was very impressed with Dyer's grasp of public policy issues and his passion for public service. He displays a genuine determination to work very hard in this election, and he's very confident in his message as well as his ability to deliver it.

Ohio House 29th: Gray (D) Speaks Out on Voting Rights

In Cincinnati this past Monday it was my pleasure to meet 29th Ohio House District candidate Brent Gray (D-Cincinnati). Gray faces the difficult task of unseating entrenched incumbent Rep. Louis W. Blessing, Jr. (R-Cincinnati), but Gray says he is "in it to win it."

First-time candidate Gray is a small business owner, operating a real estate investment company called Capital Ventures Group. He was inspired to get involved in politics during the 2000 Al Gore for President campaign. He served as a precinct captain in Cincinnati's 7th Ward during the mayoral campaign of Mark Mallory (D-Cincinnati) and is a precinct committee member of the central committee of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. He also sat on the selection committee for the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, helping to choose General Assembly candidates for endorsement in those areas.

Gray says the the biggest issue in his campaign is accountability, specifically holding his opponent accountable for not performing his duty of serving his constituents. He also cites education, the economy, and jobs as the biggest concerns on the part of voters he meets going door-to-door. When the abortion issue comes up, Gray says:
People have the ability to make their own decisions, and government should no more tell women what to do with their bodies than they should tell us how to practice religion. God gives us the ability to make a choice.
Asked about his role models in politics, Gray mentioned former state representatives Bill Mallory, Sr. and Wayne Coats as inspirations, and said that his mentors have been 31st District State Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) and 33rd District State Rep. Tyrone Yates (D). Gray insists that this race is not about him, but about his message, including his Everyone Votes Initiative. "I'm just an average citizen, trying to make a difference," he told me, and then revised that slightly: "Average, but not ordinary."

At my request, Gray sent me the following letter to the editor that he wrote in connection with his Everyone Votes Intiative, which has been accepted for publication in the Cincinnati Herald:
Vote-By-Mail For a Better Day

It appears that the post civil war reconstruction period is reflected in present day politics. In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified which provided specifically that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of race, color or previous condition of servitude. This constitutional amendment superceded state law that directly prohibited the Black vote. What followed were Jim Crow tactics of intimidation and assaults from groups like the Klu Klux Klan to suppress the vote. Gerrymandering districts, albeit discriminatory, became the rule of the day to eliminate Blacks from serving as elected officials to advance the agenda of the governing class over that of working class citizens. This was historically one of the elements that laid the foundation for eliminating the popular vote and establishing the now antiquated and suspect Electoral College System.

Moreover, if we fast-forward one hundred thirty six years to present day, we find that our democracy is once again under siege. The 1965 Voting Rights Act currently hangs in the balance. Our civil liberties are being stripped from us under the guise of national security at the behest of the War Powers Act. Conservative court decisions without precedent or judicial reasoning legalize partisan gerrymandering. Manipulative GOP controlled elections and reforms dictate and influence our blind acceptance of these anomalies surreptitiously inviting what is in reality the insurgence of fascism.

Trends set forth reminiscent of the 2000 and 2004 elections call for immediate action due to similar yet alarming exit poll results and documented fraudulent activity under the jurisdiction of partisan elected officials who serve as state campaign co-chairs of candidates and have a stake in the outcome of elections. This practice represents a clear and disturbing conflict of interest and is an affront to democracy. Hundreds of thousands of votes were and are still unaccounted for, at least 170,000 in Ohio from the latest presidential election. The margin of victory was 118,000 votes. One of these officials, a former secretary of state now holds a congressional seat as her reward. What do you think the plan is for Ohio's secretary of state come November 2006? DO THE MATH!

EVI, the Everyone Votes Initiative, is our answer for a better day and a better way.

Based on the Oregon state election model, our goal is to register voters, saturate our district with absentee ballots and provide a pre-addressed envelope to be mailed to the Board of Elections. We have been targeted and disenfranchised by recalibrated voting machines or the lack thereof, Guinness book record lines, precinct and polling place confusion and intimidation by neo-conservative challengers. All Ohioans to include our senior citizens, the poor, disabled and minorities will have their voices heard in what is left of a constitutional right of passage being assailed. To take our country back we must acknowledge the past, reflect upon the present and plan for the future of generations to follow, one vote at a time.

Brent Gray, Candidate
State Representative
29th District
10253 Menominee Drive Cincinnati, OH 45251-1727

Thursday, July 13

Sen: DeWine (R) Contradicts Ad by Voting "No" on Firefighter Funding

This week incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville) is running a TV ad proclaiming his support for firefighters. Today, however, DeWine voted against $16 billion in funding for first responders including firefighters. The effect of his vote is to provide that money to people whose income is over $1,000,000 instead.

The vote came on Senate Amendment 4641 to H.R. 5441, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007. The stated purpose was to "fund urgent priorities for our Nation's firefighters, law enforcement personnel, emergency medical personnel, and all Americans by reducing the tax breaks for individuals with annual incomes in excess of $1,000,000." The amendment failed 62 to 38, largely along party lines.

Challenger Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) was all over it:
Senator DeWine can pay announcers to claim he supports firefighters, but his votes reveal where his loyalties really are. When given a choice today, DeWine chose to support millionaires over Ohio firefighters and other first responders. Not only is this shameful for those hardworking individuals, but not having sufficient funding threatens the security of all Ohioans. ... That DeWine blatantly chooses to underfund first responders while running an ad claiming support for firefighters is disingenuous and insulting to Ohio families. It’s time for someone in the Senate who fights for Ohio, not just for millionaires.

Village of Woodmere Hosts Meet-and-Greet for Candidates

Last Sunday afternoon, July 9th, I attended a meet-and-greet for Democratic candidates at the upscale Eton Collection shopping mall in the Village of Woodmere, Ohio, a tiny but prosperous and predominantly African-American municipality in Cleveland's eastern suburbs. The event was organized by Woodmere resident Clover Elliot, and Woodmere Mayor Yolanda Brody was on hand to welcome the candidates.

The stated purpose of the event was to encourage voters to get to know the candidates personally, and to that end the hosts had set up a circle of large color photographs on easels, with the idea that voters could use the photographs to identify and greet the candidates as they stood nearby. This was a good plan, but unfortunately most of the candidates arrived late, and Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Brunner had to cancel her appearance. Nevertheless, former state senator and current Supreme Court candidate Ben Espy stood dutifully by his photograph and greeted many people, and Ohio Democratic Party Chair Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island) and 8th Ohio House District candidate Armond Budish (D-Beachwood), who is running unopposed, were also on hand to talk to voters. I spoke briefly to all three, Redfern telling me that he never reads blogs (and then reversing himself to say that of course he has read my stuff), Budish giving me his usual warm and friendly greeting, and Espy impressing me with a very concise, impromptu discussion of the school funding issue. Espy also promised to get me the URL for his future campaign web site, which will be activated soon.
Above is a shot of Budish talking to Espy. I have met Budish several times and like him a lot. He is a partner in a small Beachwood law firm and has written a column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the law for years, especially as it relates to his special interest of protecting the rights of seniors. His spouse was also present.

Above is Redfern talking to a couple of voters. He had a stack of cards and handed them out freely, so I also gave him mine when we spoke. I praised his energy as Chairman and his efforts to take on the Republicans in all 88 counties.

In addition to candidates, I enjoyed talking to frequent blog commenter Ambercat, blogger Rob Hawkins of NEO Hawk and Planet NEO, and blogger Jill Miller Zimon of Writes Like She Talks. (Jill blogged about this event on Monday here.) I also met Becky Thomas and Judy Kramer of the interesting grassroots organization Patriots for Change, based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, which works in a bipartisan way for change in the political direction of Ohio and the nation.

The principal organizer, Clover Elliot, welcomed the crowd and began the presentations.

Supreme Court candidate Ben Espy was the first candidate to speak. He said that he is running because he could see that the issues he worked on as a state senator for many years were not being handled properly by the Ohio Supreme Court. In particular, he said that it is appalling that the DeRolph school funding litigation has dragged on for a decade with no remedy imposed to fix the unconstitutional system. He stressed the importance of having different viewpoints on the court, both with respect to party affiliation (retiring Justice Alice Robie Resnick, whose seat Espy seeks, is currently the only Democrat on the seven member court) and legal background (Espy has never been a judge but has served as a military lawyer in the JAG Corps, in the Ohio Attorney General's office, and in the legislature, as well as in private practice representing primarily labor unions). The Ohio State Bar Association has awarded Espy their highest ranking. Did you know that Espy played football for Woody Hayes at OSU?

Chris Redfern spoke briefly, thanking the organizers and Mayor Brody, and later brandishing a weeding tool that he had just purchased at the Smith & Hawken store in the mall. He suggested that all Democrats should buy one, to help weed out the Republicans.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Lee Fisher (D-Cleveland) spoke after Redfern and was very forceful and direct. (Unfortunately, my photos of him came out blurry because I was very close and he moved around a lot.) He said that there are three reasons why this is the most important statewide election in our lifetimes: (1) Ohio is in trouble (citing awful statistics on foreclosures, jobs, and the economy), which is a direct result of one-party Republican rule, (2) "all the marbles are in the state of Ohio," meaning that whoever is in the Governor's office will help determine who is elected President in 2008, and (3) maybe most important, gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) is running against a man "who has repeatedly violated the trust of the people of Ohio," citing abuses by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) that have deprived people of their right to vote. Fisher quoted the bumper sticker that says, "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention."

Armond Budish followed Fisher, saying that he is running because the state is in trouble and is falling further and further behind. He emphasized his work with seniors as well as the sorry state of education and health care. He asserted that health care should be a right, and contrasted the lack of movement in the Ohio General Assembly with steps taken in Vermont and Massachussetts to get health insurance coverage to people who don't have it.

After a period of waiting for additional candidates to arrive (during which I had a chance to talk to my politically active friends Ericka, Shana, and Wendy, who don't especially relish appearing in my blog so I won't say anything else about them), senatorial candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown addressed the crowd. He seemed unusually energetic and upbeat on Sunday, which in retrospect may have had something to do with his meeting with Paul Hackett the day before, and the fact that the unity rally had been set for the following day in Cincinnati. He emphasized the writing of legislation by corporations under Republican rule as exemplifying the "pay-to-play" culture of this administration, and contrasted his vote against the Iraq War with DeWine's support for it. He talked about meeting with military families and hearing about shortages of armor for soldiers and their Humvees, and about the underfunding of care for Veterans. He said that "this crowd in Columbus and Washington DC have betrayed the middle class, and have betrayed families who are struggling, who work hard and play by the rules." He asked the assembled crowd (there may have been about a hundred at the peak of attendance) to engage in the campaign to raise the minimum wage, and he asked each person to find five other people and get them to vote for the Democratic ticket. After an anecdote about his wife, Connie Schultz, and a mix up involving her car (it is also related in the transcript I posted of his remarks at the unity rally in Cincinnati on Monday), he closed by saying that if we all do what we know how to do between now and the election, we will wake up the morning after election day and see two headlines: "Democrats Win House and Senate" and "Ohio Turns Blue." During the Q and A he talked a bit about the Bush administration having no strategy to win the war or to get out of Iraq, and said that we should "declare victory based on getting rid of Saddam and make plans, based on what military officers say (not the civilians in the Pentagon) to get out in the next 1 1/2 to 2 years." He also fielded questions about gas prices (he linked this to developing alternative energy sources) and health care (mentioning the need for the Medicare program to be able to negotiate drug prices, and saying that employer-based providing of health care coverage should be reconsidered).

Ted Strickland followed Sherrod Brown. Strickland was animated and enthusiastic, calling out "Are you ready for change in Ohio?" and eventually abandoning the podium and microphone (the sound system wasn't working very well anyway) to roam around the front of the atrium. He asked if everybody was ready to work hard for the next 119 days, thanked us for our concern for the condition of the State of Ohio, and decried one-party rule in Columbus and Washington.

Strickland said that the Republican party has developed a callousness to ordinary people and have used their power to enrich themselves and their special interest friends. He called on the audience to vote to raise the minimum wage, speaking of his 80-year-old sister who at one time was forced to work for minimum wage for five years. On how to improve things in Ohio, he focussed on providing quality education ("We're getting to the place where class matters in getting a quality college education -- we can't allow this!") and making Ohio a leader in renewable alternative energy. In closing, he said that the other party has held onto power by using fear and hatred, and causing division, and people in Ohio are better than that. "We are going to call forth the best in Ohioans!" he declared.

Strickland called State Auditor candidate Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) to the podium, totally eclipsing the gentleman who was scheduled to introduce her. The chemistry between these two is great, as I saw at the OBLC pre-event before the ODP 2006 State Dinner in June.

Above is a shot of Sykes giving her "talk." Really it was like a pep rally. She exudes energy, speaking loudly and rhythmically and making sweeping gestures with her arms. She said that she was proud to have Sherrod Brown as her Congressman, and recognized Rep. Annie Keys (D-Cleveland) in the audience, as well as her husband, Ohio House of Representatives candidate Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), and her daughter, Amelia, who had travelled to the event with her. As to her race for Auditor, her pitch was very straightforward. Her job will be to make sure our money is safe, so it is there when we need it. We need to know where every penny goes, because every penny is needed. As State Auditor, she said, she will bring transparency ("opening the doors and raising the windows" is how she described it), and will tolerate no misuse or abuse of funds. "It is simple - it is not complicated," she sang out, "it is about protecting your money." ("I am the woman who can do it, I am the woman who will do it!") In closing she said that "we've got to do it for the children, for the helpless -- we've got to be the voice for the voiceless. Let's do it!"

Mayor Yolanda Brody closed the event by saying of Woodmere, which she described as a "beautiful place for beautiful people," that "although we're small, we're expecting big things out of change in Columbus."