Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Thursday, August 31

Cong. OH-13: Foltin (R) Aide Convicted; Sutton (D) Expresses Outrage

Craig Miller, Safety-Service director in the administration of Lorain mayor and congressional candidate Craig Foltin (R-Lorain), was found guilty of obstruction of justice for lying to Lorain police. When the guilty verdict was announced, Betty Sutton (D-Copley) released the following statement:
It's outrageous that yet another member of Craig Foltin's administration has been convicted of criminal behavior in the execution of his official duties.

It is unacceptable that Foltin has consistently refused to hold Craig Miller accountable. Craig Foltin has a duty to the taxpayers to immediately fire Craig Miller and remove this convicted felon from the taxpayer's payroll.

It becomes more clear every day why the national Republicans picked Craig Foltin to run for Congress, so that he can be another rubber stamp for their corrupt, inept policies.

In Congress, I will continue the work I did in the Ohio State House to stop the back room deals and put an end to the Republican culture of corruption so we can focus on the issues that matter to ordinary Ohioans, like good jobs, fair wages, and health care for all.

OH-18: Newspaper Joins Harris (R) in Calling for Padgett (R) Financial Records

Dick Farrell, editor of the New Philadelphia Times-Recorder, has published an editorial in which he joins primary candidate James B. Harris (R-Zanesville) in calling for disclosure of the financial records of Rep. Bob Ney's hand-picked successor, State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coschocton). The question posed by Harris is how Padgett could have defaulted on a $737,000, 15-year SBA loan (ultimately guaranteed by the taxpayers) after only one year. Bankruptcy records suggest that the operational losses of the office supply store run by Padgett and her husband were only $100,000 per year, not enough to deplete the proceeds of the loan in such a short period of time. Where did the money go? Harris wants to see the books. Farrell writes, "I don’t know about you, dear reader/voter/taxpayer, but I’d like to see the books, too."

Farrell also expresses doubt that Mayor Richard Homrighausen (R-Dover) really dropped out of the primary for the reasons stated (family concerns and wanting to complete city projects):
It’s also apparent to me that someone in the Republican Party had a little chat with Dover’s mayor, although I’d wager a couple of instant lottery tickets that he would deny that fact. In other words, I don’t think family or Dover issues had much to do with his decision to get out of it.
Farrell speculates that perhaps Homrighausen was irritated at being passed over by his friend Ney, or held a grudge against his law director, Democratic candidate Zack Space (D-Dover), or was a "fallback candidate" in case Padgett was not allowed to run. Whatever, he writes, it's "all too wierd." Indeed.

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Joins Call for Blackwell (R) to Retain '04 Ballots

The New York Times reports today that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati), "under pressure from critics, said yesterday that he would move to delay the destruction at least for several months." The ballots are scheduled for destruction next week, but "critics, including an independent candidate for governor and a team of statisticians and lawyers, say preliminary results from their ballot inspections show signs of more widespread irregularities than previously known." These critics also say "the secretary of state’s proposal to delay the destruction does not go far enough, and they intend to sue to preserve the ballots." An eight month study of 35,000 ballots from 75 rural and urban precincts have found "many with signs of tampering" and "in some precincts the number of voters differs significantly from the certified results." For example, in one Miami County precinct, "official tallies ... recorded about 550 votes," but "signature books indicated that 450 people voted."

Saying that the destruction of records related to the 2004 General Election in Ohio would fuel public skepticism about the electoral process, attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) joined today joined in asking Blackwell to “take all available and necessary steps” to preserve the data. “The reports of irregularities in the 2004 election in our state are widespread and well-known,” Dann remarked. “The best way to bolster the public’s trust and confidence in the system is to ensure that those who have raised questions and made allegations about the balloting have access to the information they need to conclude their investigations. On the other hand, destroying the records will leave questions hanging in the air, even if there were no problems with the conduct of the election. I see no reason to create such doubts.”

Dann noted that his support for retaining the records is consistent with his belief that both the spirit and the letter of the state’s open records law have been ignored by Republican officeholders and department heads. “Governor Taft’s refusal to produce public records related to Coingate, revelations that Jim Conrad engineered a cover-up of the MDL losses at BWC, and the numerous other attempts to erode the public’s right to know are undermining Ohioan’s faith in their government—and with good reason,” Dann said. “That is why I am introducing legislation to strengthen and standardize record retention policies in every department of state government and why I will add the retention of elections records to the bill.”

Dann also said he believed the records should be preserved because the Ohio Attorney General for the first time has the authority to investigate and prosecute election law violations. “If the ongoing examinations of the 2004 election produce credible allegations that the law was violated, these records will serve as important evidence in any court action,” he said. “That alone provides more than ample reason to save them.”

He concluded by saying he will consider filing an amicus brief in the lawsuit referred to in the New York Times story. “I will study the case once it is filed and decide whether it is appropriate to file a brief, but frankly, it shouldn’t be necessary to file suit in the first place. These records should be preserved.”

Sen: Brown (D) Airs First TV Ad

Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) has launched his first television ad of the campaign, responding to the misleading "bipartisanship" ad by Sen. Mike DeWine:

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded link, but the video is available .]

Ohio House 92nd: Phillips (D) Meets the Bloggers

On Monday afternoon I attended a Meet the Bloggers interview with 92nd Ohio House District candidate Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) at the new MTB space in Cleveland's Tower Press Building. Phillips was accompanied by campaign manager Kyle Smiddie After the interview the two of them went to a fundraising event hosted by Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood) at Massimo da Milano, benefitting both Phillips and 58th Ohio House District candidate Matthew Barrett (D-Amherst). Also in attendance at the interview were George Nemeth and Tim and Gloria Ferris.

I wrote about Phillips previously here. She is a city council member in Athens, home of Ohio University, as well as the founder and executive director (now on leave) of the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign. She has long been dedicated to public service through organizing and advocacy, but her entry into politics is fairly recent. Part of her determination to become a State Representative stems from her experiences when bringing schoolchildren and parents to the General Assembly as part of the activities of the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign. She found that many legislators were more interested in posing trick questions to make the visitors look bad than in really hearing what the parents and children had to say about the problems with school funding.

Arts and cultural tourism are important in her area because of Ohio University and Hocking College in Nelsonville. Athens, she said, is like a "company town" with OU as the big employer. The university has spawned a number of successful high-tech enterprises.

Phillips reported that she hears more about health care than anything else when she goes door-to-door. I asked whether protecting the environment is on the minds of voters, and she said that there is a problem in southeast Ohio with contamination of water with C8, a Teflon byproduct, from DuPont manufacturing operations. Testing is underway to determine the extent of adverse health effects. There is also a problem with childhood asthma as a result of coal-fired power plants.

Phillips said that Ted Strickland is very popular in her district (most of which is also in the 6th Congressional district), so part of her campaign message is that Strickland needs good people in the General Assembly. Strickland advocates public investment in clean energy technologies (wind, solar, bio-mass, ethanol, and clean coal) that will boost the Ohio economy and bring jobs. This resonates in her district because there's so much coal and agriculture, and Ohio University is a resource of research and development projects.

We spoke at considerable length about school funding. Phillips has a detailed knowledge of the issues and the challenges in that tangled area. She said that although various studies have been done, none have determined the cost per student of providing quality education. Therefore, this is something that must be accomplished first before the problem can be resolved.

Gov: Documentary Filmmakers at Fundraiser

Yesterday evening I encountered documentarians Jason Zone Fisher and John Intrater of In The Zone Productions at a house party in Shaker Heights for gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon). This dynamic duo is in the process of filming "Swing State," a documentary movie about the gubernatorial campaign.

Jason said that they have shot about 45 hours of video so far. They were on the west coast recently and received encouraging words from another documentary filmmaker, Vice President Al Gore. The pair are looking for help with the project, probably from current film students looking for experience and credits.

Here's a shot of Jason at work. The speakers at the event included Jason's father (Lee Fisher), ice cream legend Jerry Greenfield, and Ted Strickland. Greenfield provided ice cream, which I discovered makes an excellent pre-dinner snack.

Here's a shot of Lee Fisher about to hand the microphone off to Ted Strickland. According to their web site, Jason and John have collected interviews with both Clintons, Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Joe Biden, and RNC Chair Ken Mehlman to go along with all the Ohio campaign action they are filming. They've posted a terrific trailer for the documentary, so take a look.

Wednesday, August 30

Gov: Former Bay Village Mayor Jelepsis (R) Endorses Strickland (D)

Last night while I was phonebanking for gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) and U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) at the Democratic campaign office in Shaker Square, campaign staffer Neil Varakharia gave me a copy of a remarkable letter written by Tom Jelepsis, the popular former mayor of the west side conservative stronghold of Bay Village. This letter was sent on August 24th to about 5,000 Republican households (reaching about 11,000 registered voters) in Bay Village and nearby communities.

Jelepsis, a former Marine and Lakewood native, writes that he subscribes to the "Republican principles of fiscal restraint and social responsibility" and has "loyally supported the Republican Party" but will be voting for Strickland in November. Ohio, he writes, requires "dramatic action" to address "extremely difficult issues," calling for "substance rather than rhetoric, [and] realistic objectives rather than unrealistic, and unfulfilled promises." Describing Strickland as an "admirable man who is sincere, honest and unwavering in his desire to make Ohio great again," Jelepsis says that we "need to give Ohioans hope," not "policies and rhetoric that polarize us and make us work against one another." Strickland will "work in a bipartisan manner that seeks to put Ohio above political in-fighting."

He concludes by noting that he is not "a convert" and supports "a number of Republican candidates throughout the country and state." However, he "know[s] that sound bites and quick and clever quips may score points during an election, but the type of character and substance that Ted Strickland possesses is what is needed for positive change." He is "proud to call himself a supporter of Ted Strickland" and hopes the recipients will join him in "voting for Ted."

The letter includes an address and telephone number for Jelepsis. Neil told me last night that the former mayor already has received lots of positive feedback.

Tuesday, August 29

More on Federal Lawsuit Against Naturalized Citizens Provision in HB3

Tonight I spoke at some length with Subodh Chandra, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit Boustani v. Blackwell, No. 1:06-cv-02065-CAB (N.D. Ohio), filed in Cleveland today, which challenges the provision of the Republican-created "election reform" law, House Bill 3, that requires naturalized citizens to produce a naturalization certificate on request in order to cast a ballot.

The complaint was filed electronically from Atlanta. Plaintiffs' counsel are scattered about (including lawyers associated with the ACLU, the Brennan Center for Justice at my alma mater, NYU School of Law, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law), but the lead attorney is Chandra's classmate, Daniel J. Tokaji, an election law specialist who teaches at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Chandra has played a "heavy role" in preparing the case, including locating individual plaintiffs (many in the Cleveland area). Other plaintiffs are community organizations such as the Asian American Bar Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Ohio, and the Federation of India Community Associations. There was no press conference today, but the ACLU press release on the filing of the complaint is here.

The judge assigned to the case, Christopher Boyko, was appointed to the federal bench about two years ago after lengthy service on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. He was formerly the law director for the Cleveland suburb of Parma. A Republican appointee, Boyko is regarded as a fair, diligent, and all-around high quality judge. Significantly, he is the grandson of Ukrainian immmigrants.

There is no direct precedent for the claims advanced in this case (in fact, there doesn't appear to be a directly parallel provision in the law of any other state). However, there are several cases from the U.S. Supreme Court establishing the general principle that (except for the explicit constitutional restriction on eligibility for the Presidency) there shall be no second class citizenship in this country. Many cases have held that government entities may not treat naturalized citizens as second class in various ways, such as eligibility to serve as state troopers. Naturalized citizens, Chandra said, are assumed to be loyal and have all the rights and privileges of other citizens.

The challenged provision of Ohio law is codified at O.R.C. section 3505.20. As Chandra explained it to me, when one goes to vote, an "election judge" (i.e., one of the poll workers), completely as a matter of discretion, may ask "Are you a citizen?" If the answer is yes, that person may ask "Native born or naturalized?" If the answer is naturalized, then the poll worker can demand production of a certificate of naturalization. A driver's license or even a passport is not sufficient, under the plain language of the statute. It doesn't matter how many times the naturalized citizen has voted before, or that a U.S. passport cannot be obtained without proof of citizenship. As Chandra pointed out, this naturalization certificate is not some wallet-sized card that people carry around. Even if a person has one (many don't, especially if they have moved around a lot), it is probably locked away in a safe deposit box or a file cabinet somewhere, like a birth cerificate might be.

If the would-be voter can't produce the certificate on the spot, then the voter may vote only by provisional ballot. (We learned in 2004 that many of those are never counted.) The burden then shifts to the voter to appear at the Board of Elections within ten days with sufficient documentation, which isn't explicitly defined but would appear to be a naturalization certificate once again since a U.S. passport didn't qualify at the polling place. Aside from the burdensome nature of this requirement, imagine the confusion and delay while the Board tries to locate and produce individual provisional ballots to match to proffered citizenship documents on a piecemeal basis.

Just to hammer home the absurd nature of this procedure, Chandra noted that the web site of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services indicates that a replacement naturalization certificate costs $200 and can take a year to obtain. So, if you were challenged at the polling place and had to get a replacement certificate to permit your provisional ballot to be counted, it would be impossible, no matter how indisputable the essential fact of your citizenship. The main arguments advanced by plaintiffs in the case are that the expense of compliance with this requirement is an unlawful poll tax, and that this disparate treatment of naturalized citizens violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The individual plaintiffs in this litigation are a remarkable group. The first-named plaintiff, Laura Boustani, came to this country from Lebanon while in high school. She was Mayor Michael White's press secretary and is now a highly regarded media consultant. Former Ohio First Lady Dagmar Celeste was born in Austria, and has long since lost track of her naturalization certificate as she has traveled around the nation and the world. Three of the plaintiffs are sisters of Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rokakis. (The Rokakis brothers were born in this country but their sisters were born before the family arrived, so the challenged law applies to the latter but not to the former.) Plaintiff PS Murthy is the elected county coroner of Stark County, so presumably he would appreciate the chance to vote for himself without interference. Margaret Wong, born in Hong Kong, is Cleveland's leading immigration attorney, an entrepreneur, and a pillar of the community.

Chandra points out that this is a very personal issue for him. He said that everything he has is due to the hard work and the pursuit of the American Dream by his parents and his mother-in-law, all naturalized citizens subject to different treatment than him under this law. Also, Chandra emphasized that this should not be a partisan issue, since there are naturalized citizens in both political parties. He is cautiously optimistic that Attorney General Jim Petro (R-Rocky River) will be persuaded by the analysis contained in the complaint and will agree to a consent judgment in the case.

I told him not to hold his breath on that last part.

UPDATE: Coverage in tomorrow's edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer indicates that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell may concede that the provision challenged in this lawsuit is unenforceable.

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Gets NAPO Endorsement

The National Association of Police Organizations, which represents 238,000 sworn law enforcement officers, 11,000 retired officers, and 100,000 citizens across the United States, has endorsed attorney general candidate State Senator Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township). NAPO Executive Director William J. Johnson said the group endorsed Dann because they are confident of his “continued support of the law enforcement community in Ohio.” The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters have also endorsed Dann.

“I am once again humbled and overwhelmed to receive the support of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to keeping us safe,” Dann said. “Throughout my career in the Senate I’ve introduced or voted in favor of more than 50 pieces of legislation designed to ensure that our First Responders have the resources they need to do their difficult jobs as efficiently and safely as possible. And I will continue to advocate for their interests when I am, with their support, elected Attorney General.”

Dann said he is especially proud of the work he did to strengthen “Jessica’s Law” and other statutes that crack down on sexual predators and child molesters in this session of the General Assembly, and that he will work with the U.S. Justice Department to ensure that “Adam’s Law,” which was recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush, will be fully implemented in the state. “Unfortunately, in the past Ohio lost $2 million in federal funding because former AG Betty Montgomery failed to meet the timelines set out by the feds in Megan’s Law,” Dann said. “When I am Attorney General we’ll not only meet the basic requirements set out in the new law, we’ll take advantage of grants that will fund a GPS monitoring system for sex offenders and other innovative programs that will keep our families and out neighborhoods safe.”

Secty State: Brunner (D) Hails Federal Lawsuit Challenging Naturalization Papers Requirement Under HB3

Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) is hailing a lawsuit filed today in federal court in Cleveland, challenging the constitutionality of the part of House Bill 3 that requires naturalized citizens to show proof of citizenship when challenged at the polls. The attorney handling the lawsuit is Subodh Chandra, former Cleveland law director and a primary candidate for attorney general. It has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko.

From Brunner's press release:
Under H.B. 3, naturalized citizens can be challenged before the election by any registered voter of Ohio or at the polls by poll workers and be required to show their naturalization papers. A passport or other photo ID won't be good enough to permit them to vote. If these challenged voters don't have their citizenship papers (which are costly and time consuming to replace if misplaced or lost), naturalized citizens must vote a provisional ballot. That ballot won't be counted unless these U.S. citizens return to the board of elections within 10 days after the election and show their citizenship papers.

The suit charges that H.B. 3 does not treat naturalized citizens the same as citizens born in the U.S., noting that, under the U.S. Constitution, there must be a rational basis for classifying groups of citizens and treating them differently. The suit charges that there is no rational basis for the distinctions made in the law, violating the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution.

"This challenge to H.B. 3 is a welcome sign that people in Ohio understand that their rights to vote are being tread upon by a Republican administration that is out of touch with Ohio citizens. We can protect the integrity of our election system without taking away people's rights to equal treatment under the law. Anything short of that is just plain un-American," said Brunner.
House Bill 3 was a drastic overhaul of Ohio election law, ostensibly in the name of reform, that imposed burdensome requirements such as requiring voters to show identification to register and to vote, requiring voter registrars to undergo online training before they can register voters, requiring persons registering voters to turn in their own registration forms under felony penalty, and allowing the board of elections to delay a hearing on a voter challenge until after the election, forcing the voter to vote a provisional ballot.

Cong. OH-18: Space (D) in Cleveland Tomorrow with Rep. Emmanuel

Today I spoke to Angela Guyadeen, the new communications director for 18th Ohio Congressional District candidate Zack Space (D-Dover). I asked her what's going on with the Space campaign now that the special primary election on the Republican side is garnering most of the media attention. She said that Space is maintaining an active campaign schedule and will be appearing at a press event tomorrow with DCCC Chair Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and college students at Cleveland State University (11:30 am, University Center, Room 367) to discuss issues of interest to young people.

Asked for a statement about the special primary, she said that regardless of who is running on the Republican side the race continues to be "about change" and "bringing new priorities" to the office, and not being for special interests. Front-runner State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton), she said, is the handpicked successor to Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath). "If she is elected, she is cut from the same cloth as Ney, who represents the special interests in Washington. The 18th District deserves better."

I sure hope that Space makes every effort to keep himself out there in the public eye while the special primary is proceeding. (A check of the "News" and "Events" pages on the Zack Space campaign web site reveals that they need updating -- not a good thing.) I plan to attend the event at CSU tomorrow and will post a full report.

Treasurer: Cordray (D) Endorsed by Ohio Society of CPAs

The campaign of Franklin County Treasurer Richard Cordray (D-Columbus), a candidate for state treasurer, announced today that he has received the endorsement of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, joining other state-wide organizations of teachers, policemen, firefighters, social workers, and members of the building and construction trades who support him. The CPA society has 23,500 members in Ohio. Screening committee members informed Cordray that they “strongly believe you are the candidate who will best serve the citizens of Ohio.”

This news comes on the heels of several other recent endorsements, including:
  • Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council (based in Toledo)
  • North Shore Federation of Labor (based in Cleveland)
  • Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (state-wide)
  • Toledo Police Command Officers’ Association
“The endorsement process teaches a candidate a lot about what matters to people working in our state,” Cordray said. “The screenings are rigorous, usually involving written questionnaires as well as interviews. By the time an endorsement decision is made, we all know a lot about one another and how we can work together to improve the state of Ohio. I am grateful for that support.”

Monday, August 28

Cuyahoga Common Pleas Ct: Synenberg (R) Meets the Bloggers

Last Friday morning a recent entrant to a race for Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, current Cleveland Municipal Judge Joan Synenberg (R-Cleveland), did a Meet the Bloggers interview at the new MTB space in the Tower Press Building in Cleveland. Remarkably, the editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer published a glowing endorsement of Synenberg two days later. (Jill has commented about Synenberg and the timing of the PD endorsement on Writes Like She Talks.) The session was attended by Tim and Gloria Ferris, so look for future postings from them.

Synenberg replaces Peggy Foley Jones (R) as the opponent to controversial candidate Christine Russo (D-Strongsville). Foley bowed out of the race recently to join a new all-woman law firm. Russo had been encouraged to run by County Prosecutor Bill Mason (D-Cleveland) in order to oust a judge that Mason did not favor, incumbent Common Pleas Judge Ann Mannen (D). Russo's candidacy is tainted by a drug conviction and other drug-related personal difficulties, and she has been rated "Not Recommended" by five bar associations. In Cuyahoga County, however, the surname "Russo" is golden, and Russo defeated Mannen in the primary. The name advantage is bitterly ironic in this instance because Russo has split from her spouse of that name.
On Synenberg's side of the ledger, I'm thrilled to report, the news is all good. Synenberg was a social worker at the county jail for a long time before obtaining her law degree, and she was very successful as a criminal defense attorney before her appointment to the bench. She has been exceptionally active in the community and has excelled on the Municipal Court since her appointment in 2005. While there, she and another judge were responsible for the court's innovative mental health docket.

Synenberg is remarkably smart and thoughtful, and she has the even temperament that you want in every judge. Her views on punishment are happily balanced between the goals of rehabilitation and retribution, and she is a big supporter of expungement of criminal records (available in certain cases) and treating incarceration as a punishment of last resort. Our interview delved into sentencing guidelines, victims statements, witness/victim advocates, and other complex judicial matters in great depth, and Synenberg displayed a masterful understanding of all of it.

Sen: Brown (D) Debunks New DeWine (R) TV Ad

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded link, but the video is availablehere.]

Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) is crying foul over the latest misleading ad by incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville). Click on the image above to watch the Brown campaign's online video response.

The Brown campaign has also prepared a detailed rebuttal in Acrobat (.pdf) format, available here. In brief, the Brown camp debunks DeWine's introductory remark that “We all have to work together: Democrats, Republicans” by pointing out that DeWine voted for President Bush’s agenda 96% of the time during Bush's first term, and that Karl Rove has referred to DeWine as a "loyal and strong supporter of the president.”

Regarding DeWine's statement that “Together we've lowered taxes for millions of Ohioans,” the Brown campaign lists numerous DeWine votes for special tax breaks for the super-rich and big oil companies, and as to DeWine's statement that “We just passed a law to help protect the retirement benefits of Ohio workers and retirees…”, Brown explains that the pension bill was a big victory for corporations, including many who are huge campaign contributors to DeWine, and acutally hurt workers by discouraging companies from offering defined benefit pension plans.

Debunking DeWine's claim that he has strengthened law enforcement to fight terrorism, the Brown camp provides over six pages of examples of how DeWine has supported the Iraq war and occupation but opposed homeland security funding, and has failed to perform effectively as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and lists numerous examples of Brown's support for tax cuts for the middle class, votes to protect pensions, and votes to support homeland security and fight terrorism (including supporting the death penalty in certain circumstances).

Gov & Sen: Dems Lead in New Poll

The latest Zogby/Wall Street Journal poll shows continuing leads for both gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland and U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon):
49.7% Strickland (D)
41.4% Blackwell (R)
8.7% Undecided/Other

47.2% Brown (D)
38.7% DeWine (R)
14.1% Undecided
In the gubernatorial race, Strickland's 8.3 point lead is a substantial improvement over his 4.5 point lead in the Zogby poll last month, representing a slight increase in Strickand's number and a larger drop in Blackwell's. In the Senate race, each candidate improved about two points from one month ago, showing that more voters are making up their minds. The margin of error in the poll is 3 points.

Hat tip to BSB.

Gov: Strickland to Host Forum with Conyers and Tillery in Cincinnati Tonight

Gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) will join Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and former mayor Dwight Tillery at the Hartwell Recreation Center in Cincinnati tonight for a forum with local elected officials and members of the African-American community in the Cincinnati area. The event will be at the Hartwell Recreation Center, 59 Caldwell Drive, at 5:30 pm (Strickland to speak at 7 pm) .

Gov: Debate Schedule Set

Gubernatorial candidates Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) have agreed to four debates:
9/5 at 12:00 noon in Youngstown, no set topic, hosted by the Youngstown Vndicator and WFMJ-TV

9/20 at 12:00 noon in Cleveland, on education, hosted by WEWS-TV and the Call & Post Newspapers

10/4 at 7:00 pm in Cincinnati, on the economy, hosted by Cincinnati Chamber and Debate USA Alliance

10/16 at 7:00 pm in Columbus, no set topic, host to be announced
Each debate will have a moderator and either media or citizen questioners. All debates will be 60 minutes in length, with three minute opening statements, questions answered via 90-second responses, 60-second rebuttals and 30-second clarifications, if necessary, and two-minute closing statements. Media credentialing will be conducted by the sponsoring organizations. On-site ticketing for each event will be limited, using guidelines negotiated by the two campaigns. All events will offer live pool feeds for other interested media outlets.

The City Club of Cleveland and a consortium of Ohio's largest newspapers have been shut out as debate hosts because they would not accede to demands by one or both of the campaigns.

Sunday, August 27

Ohio House 24th: Interview with Ted Celeste (D)

Last Wednesday I went to Celeste & Associates, a real estate firm situated in a storefront on West First Avenue in the Columbus suburb of Grandview, to interview 24th Ohio House District candidate Ted Celeste (D-Grandview). We sat in a conference room that serves as a temporary campaign office (until the opening this week of larger quarters across the street). Celeste agreed to my recording our talk, which stretched out to about forty minutes despite the early arrival of his next appointment. It was a wide-ranging, frank, and totally fascinating conversation with a man who has a very long record of public service and an insider's perspective on Ohio politics over the last three or four decades.

Celeste was raised in Lakewood, Ohio, where his father was Lakewood Mayor for eight years and later ran for Cleveland Mayor and Ohio Attorney General. His brother Richard F. Celeste served four years each as a State Representative and Ohio Lieutenant Governor, then was Governor from 1983 to 1990 and U.S. Ambassador to India from 1997 to 2001.

Celeste graduated from Wooster College with a degree in psychology and studied education at the University of Hawaii and the University of Akron. He and wife Bobbie, a counseling psychologist, taught in the South Pacific in the Peace Corps. Celeste was later a high level official in the Ohio Department of Public Welfare and the Ohio Department of Finance. He played an important role in Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign for the presidency, running his Ohio primary campaign, managing his field desk for Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the general election, and serving on his transition team. Celeste also ran his brother’s campaign for attorney general and first campaign for governor. In 2000 he ran for U.S. Senate against Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville).

Celeste has been a business entrepreneur in central Ohio for the last 25 years. He founded Advanced Interactive Video, Inc., an electronic marketing and promotions company, and Celeste & Associates Real Estate, Inc. He has been president of the Cleveland development firm National Housing Corporation, urban redeveloper New Town Housing, and the Columbus Magic Soccer Team. He was a trustee of The Ohio State University for nine years, including two as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, where he helped create the Science and Technology Campus. He and Bobbie are active members of the First Community Church.

The full text of my interview with Ted Celeste in Acrobat (.pdf) format is here. A summary follows.

Celeste told me that his role model as a public official is Jimmy Carter, because Carter is a "very caring, honest" person whose "faith is important to him, but important not for how he talks about it, but what he does. It isn't creed, it's deed." Unfortunately for Carter, "times were tough when he was president," but "he's probably the best former president that we've ever had." Mentioning Carter's faith led to a discussion of Celeste's role in developing at First Community Church the new course "Faith and American Politics," an eight-session seminar with supporting CDs that draws on the thinking of Scott Peck, M.D., author of "The Road Less Traveled," and Jim Wallis, founder of the Sojourners magazine and author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It." The course deals with issues relating to the separation of church and how to "live out your faith as it relates to those things that are really important to you," and is intended to "increase our ability to speak with civility about our religious and political beliefs." Celeste was initially unsure if he could co-teach the inaugural course this past spring while running for office, but he said "not only did I do it, I got a lot of energy from it."

When I asked what motivates Celeste toward public service, he said that his faith is "a big part of it," especially now, but public service was "a part of our life" when he was growing up. His father, a mayor when Celeste was in fourth grade, talked about the importance of public service constantly at the breakfast and dinner table, and his mother was involved in public service as a social worker. Because he was "introduced to it early on," public service was always high on Celeste's "priority list." For Celeste the question is "interesting, because it’s a perspective you have and you assume everybody considers public service is important, but they don't."

From his long political perspective, Celeste says that the political landscape in 2006 is very similar to 1970, when John J. Gilligan was running for governor, there was a major scandal among the Republicans, and the Democrats took most of the statewide offices and made big gains in the Ohio House and Senate. The Democrats didn't win outright control of either legislative chamber in 1970, but did in subsequent elections:
So, the basis for the pendulum swing was there, and it was started by scandals, it was started by all the bad stuff going on, so the atmosphere is very similar to that. Now you add to it, not only do you have all the scandals and the problems statewide, you have all the perception of problems nationally as well. So you add those two together, and it’s looking very good for the Democrats.
Celeste has knocked on about three thousand doors in his campaign so far. He says that the top three issues for voters are education, jobs, and health care. To a lesser extent, voters talk about immigration ("because the other side's talking about it") and the environment (perhaps "a bit of a result of Gore's movie coming out"). As to education, "the biggest thing people talk about is the property taxes, and the fact that they’ve had to rely on local residential property taxes too much, and the state hasn’t really met its constitutional responsibility to provide the dollars for that." Beyond the property taxes aspect, the education issue relates to "why is education is so important?":
Primary and secondary is important because you want kids to be prepared for jobs who might not go on to college, as well as be prepared for college and university so that they can carry on and be successful in the business world afterward, and be competitive, and we can keep people here. That’s the other piece of it, so it’s a continuum.
Celeste's district is largely suburban, with urban areas as well, and it includes the western part of the OSU campus. Due to the presence of university professors, says Celeste, it is the highest-educated district in the state. It is also a swing district, having gone for Kerry in 2004 while incumbent Rep. Geoff Smith (R) was winning with 56.35% of the vote over independent candidate Pat Byrne. Celeste said that his early polling showed that most residents did know who their state representative is, and that Celeste has higher name recognition (and positive recognition) than the incumbent. Ted Strickland is "doing really well" in the district, so Celeste jokes that his message is "Be sure to vote from Ted to Ted." Celeste expects that his campaign advertising will consist of things like suburban newspaper ads and direct mail rather than television, although if his opponent comes out with negative TV advertising then Celeste will respond on TV.

On having run for the U.S. Senate before running for the state legislature, Celeste acknowledges that people "usually do it the other way around" but said it was a "good experience" and he's glad he did it. However, a statehouse district is "much more doable" as far as speaking to the voters, which has "a big impact." Celeste thinks that in the present circumstances the Democrats "may be surprising some people" by retaking the Ohio House or Senate, but assuming that doesn't happen he still believes the Democrats will "have enough numbers" to promote "a bipartisan effort for solutions," particularly if there is a Democratic governor:
By [the Democrats] having the leadership of the author of a lot of the change that’s going to happen, [the Republicans] are going to have to respond to what’s coming out of the governor’s office, and there will be legislators who carry that legislation, so there’s opportunities to have a much bigger role, by having that office. So, I’d say, you’re not shut out, which is really what’s going on now.
As far as Celeste's personal priority list as a legislator, he mentioned mental health parity in insurance coverage ("my opponent’s the head of the insurance committee and he’s one of the people who’s kept it from passing"), and that he would "like to be involved in coming up with an education funding solution." The latter will require getting all the stakeholders together and getting them to agree. Here Celeste made the startling comment that he was "a bit disappointed that the TEL amendment wasn’t on the ballot" because opposition to TEL was having the effect of building the kind of coalition that is needed to address the school funding crisis. The solution will need to be fair, balanced between rural and urban districts, and must get rid of the over-reliance on propetry taxes. The biggest thing is getting "the priority from the state to commit the dollars that are needed in each of the school districts that will move the balance away from the reliance on the property taxes," and then "finding out what is the right number" to educate our kids, not "start[ing] every year looking at what was the number last year." However, Celeste doesn't support the idea of doing a new study to determine the cost of education because "I think there’s enough studies that have been done, I think we need to review the studies and then move to the next step."

There will be a featured fundraiser for Ted Celeste on Tuesday, August 29th, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, at the home of Cy and Barbara Sokol. It will be co-sponsored by the Sokols, the Upper Arlington Progressives, and the Stonewall Democrats. For more information, send an email to dora-at-tedceleste-dot-com. Also, the official opening of the new Celeste for State Representative Headquarters will be held on Thursday, August 31st, at 7:30 pm at 1627 West 1st Avenue in Grandview.

Ohio House 81st: Opfer (D) Calls for Mega-Farm Moratorium

Former State Rep. Darrell Opfer (D-Oak Harbor) is challenging Rep. Jeff Wagner (R-Sycamore) in the 81st Ohio House District, located in Seneca, Sandusky, and Ottawa Counties. At the Sandusky County Fair on Friday, Opfer called for a moratorium on mega-farms, saying the temporary ban is necessary to conduct a study of Ohio Department of Agriculture regulations and inspections, with the participation of watershed quality groups, soil and water conservation boards, and state and local health departments.

Mega-farms are a huge issue in rural Ohio. The shutting down of Buckeye Egg Farm in 2003 after repeateded violations raised public awareness of the environmental risks posed by industrial farms. Two such farms are planning to start operations in Sandusky County, each to have more than 2,000 cows. Area residents have organized the Sandusky County Citizens Protecting our Natural Resources to oppose the mega-farms. Members wore "Say No to Dairy-Air" tee shirts at the county fair.

From the news coverage in the Fremont News Messenger:
Opfer argued Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, can potentially cause damage to the environment by polluting groundwater and streams. The large number of cows on such a farm creates so much liquid manure, he argued it may seep into cracks in the ground and eventually contaminate Lake Erie. Citing Buckeye Egg as an example, Opfer argued the factory farms have a history of ignoring regulations in their permits. "I am not saying industrial farms are not viable," Opfer said, "but I don't want to see industry farms supplant family farms." ...

Thomas Younker [a member of the Sandusky County Citizens Protecting Our Natural Resources] said the concern for his group is the health of its residents. He argued while a farm owned and run by one family has a vested interest in the community, employees at a much larger farm are not likely to have the same motivations.

"The basic question boils down to who is minding the farm," Opfer said. "Who should be minding the farms of the future?
Rep. Wagner dismissed Opfer's call for a moratorium as a political move. He noted that there are many large farms subject to permitting requirements. "I'm not promoting large farms," Wagner said, "but I'm also not standing against them just because they're big."

Opfer received a bachelors and masters degree in education from Bowling Green State University and taught in Kenya in the Peace Corps from 1965 to 1967. After teaching high school for fourteen years in his home town of Genoa, Opfer served ten years as Ottawa County Commissioner, eight years as State Representative for the 80th District, and four years as Economic Development Director in Ottawa County. Due to redistricting, he is now a resident of the 81st District.

Friday, August 25

Atty Gen & Gov: Dann (D) Requests Hearings on Blackwell (R) Meeting with ODOT and Contractors

Attorney general candidate and State Senator Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) fired off a letter today to State Senator Jeffrey Armbruster (R-Lorain), Chair of the Ohio Senate Highways and Transportation Committee, demanding hearings about what transpired during a private meeting between Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and hundreds of highway contractors and Ohio Department of Transportation officials. From the press release:
More than 600 people were invited to last week’s “transportation summit” hosted by Secretary’s Blackwell’s gubernatorial campaign. The special guest of the event was ODOT Director Gordon Proctor. Recent news reports reported the invitation stated, “Secretary Blackwell will outline his belief in transportation’s essential role in Ohio’s economy and how he plans to continue the ODOT construction program.”

“There are two ways to look at this meeting- one of impropriety or one of actual corruption,” said Senator Dann. “Given our pay-to-play system that exists in the state, I veer towards the latter. This private meeting was an edict from Secretary Blackwell to highway contractors and ODOT officials that they either support his bid for governor or risk losing public contracts if he should take office. Whether this matter involves actual corruption or the appearance of corruption, we need to make sure for the public’s sake that an elected official is not strong arming state contractors into contributing to his campaign.”

Cong. OH-3: Mitakides (D) and Chapman (D) Out of Primary

Unable to post until now due to other commitments, I just want to record that (as reported earlier on BSB) advertising executive and former Congressional candidate Jane Mitakides (D-Washington Township) and former basketball star Roosevelt Chapman (D-Dayton) are dropping out of the September 15 special primary, leaving only former federal prosecutor Richard Chema (D-East Liverpool) and former Waynesville mayor Charles Sanders (D-Waynesville) in the race.

Thursday, August 24

Cong. OH-2: Top Five Reasons Why Cheney Snubbed Schmidt (R)

This is hilarious. The Cincinnati Enquirer notes today that “usually, when Vice President Cheney comes to Cincinnati for a Republican fundraiser, his motorcade beelines to the deep-pockets city of Indian Hill,” but not this time. Cheney will raise funds for Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) on the west side of Cincinnati tonight, but "doesn’t have time in his schedule" for embattled incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland).

Why not? Campaign aides for opponent Dr. Victoria Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) have come up with their Top Five Reasons Dick Cheney Said “No” to an Event with Jean Schmidt, and they want to know if anyone can top these:
5. Because Schmidt campaign manger Barry Bennett asked “Who’d show up, anyway?”

4. Because Cheney is too busy training for a marathon.

3. Because Cheney is embarrassed that Schmidt’s 33% approval rating is a full 15 percentage points higher than his.

2. Because Cheney is angry that Schmidt has only rubber-stamped the Bush Administration’s policy 87% of the time.

1. Because the Schmidt campaign’s “reckless disregard for the truth” clashes with Cheney’s preference for calculated, thoughtful disregard for the truth.
Any offerings?

Treasurer: "Frivolous" O'Brien (R) Lawsuit Against County Commissioners Dismissed

State Treasurer candidate Sandra O'Brien (R-Ashtabula County) has suffered a stinging defeat in her ongoing (and wasteful) court battles with the Ashtabula County Commissioners. According to this report in the Ashtabula Star Beacon, brought to my attention by a reader, Court of Appeals magistrate Matthew Lamb has issued a 25-page decision that dismisses O'Brien's lawsuit against the commissioners for underfunding her department in 2005, and orders O'Brien to establish accounts for the Geneva State Park Lodge and the county's economic development funds. Both parties have 14 days to file any objections they have to the decision before it is reviewd by the Court of Appeals.

Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini, representing the county commissioners, said:
This vindicates the commissioners. Mrs. O'Brien had a clear legal duty as county auditor to do what the commissioners had asked her to do. The excuses she gave had no basis in law and no reason for her not to do it, other than her political motives. She didn't do her job because she did not want the lodge period. I have tried over the years to consult with Mrs. O'Brien and offer her my 27 years of legal experience and my office's services. She's refused and refused my help and gone off to hire her own lawyers in frivolous lawsuits costing this county thousands of dollars.
O'Brien had no comment, referring the reporter to her private attorney.

This is the person who wants to be responsible for the state treasury.

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Gains Another First Responder Endorsement

The campaign of attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) announced today that Dann has received the endorsement of the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Dann was previously endorsed by the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters.

The OPBA represents law enforcement officers (including ranking officers and chiefs) at 221 police departments, sheriff’s offices, correctional facilities, and other entities across the state of Ohio. OPBA Executive Director Terry Gallagher notified Dann of the endorsement by fax yesterday, saying that the OPBA endorsed him because they appreciate his strong record of introducing and voting for legislation that has strengthened the criminal justice system in Ohio as well as his advocacy for issues that improve the lives of law enforcement officers. “Marc Dann understands and respects our members’ commitment and professionalism,” Gallagher wrote. “We are confident that as our next Attorney General he will continue to support our efforts to protect the public and the lives and health of law enforcement officers and fire fighters across the state.”

“I am gratified and humbled to receive the support of the men and women who are on the front lines of the battle to keep our families and our neighborhoods safe,” Senator Dann said when he learned of the OPBA endorsement. “The officers and members of the OPBA know that they can count on me to work hard everyday to provide the resources local police and prosecutors the resources and tools they need to do their jobs as effectively and safely as possible. They know I won’t grandstand on law enforcement issues and pretend to be Ohio’s ‘top cop,’ but that I will do all I can to make them the best law enforcement officers they can be.”

OH-18: Bennett (R) Also Out of Primary

And then there were five.

John Bennett (R-Cambridge), a former aide to Rep. Bob Ney, has joined Mayor Richard Homrighausen (R-Dover) in the exodus from the September 14 special primary election in Ohio's 18th Congressional District. That leaves only County Commissioner Ray Feikert (R-Millersburg), prolific emailer James Brodbelt Harris (R-Zanesville), perennial candidate Ralph Applegate (?-Columbus), and sentimental favorite Jerry "Old Fogey" Firman (R-Coshocton) to contend against hand-picked successor State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coschocton).

Gov & Sen: Strickland (D) Up by 25 Points, Brown (D) by 3 in New Rasmussen Poll

Buckeye State Blog is reporting that soon-to-be-released Rasmussen polling data will show the following:

45% Brown (D)
42% DeWine (R)
13% Undecided

57% Strickland (D)
32% Blackwell (R)
11% Other/Undecided

Atty Gen: Video of Dann (D) Press Conference on Open Records Requests and Legislation

Yesterday I attended a press conference in the Senate Minority Conference Room in the Ohio Statehouse, where attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) announced that he is introducing legislation to expand and strengthen Ohio's laws on retention of public records, and is submitting new public records requests to the governor, auditor, attorney general, Bureau of Workers Compensation, and Venture Capital Authority. These actions were prompted by the recent disclosure, through emails that should have been disclosed to Dann pursuant to earlier document requests but instead came to light only through the MDL litigation, that former BWC chief James Conrad engineered a cover up to hide hundreds of millions of dollars in investment losses from the public just days before the 2004 presidential election.

The new law would impose a uniform requirement that all state agencies retain all records (including emails) relating to personnel decisions, investment decisions, and purchasing or contracting, for a period of five years. Agencies are presently subject an array of inconsistent record retention policies, some as short as 30 days. The point of the five year period is to discourage cover-ups by increasing the likelihood that agency records will come to the attention of succeeding officeholders.

I videtaped the 23-minute press conference and uploaded it to YouTube in small pieces. The following are three short videos covering the first six minutes of the event, before Dann took questions from the media:

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded link, but the video is available here.]

Dann's new public records requests ask for documents relating to the MDL hedge fund investment, a 2004 audit of BWC's rare coin investment, Terrence Gasper, and document retention policies.

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded link, but the video is available .]

Senator Dann said he wished he had been amazed when he read that James Conrad took numerous brazen steps to conceal the MDL losses because he knew they would make national news and could affect the outcome of the presidential election, “But at this point, after all we have learned about the shoddy way the Bureau was run, the fact that it was used as a cash cow to repay favored Republican donors, and that no elected official with oversight authority, including Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro, ever bothered to pay attention to what was going on over there, I’m not surprised in the least. Mr. Conrad’s actions are indicative of two things: the arrogance of power and complete confidence that this cover up would never be discovered,” Dann said.

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded link, but the video is available here.]

“The governor and his staff, with the help of the Supreme Court’s creation of executive privilege, and other officeholders have done everything possible to avoid releasing these important records to the press and public," Dann continued. "The documents referenced in the Blade article have now provided some additional insight into where we should look and what we should ask for, so we’re doing exactly that. Hopefully the information we’re seeking hasn’t been turned into confetti or been deleted from state-owned computers.”

My "Sally Field Moment" With ODP Chair Chris Redfern

Yesterday in Columbus I encountered Ohio Democratic Party Chair Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island) at the popular downtown restaurant Due Amici. I said hello and told him that I was in town to publicize his candidates. (I was waiting to meet 20th Ohio House District candidate Bev Campbell (D-Gahanna) for a lunch interview, and also talked to 22nd District candidate John Carney and 24th District candidate Ted Celeste during the day).

Redfern told me that he recently did a podcast for the Democratic National Committee in which he "heaped praise" on Ohio bloggers, and complained that "nobody picked up on it!" I expressed surprise. "Yes," he said, "I said that Ohio has the best bloggers and I mentioned Buckeye State Blog in particular!"

I told him it was wonderful to hear him say that, and reminded him that the last time I saw him he said "Bloggers - I hate 'em!" (Okay, so actually it was Paul Hackett who said that to me. What Redfern said was: "Blogs - I never read 'em!").

Redfern gave me a sideways look. "I'm coming around," he said, as he turned away. I just barely managed to hold in my Sally Field reaction ("You like us! You really like us!"), which would have been unseemly.

Well, sure enough, the podcast is here and it's well worth a listen. Redfern talks about the 50 state strategy of DNC Chairman Howard Dean, his own 88 county strategy in Ohio, and the party's plans to try to assure a fair election in 2006. He's quite frank about the shortcomings of the Democrat's narrow strategy in 2004, which he says cost John Kerry the presidency.

Late in the ten minute podcast, at about 8:10, Redfern does indeed declare that "in Ohio, we of course lead the nation in blogging." He mentions BSB "among others" as our "great presence" of bloggers who "help the party by identifying weaknesses and perhaps sometimes strengths," and says of the party "we really appreciate the support that bloggers and emailers provide us."

So, hey ... thanks, Chris Redfern! We appreciate the mention. And, we appreciate you and the great work that you are doing for the party and for victory in November.

Gov: Blackwell (R) Hugs "Friend and Outstanding American" Karl Rove, Together in Toledo

Sometimes a picture says it all.

"Bush's Brain," the Republican dirty tricks ubermeister Karl Rove, visited Toledo last night to bash Democrats as "obstacles to national security" and praise his boss, the Misleader in Chief. Rove warmly embraced gubernatorial candidate and personal pet project Ken Blackwell (R-Cinncinnati), who called Rove "my friend, an outstanding American."

At the same time, however, Blackwell denied that the 2006 election in Ohio is a referendum on Rove, the failed Bush presidency, or corrupt governor Bob Taft. No, it's strictly about Blackwell's "public policy positions," like proposing to sell the turnpike to a campaign contributor.

Protestors outside denounced the Iraq war and Bush, and Democrats "used it to highlight the ongoing scandal" of convicted Republican power broker Tom Noe. At a press conference, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) called on Rove "to explain his relationship with Noe during the 2004 campaign."

Wednesday, August 23

OH-18: Homrighausen (R) Drops Out of Primary

As reported in the Dover Times Reporter here, Mayor Richard Homrighausen (R-Dover) "stunned supporters with the surprise announcement" that he is dropping out of the September 14 special primary to replace scandal-tainted 18th District incumbent Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath). Homrighausen had the highest profile among six opponents to State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coschocton), Ney's hand-picked successor, whom Homrighausen now pledges to support.

Homrighausen cited the harm to the City of Dover of having both its mayor and its law director, Democratic candidate Zack Space (D-Dover), on the campaign trail as one of the factors leading him to decide to withdraw. The others included that he enjoys being mayor and hopes to complete his work on the city’s fiber optic network and expansions of its wastewater treatment and municipal light plants.

Ri-i-ight, that sounds convincing.

Tuesday, August 22

Gov: Blackwell (R) Turnpike Privatization Plan Lambasted by Turnpike Commission Chair and Cleveland Area Leaders

The Chairman of the Ohio Turnpike Commission and elected officials from the Cleveland vicinity gathered last Friday for a press conference outside the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, at which they denounced the plan of gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) to privatize the Ohio Turnpike by leasing it for 99 years.

From left to right: Mayor Dean DePiero (D-Parma), State Senate Minority Leader C.J. Prentiss (D-Cleveland Heights), Ohio Turnpike Commission Chairman Joseph Balog, Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, and Mayor Thomas O'Grady (D-North Olmsted).

I brought recording equipment to the press conference and focused on holding the microphone steady with one hand while taking photographs with the other. Having placed the digital recorder in my shirt pocket, however, I managed to bump it and accidentally turn off the recorder after the first speaker. Fortunately, the first speaker was Turnpike Chairman Balog, whose condemnation of the plan from an economic perpective was particularly devastating. For a full transcript of his remarks in Word format, click here. I will summarize his comments below, interspersed with photographs from the event.

Turnpike Chairman Balog said the plan would inevitably produce much higher rates and thus divert traffic to parallel roads at the expense of local communities.

Essentially, Balog said that he is against the privatization plan "from an economic standpoint," based on the Turnpike's importance as an "economic wheel for the northern Ohio area." A company that pays the 4 to 6 billion dollars projected by Blackwell to lease the Turnpike for 99 years would need to "maximize their profits." Using 5 billion as an example, a reasonable 5% rate of return would be $250 million per year. The Turnpike's annual budget, however, is only $215 million. "Where do you generate 250 million dollars for the private company that's invested five billion dollars when you only have 215 million dollars worth of income?"

Mayor O'Grady described Blackwell's plan as "reckless" and "very poorly thought out," and suggested that Blackwell drop it like he dropped his proposed TEL amendment that would have severely restricted government spending.

The only possible way to "make the Turnpike an economic, viable investment," Balog said, would be to "increase the rates," and increase them not slightly but substantially. "You have to think about something like three or four times the current rate in order for a company to get a return on their 5 billion dollar investment."

County Treasurer Rokakis predicted that the private operator of the Turnpike would provide workers with lower pay and benefits in order to try and squeeze out a profit, which would hurt the economy of the whole community.

Asked about the example of Indiana, Balog pointed out that Indiana didn't get $5 billion for privatizing their toll road. Ohio presently charges "about 13 cents per mile for trucks," he said. In two years, "Indiana will be at 20 cents per mile, and they'll ultimately be headed up." Balog said that Blackwell has talked about tolls "increasing at the rate at about 3 to 3.5 % per year." Balog pointed out that if rates had been raised by that amount over the first fifty years of the Turnpike, "a truck going all the way across the State of Ohio today would be paying $125 to use the Ohio turnpike," compared to about $30 actually charged today. "If they were paying $125 to go across the state, many of those trucks would not be using the Ohio Turnpike, they'd be on the roads that are parallel to it, they'd be on the private streets." Everyone "would be paying for the maintenance of those streets and there'd be a limited number of vehicles on the Turnpike."

Mayor DePiero pointed out the negative effects that reduced usage of the turnpike and increased use of parallel roads would have on the economy and safety of his community, which is adjacent to the Turnpike.

The "whole idea" of the Turnpike is it's "supposed to be a convenient, easy, accessible road, so that the trucks don't go ahead and use the parallel roads and cause problems in the local communities." Balog agreed with the statement that Blackwell's plan is "outsourcing run amok":
I don't think it makes any sense whatsoever. They'd have to continuously increase the rates and they'd have to increase them to the point where there would be significant traffic leaving the Ohio Turnpike and going onto the secondary roads that are running parallel.

Senator Prentiss linked Blackwell's turnpike privatization idea to his schemes for pay-to-play outsourcing of government functions in other areas, potentially including the outsourcing of non-classroom school operations under his 65% funding formula for public schools.

The criticism of Blackwell's plan by these officials finds ample support in a study called "An Analysis of the Proposed Lease of the Ohio Turnpike," prepared in June for The Center for Community Solutions by David A. Ellis, Ph.D., of CCS and Edward W. (Ned) Hill, Ph.D., the Vice President for Economic Development at Cleveland State University. That study found that contrary to Blackwell's prediction, "the market price of the lease should be in the $2 to $3 billion range," which after the state pays off the nearly three quarters of a billion dollars of outstanding debt of the Turnpike Commission would yield "cash available to Ohio for capital investments" only in the "$1 to $2 billion range," and that's without taking into account the cost of rebuilding the turnpike two to three times over the life of the lease. In their conclusion, the authors state:
[T]the only way that a private firm can operate the highway and make a profit while improving the economic returns for Ohio's citizens is if the turnpike authority makes extremely high profits, operates extremely inefficiently, or is loaded with inefficient patronage. The private firm would make its money by getting rid of these inefficiencies. If the turnpike is well run, a private vendor will have difficulty squeezing a profit out of the lease. Unless the private company sees an opportunity to charge monopoly rents through ever‐increasing tolls. Even if the vendor increased tolls at the maximum allowable rate, required maintenance of the road will erode any potential benefit. It would seem the only reason to lease the asset, given our analysis, is an ideological drive to shrink the size of government.

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Proposes Stronger Public Records Law

UPDATE: After posting the following, I was notifed that the press conference in Toledo today was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict. There will be a press conference in Columbus tomorrow, August 23, at 9:00 am in the Ohio Senate Minority Conference Room, on the 2nd Floor of the Ohio Statehouse.

In the wake of recent revelations that former Bureau of Workers Compensation head James Conrad engineered a cover-up of millions of dollars in investment losses at the Bureau just days before the 2004 General Election, attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) will hold a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. at Vintage Coins & Collectibles, 3509 Briarfield Blvd, Maumee, Ohio to unveil proposed legislation to substantially strengthen Ohio's public records law, and to discuss a new public records request he is making of the governor, the auditor, the attorney general, and the BWC to find out what they knew about the cover-up.

Dann is a better attorney general right now, just using methods available to him as a legislator and citizen, than Betty Montgomery (R) was when she sat idly by while this whole mess was developing.

Sen: Candidates Agree to Four Debates

U.S. Senate candidates Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville) and Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) agreed yesterday to a schedule of four debates, one of them on national broadcast television:
Sun., Oct. 1 - Meet the Press

Fri., Oct. 13 - Dayton

Thur., Oct. 19 - Toledo

Fri., Oct. 27 - Cleveland

Monday, August 21

Secty of State: Video of Brunner (D) DNC Speech in Chicago

Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) spoke on Saturday at the General Session of the three day DNC Meeting in Chicago. The General Session brings together the full membership of the DNC to conduct official business. DNC Chair Howard Dean, Mayor Richard Daley (D-Chicago), Gov. Rod Blagojavich (D-IL), Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Congressional candidate Darcy Burner (D-WA) also spoke, as reported here (with video links).

Brunner's speech, in which she stressed the importance of down ticket races in Ohio, is here:

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded link, but the video is available here.]

Toward the end of her remarks, Brunner unveiled her "Send a Sign" campaign initiative, which allows people all over America (and in Ohio) to purchase Brunner yard signs and designate where in Ohio they are placed, with each sign being marked by a colored ribbon that indicates the sender’s locale in the nation, including a special designation for signs purchased by Ohioans. “The ‘Send a Sign’ program promotes communities working together, all over the U.S., to ensure the most basic freedom of democracy, voting—and it starts in Ohio, this year and beyond,” said Brunner. For more information visit www.jenniferbrunner.com/sendasign.

Cong. OH-2: Wulsin (D) Renews Debate Challenge, Offers 5K Race

Dr. Victoria Wulsin (D-Indian Hill), opposing Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District, has posted a hilarious video about Schmidt's continuing refusal of Wulsin's offer to debate seven times, once in each county within the district, featuring Wulsin supporters and a big chicken making their point while demonstrating outside a Schmidt fundraiser:

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded link, but the video is available here.]

Meanwhile, Wulsin has amped up her debate challenge by combining it with an offer to compete against marathon runner Schmidt in a charity footrace. "Let's race for the cure," says Wulsin. "We'll give you a race. You give the voters another debate." Wulsin's campaign aides jogged over to Schmidt headquarters to deliver a letter challenging Schmidt to run in the 5 K Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure on September 10.

In an editorial today, the Cincinnati Enquirer called on candidates (including Schmidt) to agree to debates:
We urge the candidates to stop stalling and accept these invitations and debate, not just once, but frequently. ... The debates are for the public, and candidates who avoid debates cheat the voters. They prefer to present their messages without challenge from the opposition ...Voters should realize that candidates who don't want to debate may just not have very much to say.
"Politicians should never hide from the voters," Wulsin said. "I will stand up for what I believe and will always be available for the good people of Southern Ohio."

UPDATE: Wulsin's strategy to embarrass Schmidt into agreeing to more debates may be working, sort of. As reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer today, Schmidt has declined the 5K charity race but instead "upped the ante - challenging Wulsin to run with her in a half-marathon this month in Morrow, a distance of about 13 miles." (That's a four-fold increase from 5K, which is a little over three miles.) Schmidt's chief of staff also said "he expects that there will be several debates between the two in October, after Congress has gone into recess."

Statewide Bus Tour a Huge Success

I'm hearing from all sides that the Turn Around Ohio Bus Tour by statewide candidates this weekend was a smash hit. The newspaper coverage in the Columbus Dispatch, the Akron Beacon-Journal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer was terrific, and reporter Mark Naymik of the Cleveland Plain Dealer gave it a positive report on an NPR broadcast this morning.

I met with Ohio House of Representatives candidates Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) of the 57th District and Matthew Barrett (D-Amherst) of the 58th District today, preparing for profiles that I will post soon, and each said that the tour stop in Elyria was fantastic. Lundy thinks the crowd was about 400 people. The story in the Lorain Morning Journal, headlined "Dems Hope 'Ohio Turns Blue!,' says only that the crowd was "more than 150," but gives a glowing account of the event.

I have also heard directly from several candidates for the General Assembly by email. Duane Grassbaugh (D-Howard), running against Rep. Thom Collier (R-Mt. Vernon) in the 90th House District, writes that they had "probably 200 people at the Mount Vernon rally," the very first tour stop on Friday, and "close to 100 in Mount Gilead," which is "just incredible ... 100 is just huge in Morrow County." Overall, it was "really a good day."

Jeff Ruppert (D-Franklin)
, running against Shannon Jones (R-Springsboro) for the seat being vacated by lieutenant governor candidate Tom Raga (R-Mason) in the 67th House District, sent out an exultant press release today:
There are very few days on a campaign when you feel like the breeze is at your back and pushing you along. But we all felt the winds of change blowing through Warren County on Saturday August 19, 2006. The day started as Jeff and the RUPPERT ROOTERS rolled out with the RUPPERT FLYER at the Carlisle Railroad Days Parade. Energy was high as the ROOTERS received one of their warmest welcomes of the campaign season; numerous shouts of "Give 'em hell, Jeff!" were heard along the route, and the FLYER was cheered as it made its way to Carlisle High School.

The morning's momentum rolled into evening as [Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown] brought their TURN AROUND OHIO BUS TOUR to Shaker Run Golf Course for a reception with over 50 Warren County Republicans who have formed Republicans for Strickland, Republicans for Brown and Republicans for Ruppert committees. These committees are headed by Republicans Betty Davis, longtime Mayor of Mason, and Carl Boltz, a Mason resident and community leader.

A clear message was sent by the candidates and their Republican hosts -- Warren County and Ohio are ready for political leaders representing shared values and seeking consensus, and rejects those who practice the tired politics of fear and division. Warren County and Ohio are ready for COMPETITION, BALANCE and CHANGE.

The excitement only grew as [Ruppert] joined Ted Strickland, Sherrod Brown and the other statewide Democratic candidates at the Warren County Democratic Party Summer Dinner/Fundraiser. Shaker Run's banquet room was filled to capacity as folks from all over Warren County and Southwest Ohio came together to celebrate the winds of change blowing through Ohio.
Karen Adams (D-Kings Mills), challenging Rep. Michelle Schneider (R) in the 35th House District, was also featured at the banquet and emailed me an exciting description:
[It was a] fantastic event last night in Warren County. The Warren County Democratic Party hosted two receptions and a dinner for the statewide and local candidates last night with guest speaker Congressman John Conyers, D-Detroit, MI. ... The first reception was for Warren County Republicans (yes, Republicans) who are supporting Ted Strickland. They wanted to meet the rest of the candidates.

Things are really changing in Warren County and the rest of Southwest Ohio. [The] place was packed. Over two hundred people came to the dinner (over 35 extra people showed up). There was good representation from all the surrounding counties too. Each of the statewide candidates addressed the crowd. Richard Cordray made an interesting observation - the Democrats traveled together all over the state campaigning and of course enjoyed campaigning together but the Republicans have not been seen together at all. Barbara Sykes said she was tired but I have never seen anyone deliver an address with so much energy. Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland talked with such sincerity about the struggles the people of Ohio face and how the current governments in Ohio and Washington have made things so much harder for them. They talked about their vision to turn things around in Ohio and the country.

John Conyers was great and addressed so many issues facing our country due to the failures and misguided policies of the Bush administration. He also said it is very possible that the Democrats could take back the House of Representatives. Strickland pointed out Conyers would become chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Oh, happy days!

And there was entertainment. Shirley Pritchard, a Warren County Democratic volunteer, sang and played guitar (Francis and Shirley should go on tour). She has written several Democratic ditties that got the crowd going especially the sing along favorite, We'll Be Takin' Back Ohio in '06 (to the tune of She'll Be Comin' Around the Mountain). She wrote a very clever song about the good Dr. Wulsin and Jean Schmidt ... Russ Arey, of the Clermont County Democratic Party, is a professional auctioneer and did his bit for Warren County by auctioning off some Democratic memoriabilia. Very funny stuff. Democrats, besides being right, are just more fun.

It's great to be a Democrat in Warren County. All the hard work every Democratic volunteer is doing in Warren County, Southwest Ohio and in the whole state is turning Ohio around.
In other years this stretch leading up to Labor Day has been pretty quiet, but this year the energy is high and the Democrats are building on their momentum, even in the traditionally red counties.

Cong. OH-18: Zelenitz (R) Out of Primary; Challenge to Padgett (R) Denied

Just as in the world of fashion, one day you're in ... and then you're out.

News reports last week indicated that eight candidates filed nominating petitions for the September 14 special primary election in Ohio's 18th Congressional District, but I noticed two stories over the weekend (in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and New York Times) that referred to seven candidates (but didn't list them all out). Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, I called the Tuscarawas Board of Elections today and learned that the petitions of Gregory L. Zelenitz (R-Belmont), about whom I know nothing except that he has served on the board of the Ohio National Road Association and as president of the Blaine Bridge Resporation Project, were not certified.

Auf wiedesehn! (smack, smack)

As to State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton), the Plain Dealer reports that the challenge to Padgett's candidacy filed by Gordon Firman, brother of candidate Jerry "Old Fogey" Firman (R-Coschocton) (who filed as "Samuel" but had the elections board change their records to his middle name "Jerry"), was denied by the Tuscarawas Board of Elections 2-1 yesterday along party lines. Socrates Space, a Democratic member of the board and father to candidate Zack Space (D-Dover), abstained. The decision may be appealed to court. No word on whether such an appeal will be filed. The Democratic Party had earlier announced that it would not challenge Padgett's candidacy.

Gov: Blackwell (R) Accepts Fundraising By Governor He Called Unethical

Gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) plumbed a new low on the hypocrisy scale today by accepting campaign fundraising help from incumbent Gov. Bob Taft (R), the man he called unethical in TV ads during Blackwell's primary campaign against Attorney General Jim Petro (R-Rocky River).

It is almost a year to the day since Bob Taft became the first Ohio Governor convicted in an Ohio courtroom, having pleaded no contest to charges that he violated state ethics laws on August 18, 2005. In an infamous TV ad this past spring, Blackwell charged Petro with having "ethics worse than Taft." At noon today, however, Taft sponsored a Republican Governor’s Association fundraiser for Blackwell and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels at the Columbus Club. So, Blackwell doesn't mind making Taft a political target over Taft's pay-to-play corruption, but when it comes to raising campaign money just keep the checks coming.

In a press release, the Ohio Democratic Party compares Blackwell's apparent reversal on Taft's character to his other major flip-flops:
* Campaigning for the TEL amendment only to reverse course in the face of massive public opposition.

* Opposing the CAT tax before favoring it.

* Opposing expanded gambling but investing in a company that produces slot machines.
Writes ODP spokesman Brian Rothenberg:
“I wonder if Ken Blackwell will lecture Bob Taft about his ethics while he’s collecting checks at lunch. ... There is a fundamental integrity problem emerging from the flip-flopping within Ken Blackwell’s campaign. How do you trust Ken Blackwell when he wins a primary by questioning Bob Taft’s ethics, then raises money off of Taft’s fundraising machine for the Fall? It’s simply hypocritical."