Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Saturday, September 30

Cong OH-14: Katz (D) Debates LaTourette (R) Tomorrow

Lew Katz (D-Chesterland) will debate Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Painesville) and independent candidate Werner Lange tomorrow, October 1st, at 2:00 pm at the First Presbyterian Church, 4784 Shankland Road in Willoughby.

OH-14 & Sec State: Katz (D) Debunks 'Lenient Sentencing' Charge Against Brunner (D)

Identity theft is an issue in the Secretary of State race because incumbent Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) allowed thousands of social security numbers to go out on the official web site for commercial filings. Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) connected this issue to opponent Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati) by highlighting a similar disclosure of identifying information through the Hamilton County Clerk's web site, resulting in a civil class action against Hartmann and a federal indictment for individuals who data mined on the site for identity theft purposes.

Hartmann has now sought to turn the tables by putting forward a list of 20 cases in which Hartmann says Brunner, while a Court of Common Pleas Judge, rendered supposedly lenient sentences by imposing community control sanctions (probation) instead of incarceration for crimes involving false identity. Most of the cases involve check or credit card forgery rather than computer-linked identity theft. All of them are fourth and fifth degree felonies, and most of them involved plea bargaining. Hartmann insists that the final sentencing decision nevertheless rests with the judge and that these cases should have resulted in more severe punishment.

Law professor Lewis Katz (D-Chesterland), running against Rep. Steve Latourette (R-Painesville) in the 14th Congressional District, has now come to Brunner's defense on the sentencing charge. Katz is perhaps the leading authority on criminal law and procedure in Ohio. He is the co-author of leading treatises on criminal law in general (Baldwin's Ohio Practice: Criminal Law) and sentencing in particular (Ohio Felony Sentencing Law), as well as a seminal scholarly article on sentencing (Sentencing Consistency: Basic Principles Instead of Numerical Grids: The Ohio Plan, 53 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 1 (2002)).

I spoke to Katz on the telephone yesterday. Bottom line, it is unreasonable and unfair to criticize a judge for not imposing incarceration as punishment for fourth and fifth degree felonies because the sentencing statute mandates community control sanctions for those crimes unless particular contra-indications are found. "You’d have to know the facts of the particular cases," Katz said. "For example, whether the defendant is a repeat offender. You can’t make general charges [about lenient sentencing] later.”

Katz also explained that by imposing community control sanctions, Brunner “may have sent them to jail, just not to prison. Community control sanctions include local jail time as a possibility. What she didn’t do is send them to the penitentiary.”

“Sentencing reform legislation was focused on sending violent felons and high degree felons to prison, and trying to send fourth and fifth degree felons to community control, which includes jail and workhouses and work release programs as possibilities," Katz continued. "The purpose was to save money and to make room in the prisons for first and second degree felons.” When I pointed out that most of the cases involved plea bargains and Hartmann contends that the final decision still rests with the judge, Katz said “that’s true, the final decision rests with the court, but judges generally accept the recommended sentence for lower level felonies because it is agreed between the prosecutor and the defense.” He also said he believes that all cases involving “community control sanctions require a pre-sentencing report.”

Identity theft is an issue in the 14th District Congressional race as well. LaTourette sponsored a terrible, special interest-pandering bill called HR 3997, the Financial Data Protection Act, that would pre-empt state laws on identity theft and have the effect of making it impossible for consumers to freeze their credit without first obtaining a police report. According to Katz, LaTourette says "I’ve learned that now” (i.e., that the federal law is flawed), but consumer groups had complained about this aspect of the bill while it was still in committee. It wasn’t until the bill was passed out of committee and people in the media called LaTourette on it, including consumer finance guru Suze Orman, that LaTourette acknowledged the problem. Katz doesn’t know for sure if LaTourette has changed his position on the law. As far as Katz knows the bill is still pending and could be acted upon when the Congress returns in November.

Friday, September 29

Sen: Cleland and Obey Blast NRSC Attack Ad Against Brown (D)

Today I participated in a press conference call with former senator and Veterans Administration head Max Cleland (D-GA) and Rep. David Obey (D-WI). The occasion for the call was a new National Republican Senate Campaign Committee television ad that accuses Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) of failing to support U.S. troops, based on a particular roll call vote. The NRSC launched this attack ad just as Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville) unveiled an ad touting his record as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, despite the revelation yesterday that until last week DeWine had not even read the National Intelligence Report (available to him since April) which reveals that 16 national intelligence agencies agree that the Iraq War has increased the threat to America from terrorism.

Sen. Cleland opened the call by saying that DeWine "ought to be severely questioned" for having "hired the ad agency that did the Swiftboat ads against John Kerry, and which then doctored a photograph of the Twin Towers" in an attack ad against Brown. "Mike DeWine voted with Bush to send the troops to Iraq without enough body armor and equipment. Sherrod Brown opposed the Iraq War and fought to get the troops what they needed," Cleland continued. "It’s an absolute Republican distortion to make it appear that Sherrod Brown was less than fully supportive of the troops. The Republicans couldn’t even get their photograph of the Twin Towers right, how can they be expected to get Sherrod Brown’s record right?"

"Look, the Republicans are desperate, Mike DeWine is behind, they will say and do anything to bring Sherrod Brown down," Cleland continued. "Sherrod Brown did not vote for the war, and he fought to get the troops the equipment they need, especially body armor."

Rep. David Obey then made a statement. "It is absolutely outrageous and blatantly dishonest to use Roll Call Vote 601 as so-called evidence that Sherrod Brown opposed aid to the troops. I was the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and handled the amendment. We wanted by amendment to add 4 ½ billion dollars for clean drinking water (there was a big problem with the troops havin enough clean drinking water) and pre-deployment health and dental screening (which they had to pay for themselves) and to extend health coverage for returning guard and reserve troops from 60 days to six months. We also wanted the administration to recognize that there was a huge backlog of equipment that needed to be refurbished. We wanted the administration to recognize that the Army was too small, with the additional stresses because of the extended tours that these troops are serving."

"My daughter-in-law’s brother is an Apache helicopter pilot in Iraq on his second tour of duty. I know, and anyone who talks to these troops know, that they don’t have all the equipment that they need," Obey continued. "Our objection to the funding package was not that it did too much, but not enough to help the troops."

"We also wanted to scale back tax cuts to the wealthy to pay for it," Obey said. "The only people being asked to sacrifice for this war are the military. The Bush administration is saying to the wealthy, you can help the war effort by taking a tax cut."

A reporter suggested that roll call votes have been taken out of context by both sides (literally, that "everybody does it"), Cleland said that was "no excuse." He also said that faiing to support body armor is a very serious allegation to make. DeWine has "supported the president up and down the line, Sherrod Brown has not," he said. "This is very important to me because the majority of casualties in Iraq are due to improvised explosive devices there. This is the way that our troops are most in harm’s way. Sherrod Brown has fought to get the troops the body armor they need."

As to DeWine's performance on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Cleland said "Mike DeWine ignored intelligence reports that said Iraq has become a breeding ground for terrorists. He is trying to cover that up by going after Sherrod Brown and smearing Sherrod Brown." Relating this attack to his own experience, Cleland said that the "Republicans have a long record of cherry-picking votes to smear candidates. I co-sponsored the bill that created the Department of Homeland Security, but the Republicans attacked me as having voted against the Presidents’ “plan” twelve times. They even used an ad with a picture of me next to a picture of Osama bin Laden. In reality, I was a co-sponsor of the Department of Homeland Security bill, even before President Bush supported it."

Responding to a question about DeWine's criticism of Brown for voting against intelligence funding in the 1980s, Obey said that "many of us objected to intelligence funding because the agencies were spending all their money on equipment and neglecting human intelligence. That’s why I voted against intelligence funding, I didn’t like the mix of funding." As to the reporter's complaint that all candidates take votes out of context Obey said, "To separate the wheat from the chaff, read the legislative record. Read my remarks on the amendment in question. It was an amendment to increase, not decrease, funding for the troops." At this point, Cleland added that "the most relevant point for Ohioans is that Mike DeWine has admitted that he ignored the report that indicated that the Iraq War is a failure, and that Iraq has become a breeding ground for terrorists. This election is a choice between stay-the-course and change-the-course, and I think Ohioans are ready for changing the course."

Asked about voting against the Patriot Act, Obey said "it is ridiculous to say that a Congressman that voted aganst the Patriot Act is soft on terrorism. Nobody is soft on terrorism. The question is whether you are going to fight terrorism with methods that are - well, look at the Canadian situation. A man is shipped off to a foreign country where he is tortured, and now the Canadians admit that he wasn’t involved in terrorism. They have egg all over their faces. It’s important to fight terrorism with methods that are (1) effective, and (2) don’t step on the rights and privacy of average American citizens. If you trust the government blindly to make judgments about surveillance without independent review from any source, you are making a huge mistake."

Obey conceded that the particular vote mentioned in the ad was not about body armor, but explained that it was to support the troops in other ways. As to the aspect of repairing and refurbishing equipment, he said that "the Pentagon has admitted that there is a $27 billion backlog in repair and refurbishing equipment of units returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. When troops return, they have no equipment to train and prepare for their redeployment. It was in the Washington Post today that units at home are ranked at the lowest level of readiness."

"Remember, it was Rep. Jack Murtha who went to Iraq and discovered that the troops were lacking body armor," Obey said toward the end of the call. Sherrod Brown "was a part of efforts to include body armor in Defense Department funding," he said. There were at least three efforts to do this. One of them was Obey’s amendment to a funding bill, which was not allowed by the Republican-controlled Rules Committee. "The Republicans have a bad habit of not allowing amendments and then criticizing Democrats for not offering alternatives," he said.

UPDATE: Coverage by Stephen Koff in the Cleveland Plain Dealer is here. Interesting that he distilled the conversation to a few remarks that include some I didn't note down. For example, Obey called the NRSC attack "blatant McCarthyism." Cleland said the political attacks are reminiscent of DeWine's criticism of Sen. John Glenn in DeWine's unsuccessful 1992 campaign that "[h]ad it been up to John Glenn and his colleagues, we would have backed down overseas. The Berlin Wall would still be standing."

Atty Gen: Court Martial the Skipper, Fire the Night Watchman

My father spent 27 years in the U.S. Navy. If a Navy ship runs onto a reef, they court martial the captain, whether the pilot issued a warning or not. It's the captain's responsiblity to keep the ship safe, and the captain bears the responsiblity for the failure.

Or say you own a business. If there's a robbery in the night, you fire the night watchman, whether he says he heard any suspicious noises or not.

When State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) accuses Auditor and former Attorney General Betty Montgomery (R) of failing to detect or prevent pay-to-play corruption like Coingate, she makes excuses and complains that it's not fair criticism. For example, she says that the 2004 audit of the Bureau of Workers Compensation was delivered late, so she didn't know about Coingate until she read it in the papers. The excuses don't cut it. It was her job to uncover the abuses, and she didn't do her job.

Montgomery portrays the attorney general position as top vice cop, focusing on catching sexual predators. Dann portrays the position as watchdog on government, ferreting out corruption. With all due respect to Montgomery, prosecuting sex crimes is not where Ohio has experienced spectacular failure over the last decade or so. It's government corruption where the failings have occurred and the malefactors go unpunished.

Cong OH-18: Padgett (R) Campaign Shadowed by Bankruptcy

As reported in the Columbus Dispatch today, the business and personal bankruptcies of State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton) are going to continue to haunt her campaign for Congress. The article reports that "some Democrats are pouncing on her financial failings as evidence that she could not be trusted to manage federal funds. If she wins, Padgett’s $165,200 congressional salary would be garnisheed to help satisfy creditors."

Although opponent Zack Space (D-Dover) won't confirm that he will make an issue of Padgett's financial woes (citing "strategy considerations"), liberal groups and lawyers are "scouring the bankruptcy filings for evidence of mismanagement":
"The issue here is bankruptcy abuse and whether this was only questionable or rose to the level of bankruptcy abuse," said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of Progress Ohio, a political blog. "One thing we know from these bankruptcy filings is that Joy Padgett and her husband had over $500,000 in debt at the time they received this guaranteed government loan, which they failed to make almost any payments on."

Sen: Cleland To Defend Brown (D); Debate on TV Sunday

Former Georgia Senator and Veterans Administration chief Max Cleland will hold a conference call with reporters today at noon to discuss the latest attack advertisement paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Cleland, a decorated veteran who lost his legs in Vietnam, will defend the record of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) of supporting U.S. troops in combat and at home and detail the failings of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville) as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Bown and DeWine will debate on the nationally televised show "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning on NBC. Air time varies, check local listings. Click here to attend a debate-watch house party near you.

Watch the new ad criticizing DeWine on trade, jobs, and the minimum wage here.

Thursday, September 28

Statewide Races: News and Notes

Catching up on today's news in Ohio's statewide races:

Governor: The Zogby/Wall Street Journal Poll out today shows Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) leading 48.3% to 39.7%, with a margin of error of 3.2 points, up a few points from last month. Hat-tip BSB.

Attorney General: The audio of the endorsement interview of State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) and State Auditor Betty Montgomery (R) by the editors and reporters of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, along with a recap by reporter Mark Naymik, is here. The two candidates both lost their tempers completely. Dann called Montgomery a failure as an attorney general and auditor for not detecting or preventing the pay-to-play corruption in Columbus, Montgomery called Dann a "skunk" and a "bad lawyer."

Auditor: Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) won the endorsement of the Dayton Daily News today, although the editors expressed "reservations" because Sykes "had to be talked into running." Nevetheless, Sykes is "the best choice" because she "has a varied background in government" and "has a good understanding of the office's responsibilities," and also "has shown streaks of independence from her political party that suggest she would have the fortitude to run the office aggressively even if that meant embarrassing Democrats." Opponent Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green) "makes much of the fact that she's a certified public accountant" but "Ohio has never had a CPA in this job." Her tenure in the General Assembly has been brief, she has "associated herself with some of the most conservative members of her party," and she "hasn't made much of a reputation for herself."

Treasurer: The Sun News endorsed County Treasurer Rich Cordray (D-Grove City) today:
[Cordray] has amassed a solid record of accomplishments, including implementing policies that allowed Franklin County to collect more delinquent taxes and increase tax collections to record levels. His investment portfolio outperformed the market by a significant margin. The former state solicitor and state legislator also is credited with innovative programs to combat the alarming rate of home foreclosures in Franklin County and increase the financial literacy for school children. [O'Brien's] experience as auditor in Ashtabula pales in comparison to her opponent’s record. [Cordray] has the intelligence to effectively manage the complex office of the state treasurer [and] has the sophistication to use the influence of this office to affect public policy.

Congressional Races: News and Notes

Yikes, is there no rest for the weary political observer?

Senate: Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) broke ranks with the Democrats and voted for the detainee abuse law. I am angry and disappointed, but not so much as Russell. It's a bad law, but I'm trying to keep my eye on the bigger picture (regaining control of the Senate). I'm less angry at Brown's vote than I would have been if the final tally in the House (253-168) was close. It wasn't. I guess that it was some kind of regrettable political expediency, and although the benefit to Brown is debatable (and Russell does a good job of debating it), I'm going to give Brown the benefit of the doubt. He's trying to win a very, very tight race. [Note: After writing the foregoing, I was informed by a reliable source that Brown's vote was not based on political realities but a considered judgment that it was better to vote for this "compromise" than to let the status quo drag on indefinitely. With all due respect, I think he made a bad call.]

Meanwhile, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville) opened himself up for well-deserved criticism today by telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he didn't read the classified National Intelligence Estimate until this past week, even though it has been available to him since April. His staff "briefed him" on it, along with about eight other reports that day. This undercuts DeWine's claims to be independent or to have engaged in real oversight as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. So does his statement that "there's nothing of great significance in this report." What a complete and total rubberstamp. Brown's reaction:
“After voting to lead our country to war with Iraq based on false intelligence, Senator DeWine’s continued failure to exert any oversight as a member of the Intelligence Committee is shocking,” said Rep. Brown, who voted against going to war with Iraq and has called for a winning exit strategy. “The Bush administration’s own intelligence agencies agreed in the National Intelligence Estimate that the War in Iraq has created a rallying point for jihadists, and has left the United States increasingly vulnerable to terrorist threats. Senator DeWine continues to stand with President Bush in support of a stay-the-course Iraq strategy regardless of its threat to our nation’s security.”
The Zogby/Wall Street Journal Poll out today puts the race at 44.6% for Brown, 40.5% for DeWine, margin of error 3.2 points, about the same as last month. H/T BSB.

1st and 2nd Districts: Congressional candidates John Cranley (D-Cincinnati) and Vic Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) will join Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) and Hamilton County Commissioner candidates Phil Heimlich (R-Cincinnati) and David Pepper (D-Cincinnati) at a candidates' forum for religious voters called "Voting our Faith 2006" on Monday, October 2nd, at 7:00 pm at the Cintas Center at Xavier University, 1624 Herald Avenue in Cincinnati. Nearly 2,000 religious voters are expected to attend this event, organized by the AMOS Project and Sojourners/Call to Renewal, with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati as a co-sponsor. (Gubernatorial candidates Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati), Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville), and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) were also invited but have not confirmed.) “We believe that religious voters are entitled to a conversation with candidates who seek to campaign about moral values,” said Joyce Kinley, President of the AMOS Project. “As the clock ticks, we hope that these candidates mean what they say and will welcome a conversation with religious voters about the most pressing issues facing our communities: affordable health care, quality education, good jobs and stable communities.” The founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal is Jim Wallis, author of the influential book "God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It." The AMOS Project is a Greater Cincinnati faith-based coalition representing thousands of urban and suburban people of faith from over 40 congregations.

The Cincinnati Enquirer chastised Wulsin today for criticizing Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) about submitting canned editorials under her own name, instead of addressing substantive issues like Medicare Part D. The only problem is, Wulsin has addressed Medicare Part D over and over and over again. The Enquirer just hasn't been covering it, a failing that Wulsin's campaign manager had protested in writing just last week.

6th District: Chris Cillizzi and Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post call this race today for State Sen. Charlie Wilson (D-St Clairsville). This was once thought to be the Repubicans' best pickup opportunity and State Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R-East Liverpool) was regarded as a rising star, but now Wilson's polling shows him with a 49% to 25% lead over Blasdel and the Republican establishment is ignoring the contest.

13th District: The Sun News endorsed Betty Sutton today:
Sutton, 43, has made an issue of the importance of political leaders keeping the public trust. One way to restore confidence in government might be her proposal to open congressional committee meetings to the public and post summaries on the proceedings on the Internet. ... [Sutton] served in the Ohio House and on Summit County Council after getting her start in politics as a Barberton councilwoman. Her climb up the political ladder has been nurtured by an ability to identify with voters and their concerns, including loss of jobs and skyrocketing health-care costs. She proposes igniting economic development in Ohio with a permanent extension of the research and development tax credit and the so-called Patriot Corporation Act to reward companies that create jobs at home, not off-shore. She also is ready to push for significant reform in health care, a system that is bleeding employers and employees. ... Sutton has the energy and conviction to spark some changes in federal policies too often at odds with the best interests of the working people here.
15th District: Another terrific video attacking Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Columbus):

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

She's getting multimediafied from all sides. I love it.

Ohio Sen 1st: Mega-Farm Issue Drives Nienberg (D)

Recently I ran across this quote from the current president of the Republic of Chile, Michelle Bachelet:
"Politics entered my life by destroying everything I loved the most."
I thought of that quote this morning when I called up Ben Nienberg (D-Glandorf), a successful investment advisor and insurance agent, to talk about his campaign for the 1st Ohio Senate District seat. It's what motivated Nienberg to first run for public office in 2004 that brought the quote to mind -- the severe injury to the health and property of Putnam County residents from industrial mega-farms that Ohio's Republican-controlled state government has allowed to enter the area virtually unimpeded, without input from area residents or regulation by local authorities.

Nienberg said that his ten-county district in Northwest Ohio is one of the most difficult places in the state to run as a Democrat. He has done no polling to assess the race. However, a number of Republicans have told him they can’t vote for the current slate of Republican candidates for the state offices, so “if that is true it is sounding hopeful.” Nienberg knows first-hand the difficulty of carrying the Democratic banner in this area because he ran against Rep. Ron Hoops (R-Napoleon) for the Ohio House of Representatives two years ago. Hoops lost in the Republican Ohio Senate primary this year to Nienberg’s opponent, Rep. Steve Buehrer (R-Delta). Both Republicans were compelled to seek a new job this year due to term limits, as was Ohio Senate incumbent Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon), now running for Hoops' 75th House District seat.

Nienberg decided to run in 2004 because two giant industrial farms moved into Putnam County. He discovered that Buehrer, Hoops, and Wachtmann all supported legislation in 2000 that transferred authority over the farms from the federal EPA to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and another law in 2003 that removed any authority of county agencies (such as the county board of health) over agriculture. Nienberg said that the state has never denied a CAFF permit (required to operate large farms) to a mega-farm, and has stripped local authorities of any control over where they are located. Once a mega-farm comes into an area and purchases land, “it’s a done deal.”

Sixteen area residents became sick from overexposure to hydrogen sulfide due to living in the vicinity of 25,000 hogs. Some of the plaintiffs developed hepatitis D and were told by doctors that they had to move out of their homes. They sued the mega-farm operators but faced another state law that requires non-binding arbitration before a court trial. As a result, the plaintiffs incurred over $100,000 in attorney’s fees and had to wait three years before the case came to court last May. At that point the plaintiffs settled and were required to sign a confidentiality agreement, but it is known that at least some of the plaintiffs are selling their property to the defendants.

Now, a company wants to locate 8 million chickens in Williams County. A group called the Williams County Alliance has been formed to educate county residents on the potential health threat, although county officials concede that they have no authority over agriculture. Nienberg said that polls show 40% of residents regard industrial farms as a serious issue, up from 25% two years ago. When I asked if the public is more aware of the problem due to the shutting down of Buckeye Egg Farm a few years back, Nienberg was quick to point out that the mega-farm in that case didn’t stop operating. It was sold to an affiliated entity with a history of environmental violations in Iowa and remains in business. He said that if you were to ask nearby residents they would say that conditions are not much better, and farm operations still infringe on their property rights without compensation.

Although the mega-farms are clearly a major issue for Neinberg, he is also campaigning on other serious issues facing the state. In particular, he said that Ohio is the third most heavily taxed state and “the Republicans did that to us.” They have “been on a spending spree“ that must be stopped. Nienberg also opposes the proposed sale of the Ohio Turnpike, because there are “too many people waiting in the wings to profit” on the scheme, and they are not even from Ohio. His opponent says he “will look at” the proposal, which Nienberg takes to mean that if it comes up for a vote Buehrer will support it.

Nienberg has a busy schedule of appearances. Tomorrow at 6:30 pm he’ll be at the Democrats of Auglaize County Dinner at the VFW in St Marys, and on Sunday, October 1st, from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm he’ll be at the Putnam County Democrats Fall Dinner at the Glandorf Rod & Gun Club in Ottawa. There is no formal debate scheduled in this race, but Nienberg will participate in “Meet the Candidates” events on October 9 at 7:30 pm at the Chamber of Commerce in Ottoville, October 10 at 7:00 pm at Hilltop High School in West Unity (sponsored by the Sons of the American Legion), and October 11 at 12:00 noon at the Auglaize County Educational Service Center in Wapakoneta (sponsored by the Auglaize County Retired Teachers Associaion).

Nienberg asked me to remind everyone that Ohio tax law allows for a credit of up to $100 for donations to a state candidate, so readers are urged to take advantage of that provision and contribute to his campaign.

Statewide Races: News and Notes

Items of interest in Ohio statewide elections:

Secretary of State: Click here for audio of the endorsement interview of Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) and Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati) by the editorial board and reporters of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, along with a rundown by reporter Mark Naymik. Hartmann joined Brunner in criticizing Blackwell, Brunner emphasized improving the quantity and quality of poll workers.

Brunner will speak at 7:15 pm tomorrow evening at WeCount2006, a conference on election issues to be held tomorrow and Saturday, September 29-30, at Tri-C Metro Campus, 2900 Community College Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115. There are a great host of other interesting speakers, including Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Lee Fisher, and Mark Crispin Miller. Go to the web site for more information.

Auditor: The Columbus Dispatch covers the copyright dispute over the ORP's smear ad against Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron). ORP Chair Bob Bennett still insists that their unauthorized use of video clips of legislative floor debate is legal, even though the broadcaster (the Ohio Channel) was reorganized as a private entity specifically so that it could hold and enforce copyright. A cease and desist letter will be sent today.

Supreme Court: Justice Terrence O'Donnell (R-Rocky River) has backed out of the City Club of Cleveland debate against Appellate Judge William O'Neill (D-South Russell), leaving O'Neill with a televised hour to himself. Hat-tip BSB.

Today's Columbus Dispatch reviews the Supreme Court races here. O'Neill bashes O'Donnell on judicial corruption, former state senator Ben Espy is more reserved. Both Republican candidates downplay party affiliation, Appellate Judge Robert Cupp harps on Espy's lack of judicial experience. Pretty much what you'd expect. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has endorsed both Republicans but hasn't put up any advertising yet, although it is expected.

Wednesday, September 27

Ohio Bd of Ed 7th: Sawyer (D) Campaigns Hard to Unseat Owens Fink (R) UPDATED

Anyone who thought former congressman and Akron mayor Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) might not campaign very aggressively in his challenge to incumbent Deborah Owens Fink (R-Bath Township) for the 7th District Ohio Board of Edducation seat has learned otherwise by now. Sawyer is displaying the energy and motivation now that some thought lacking in his primary campaign for Congress earlier this year. The explanation may be simple -- education has been a central concern for Sawyer throughout his career as a teacher, mayor and legislator, and he sees a genuine opportunity to improve Ohio's public education system -- but the effect is profound.

Sawyer introduces his campaign in this video:

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

As reported in the Akron Beacon Journal last month here, University of Akron marketing professor Owens Fink was a leader in the recent "effort to adopt a controversial science curriculum standard and lesson plan calling for a critical analysis of the theory of evolution." The state board scrapped the curriculum changes in February, after a federal judge in Pennsylvania rejected the teaching of intelligent design there as "religion masquerading as science."

Sawyer was encouraged to run by Help Ohio Public Education, a group recently formed by Case Western Reserve University professors Patricia Princehouse and Lawrence Krauss. They told the Beacon Journal that the curriculum changes supported by Owens Fink promoted intelligent design and were an effort to insert religion into the science curriculum, and that Owens Fink "consistently thumbs her nose at education experts, science experts and parents." Owens Fink objected, calling Princehouse and Krauss and other scientists supportive of Sawyer "members of the dogmatic scientific community" who want to stifle discussion about "the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory."

Sawyer said that his campaign is not narrowly focused on the debate over teaching evolution, but embraces the "broad range of the curriculum -- the building blocks that comprise a thorough efficient education," and "science education is an important part of that." He also said that he will campaign about addressing school funding woes and a "stronger role for the state board of education."

Scott Piepho, Sawyer's Communications Director, reports that Owens Fink was a guest on the "What's Right What's Left" show on Cleveland Christian Talk station 1220 WHKW last night. Much of the show was devoted to criticizing the theory of evolution and scientists who support it. At one point a participant said, "If you are Christian, vote for Debbie. If you believe in evolution, abortion and sin, vote for Sawyer." At the end of the interview Owens Fink declared that by using "word of mouth" she can win this election.

Piepho notes that as a Board of Education campaign, they are in favor of teaching evolution, take no position on abortion, and are against sin. "Time will tell whether appearances like this will be the core of her campaign or whether this is just a targeted message," Piepho said. "In the meantime, we look forward to Ms. Fink actually discussing education sometime."

A big boost for the Sawyer campaign is reported in the New York Times today here. Several prominent scientists, including Clinton science advisors John H. Gibbons and Neal Lane, Nobel laureates Peter Agre and Alfred Gilman, and Susan F. Wood, who resigned from the Food and Drug Administration last year over the delay in approving Plan B emergency contraception, have formed Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization dedicated to electing politicians “who respect evidence and understand the importance of using scientific and engineering advice in making public policy.” SEforA is a 527 organization, meaning it can engage in electoral politics, and it will focus on Internet advertising, speakers and other events. The group is looking at the Senate race in Virginia; a stem cell ballot issue in Missouri; Congressional races in Washington State; and "the question of intelligent design in Ohio." Although Sawyer is not mentioned by name, his race falls squarely in the latter category.

The group will work on broader issues affecting science, not just particular elections:
In what it described as a Bill of Rights for scientists and engineers, the group said that researchers who receive federal funds should be free to discuss their work publicly, and that appointments to federal scientific advisory committees should be based on scientific qualifications, not political beliefs. It said the government should not support science education programs that 'include concepts that are derived from ideology,' an apparent reference to creationism and its ideological cousin, intelligent design.

Congressional Races: News and Notes

I know, I just did one of these yesterday, but the news about Ohio Congressional races just keeps flooding in:

Senate: An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer today asks, "Could a Blackwell loss sink DeWine as well?" Reporter Thomas Ott says political observers agree that "if Blackwell's double-digit deficit in the polls turns into a thrashing on Election Day, it may hurt [DeWine]," due more to "low turnout" than "ideology and anti-Republican backlash," as "dispirited Republican voters decide to stay home." An editor of the Cook Report notes that "Governors' races are bigger drivers in getting voters out than Senate races. There's a lot more work that goes into not getting caught in the undertow." Political consultant Dale Butland discounts the possibility that overconfident Democrats will skip voting, because "when you've been wandering in the wilderness as long as Democrats in this state I don't think anyone is going to be complacent." The article notes that Brown and Strickland toured the state together in August and made two joint appearances this month, but DeWine and Blackwell have not stood together since Labor Day weekend.

1st District: The Hill reports today that Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) has earmarked $1.6 million through the fiscal 2007 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill to benefit five Cincinnati institutions that are closely tied to some of his biggest financial backers. All of them (the symphony orchestra, a museum, two universities, and a hospital) have members of Chabot’s inner circle of contributors and fundraisers on their boards of directors. Chabot is a longtime critic of pork-barrel spending and of federal funding for the arts, so the earmarks for the museum and symphony in particular are raising some eyebrows. Chabot has particularly close ties to Xavier University, which will get $300,000 for unspecified technology upgrades. Hat-tip to Black Cincinnati Blog.

2nd District: In the latest development in Copygate, Rep. Mean Jean "Xerox" Schmidt (R-Loveland) denies that her publication of a newspaper editorial based almost entirely on a Republican House Caucus press release was unethical because "it's not plagiarism if they tell you to use it." Schmidt has refused to retract the editorial or apologize for misleading the public. The campaign of Dr. Vic Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) said that Schmidt is "living up to her reputation as a 'rubber stamp' for the Republican party," since her "behavior confirms that she does as she is told by party leaders regardless of the moral or ethical implications." Campaign manager Mary Huttlinger asks, "What kind of leadership does this show? Why can't Jean Schmidt say she did something wrong, apologize for misleading her readers, and move on?"

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland
) and County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones (D-Cleveland) will headline a fundraiser for Wulsin at the home of Subodh Chandra (D-Cleveland) and Meena Morey Chandra from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, October 3rd, at 2275 Chestnut Hills Drive in Cleveland. Suggested minimum contributions is $50. RSVP to rsvp-at-wulsinforcongress-dot-com.

13th District:The Chandras will also host a fundraiser for Betty Sutton (D-Copley) on Tuesday, October 10th, which will feature senate candidate and 13th District incumbent Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon). For further details write to subodh-dot-chandra-at-chandraforohio-dot-com.

14th District: Lew Katz (D-Chesterland) today invited his opponent, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Painseville), to attend the "Support our Soldiers – Past and Present" rally set for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 7, in downtown Willoughby at the Gazebo at Park Point across from City Hall. "Supporting our veterans, as well as those currently serving in the Armed Forces, should not be political," said Katz, a former Navy officer. "Too much politics already has occurred at the expense of our brave soldiers. I am encouraging a bipartisan discussion on this issue to ensure that our troops and military families are convinced that we are 100 percent in support of their incredible sacrifices."

15th District: Have you watched this video, entitled "No Dice, Deb Pryce"? It's devastating. The videographer dramatizes an actual encounter with Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Columbus) at an airport, during which she admits (to a sympathetic stranger) that the Republican party has been taken over by religious extremists, and that she'd leave if she had somewhere else to go. Hat-tip to both Buckeye State Blog and As Ohio Goes.

18th District: Unlike the many Republican candidates who are distancing themselves from an unpopular president, State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coschocton) is hitching her wagon securely to Bush administration policies, including the Iraq Debacle. Yesterday's fundraising visit by Laura Bush is covered in the Canton Repository and the Columbus Dispatch today. The Repository notes that there was no mention of Bob Ney or Bob Taft or Padgett’s bankruptcy, but Padgett made clear "she’s tying her race for the 18th Congressional District seat to President Bush," despite his job approval rating of less than 50 percent. As to the war on terror, Padgett said "I stand with the president of the United States." The Dispatch said Padgett "voiced strong support for the president’s foreign policies - particularly the war in Iraq - and his income-tax cuts." Not much ambiguity there, although the Dispatch reports that Padgett differs from Bush on immigration (won't agree to any path to citizenship) and free trade (wants treaties to protect U.S. businesses).

Ohio House 57th: Lundy (D) Challenges Martin (R) On Jail Vote and Charter Schools

Challenger Matt Lundy (D-Elyria), target of a misleading attack ad on behalf of incumbent Earl Martin (R-Avon Lake), is hitting back hard in the 57th Ohio House District race. The ad accuses Lundy of raising county taxes while serving as a city council member, an outright impossibility. Martin justifies the ad by pointing to a city council resolution in 1995 that cited the critical need to expand the county jail in order to stop early release of inmates. That resolution lent support to a sales tax increase for jail expansion, proposed by the county commissioners and approved by county voters.

A week ago Lundy challenged Martin to disclose his own personal vote on the jail expansion initiative. “I think voters deserve to know whether he supported locking up criminals or allowing them to roam our neighborhoods," Lundy said. "If he feels so strongly about this matter to attack me, he should at least disclose why he voted the way he did.”

Between 1992 and 1994 the Lorain County jail prematurely released more than 3,500 criminals to avoid overcrowding. "I stood up and took a tough stand to keep criminals out of our neighborhoods and convicted drunk drivers off of our roads," Lundy said. "What did Earl do? Did he support keeping criminals behind bars or releasing them back into our neighborhoods?” Martin only wants to attack and doesn’t want to talk about his record, Lundy continued. "He has failed our families on school funding, affordable tuition and jobs. He’s been nothing more than a rubber stamp for Bob Taft.”

Lundy's counterattack continued yesterday with a press release charging that Martin "supports siphoning off $250-million dollars a year from our public schools to show his loyalty to the for-profit charter schools in Ohio. He’s bought and paid for by David Brennan the king of charter schools in Ohio.”

Campaign finance reports show that David Brennan of White Hat Management has contributed $2,000 to Earl Martin’s campaign. Lundy challenged Martin to return the contribution and to stand up for public education by cutting funding for charter schools in Ohio.

“Earl Martin would rather fund charter schools than invest his time to come up with better funding for public education. Our property taxes are rising under an unconstitutional school funding formula and he is sitting there doing nothing about it,” said Lundy. “This is another example that his loyalty is to his contributors and not to our schools. This is why Ohio and our schools are in such bad shape. For Martin and the Columbus Republicans, it’s all about the money and not about our kids.”

Lundy vowed that if elected he would work to eliminate funding to charter schools and direct the money instead to public education in Ohio. “I will stand up for our schools and our kids. I believe our kids can compete with the best in the nation and the world. But we have a responsibility to properly fund schools in Ohio," said Lundy. "I represent real change for Ohio.”

Martin has so far refused to accept Lundy's challenge to engage in a debate.

Ohio House 43rd: Dyer (D) Endorsed by Beacon Journal

Attorney and former reporter Steve Dyer (D-Green) has received the endorsement of the Akron Beacon Journal over city council member and former assistant prosecutor Christine Croce (R-Green) in the 43rd Ohio House District race. This is the seat being vacated by Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green) to run for auditor. The district is located in southern Summit and Portage counties.

The editors praise Dyer's "breadth of knowledge about the most important issues facing the state" such as "the critical need for Ohio to expand access to high-quality education, from kindergarten through college." He is "better equipped to contribute in a more effective way to the debate the state must have on funding primary and secondary schools without a crushing reliance on local property taxes" and "puts the highest priority on investing in the skills of people." The editors also praise Croce's knowledge and experience in the area of criminal justice, but conclude that "her candidacy falls slightly short, in comparison to her opponent. Stephen Dyer shows a greater capacity to navigate the array of complex issues facing Ohio."

Secty of State: Hartmann (R) and Brunner (D) Trade Barbs in Toledo Blade

There is a good recap in the Toledo Blade today of the exchange of charges about identity theft in the race for Secretary of State. This became a hot topic when it was revealed earlier this year that social security numbers were disclosed in commerical filings on the Secretary of State's official web site, resulting in a class action lawsuit against Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati). Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) has made a campaign issue of pointing to a similar situation on the offical site maintained by her opponent, County Clerk Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati). That site also revealed social security numbers and other private information about Ohioans in court filings accessible through the site, resulting in a similar class action against Hartmann, and certain individuals were indicted on federal identify theft charges after mining personal data from the site.

In response, Hartmann has begun attacking Brunner for sentencing particular defendants to probation rather than jail for crimes that Hartmann says involved stealing identities. Aside from the usual unfairness of criticizing a judge for just a few of the many thousands of rulings that she made, there are at least three major flaws to Hartmann's accusation.

First, most of the crimes involved were not identity theft as occurred in connection with Hartmann's county clerk site, but forgery relating to checks or credit cards. The rationale for relating these particular sentences to the web site identity theft situation is very weak, at best.

Second, criminal sentencing is controlled by a comprehensive statutory scheme. The cases Hartmann cites are all fourth and fifth degree felonies where the statutory presumption mandates probation over incarceration, unless certain listed factors are specifically found. In effect, Hartmann is criticizing Brunner for following the law.

Finally, as Brunner points out in today's article, most of the sentences involved resulted from plea bargains, where the prosecutor expressly approved the sentence Brunner handed down. Hartmann and an ally, Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis, assured the Toledo Blade reporter that the final decision on sentencing still belongs to the judge. This is technically true but very misleading. Our overburdened criminal justice system relies heavily on plea bargaining to dispose of the vast majority of cases on the criminal docket. If judges departed from recommended sentences in any but the most exceptional situations the whole system would collapse. Brunner was just following the law and doing her job right.

UPDATE: More on Hartmann's accusation and Brunner's response in the Akron Beacon Journal here. Hartmann insists that prison time was warranted in each of his 20 listed cases, all fourth and fifth degree felonies, which he really can't say without proof of specific factual circumstances to overcome the statutory prepresumption against jail. Brunner handled over 6,000 cases as a judge, so Hartmann's list is less than 0.03% of her caseload. She explains the use of sentencing investigations to back up sentencing recommendations resulting from plea bargains.

Auditor: Ad Attacking Sykes (D) is So-o-o Wrong

I have a rule about counting to ten before publishing a post, but in this case it wouldn't do any good. The Ohio Republican Party has a travesty of an ad, so far only posted on YouTube but possibly headed for TV, that uses excerpts of floor debate by Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) to smear her as a "tax raiser." This ad is wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to start.

First, the entire tax-raiser charge is fundamentally misplaced in a race for state auditor. That official has ab-so-lute-ly nothing to do with imposing or increasing taxes. Sykes couldn't use her powers as auditor to raise Ohio taxes if she wanted to. The auditor's only connection to tax revenue is making sure it's properly handled AFTER it has been collected.

Second, the two statements on which the smear is based are taken completely (and deliberately) out of context. The first ("I am a liberal Democrat") is part of a larger statement that conservatives should like: "I am a liberal Democrat who strongly supports businesses. I support free enterprise and I love competition." The second comment ("I think that people should work so they can pay their taxes because we need their money") was a sarcastic aside in a debate about prohibiting doctors from making certain referrals for in-patient hospital services. The context had nothing to do with raising taxes, as ORP spokesman John McClelland conceded to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Also, if you think about the second comment, it's all about good conservative values like hard work and living up to one's obligations. The most you can read into it is that taxes should be paid, not that they should be increased.

Third, and this one really gets me, the ad is yet another violation of copyright law. Everything you need to know about this issue is reported in the Akron Beacon Journal here. ORP Chairman Bob Bennett (a lawyer) says that using the clips of Rep. Sykes is fair game because it was taken during a public debate using taxpayer dollars. Wrong:
House Clerk Laura Clemens and Dan Shellenbarger, the executive director of The Ohio Channel, which produced the video, say the clip is copyrighted and should not be used.

"They can link to our Web site but they can't actually use a clip," said Clemens, a Republican appointee.

The Ohio Channel, once a state-funded entity, is now a private, nonprofit arm of WVIZ, a Public Broadcasting Service station in Cleveland, and hence the material is protected, Shellenbarger said. The Ohio Channel will send a letter to the Republican Party asking that the ad be pulled, he said.
John McClelland refused to confirm or deny to the Cleveland Plain Dealer whether the ORP had clearance to use the footage. Bennett told the Akron Beacon Journal "there's always a legal argument on two sides of every issue" and "that's my position right now until someone can show me that there's something we haven't considered over here." He also said that the ad would be on TV later this fall.

It seems to me that there's a fundamental contempt for the law in Bennett's comment, and as a lawyer he should know better. Sure, there are gray areas in the law, and difficult applications of the law are the ones most likely to end up in court. But this is not a matter that has found its way into litigation, it's out here in society where most legal rules cover most situations without much controversy. When a rule plainly forbids something, as appears to be the case here, it is not true that there are legal arguments on both sides of the issue. There's following the law, and there's flouting it. Bennett's comment reminds me a lot of the statement by Scott Borgamenke, chief of staff to House Speaker Jon Husted, before I got representation in my copyright dispute, that the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee would look into whether my rights were being violated but either way the offending ad would not be pulled. Both comments convey a cynical attitude of unwillingness to comply with rules that get in the way of doing what one wants.

Tuesday, September 26

Statewide Races: News and Notes

Items of interest in Ohio's statewide contests:

Governor: The audio of the endorsement interview of Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) by editors and reporters of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is posted here, along with a description of the interview by reporter Mark Naymik. He writes that Strickland accused Blackwell of an "anti-science" agenda (as in, opposition to stem cell research and an extreme stance on abortion) that would paint a picture of Ohio as a "backwards state." Blackwell defended his "13 years of state leadership" by describing himself as someone who has "challenged the status quo." This weekend's Columbus Dispatch poll showed Strickland leading Blackwell by 19 points, 52% to 33%, with 1% supporting others and 13% undecided.

Attorney General: There is an interesting piece in the Columbus Dispatch today, contrasting the differing views of the role of the attorney general on the part of State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) and State Auditor Betty Montgomery (R). He sees it as being a watchdog on government abuse, she sees it as being top crime fighter. Dann objects strongly to the suggestion in Montgomery's new ad that Dann would be soft on sex criminals because he has represented them in court. Dann points out that he once handled the sentencing for a man convicted of pandering obscenity involving a minor, and that he backed legislation to enhance penalties for drug offenses near schools and establish standards for walkon coaches and other nonteachers working with children in schools. As a lawyer, I think the argument that a defense lawyer can't be an effective prosecutor is particularly disingenuous and unfair.

Secretary of State: Just for the record, the Columbus Dispatch poll released over the weekend showed Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) ahead of Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati) by 36% to 28%, with 4% for other candidates and 32% undecided. I did not blog about this poll over the weekend, and I got a note from a reader outside of Ohio nudging me about it. So, there it is. The large margin of undecided voters tends to overshadow Brunner's lead a bit, I think. The candidates are quoted extensively in an article about the race here.

State Auditor: The Dispatch poll showed Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) leading Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green) by 44% to 32%, with 24% undecided. This 12% lead is a significantly more substantial advantage than Brunner's 8% lead with a far more undecided voters, although not nearly as commanding as Strickland's lead.

Treasurer: This article in the Youngstown Vindicator quotes County Treasurer Richard Cordray (D-Grove City) as saying that his opponent County Auditor Sandra O'Brien (R-Rome) is neither competent nor qualified to hold the office of state treasurer. In particular, Cordray pointed to state audits of Ashtabula County that determined that O'Brien's office didn't have safeguards in place to detect a $40,000 embezzlement by a subordinate, and also that O'Brien overpaid her own salary and improperly bought a vehicle for her department. O'Brien dismissed the significance of getting cited in state audits. "I look at citations as being a huge problem, and I haven't had any," Cordray said. Another point reflected in the article is that O'Brien's experience as auditor of a small county is not comparable to Cordray's experience as treasurer of a large county: "The state treasurer's office employs about 110 to 120 and oversees $11 billion in assets. Cordray's office has 45 employees and handles $650 million in assets. O'Brien's office has 18 workers and doesn't handle the county's assets of about $25 million." Wow. The Columbus Dispatch poll showed Cordray leading O'Brien by 45% to 34% with 21% undecided. Good thing!

Supreme Court: The Columbus Dispatch poll showed both Republican candidates ahead, but not by much. Supreme Court Justice Terrence O'Donnell (R-Rocky River) leads Appellate Judge William O'Neill (D-South Russell) by 27% to 22% with 51% undecided, and Appellate Judge Robert Cupp (R-Toledo) leads former state senator Ben Espy (D-Columbus) by 24% to 21% with 55% undecided. The margin of error of the poll is 2.2 points, so those leads are miniscule, especially compared to the huge numbers of undecided voters.

Congressional Races: News and Notes

Items of interest in Ohio Congressional races:

Senate: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will headline a fundraiser for Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) on Monday, October 9, 2006 from 7:00 to 8:00 pm at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, 24 Public Square in Cleveland. The general reception is $150 per person, and there's a private reception (6:00 to 7:00) with photograph opportunity for $1,000. RSVP via the web site. Questions can be addressed to justin-at-sherrodbrown-dot-com.

1st District: Today's Cincinnati Enquirer reports that former president Bill Clinton will headline a fundraiser for City Councilman John Cranley (D-Cincinnati) in Cincinnati on October 24, details to be announced. Hat-tip to the excellent blog Ohio's First.

2nd District: The excuse given by Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) for publishing two editorials under her name that are virtually identical to an editorial published by Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Columbus) is essentially that "everybody does it." It turns out that Schmidt and Pryce each put her name on an article that was actually written by staffers at the House Republican Conference. The Wulsin campaign provides this authoritative quote: "'Everybody does it' is what our teenagers say when they get caught doing something wrong," said Michael Bugeja, a professor of journalism ethics at Iowa State University in an AP story on Monday. "And if everybody does it, I want a better government." As for Dr. Vic Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) herself, she said: "The people of the 2nd District deserve a better representative than Jean Schmidt. They deserve a representative who will be honest with them." And Wulsin's campaign manager, Mary Huttinger, chimes in with three rhetorical questions: "Does Jean Schmidt have no shame? Does Jean Schmidt have an original thought in her head? Does she know how to do anything but be a mouthpiece for Republicans in Washington DC?" Cincinnati Enquirer coverage of the plagiarism controversy is here.

10th District: Political reporter Mark Naymik recaps the endorsement interview of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) and challenger Mike Dovilla (R-Middleburg Heights) by the editorial board and reporters of the Plain Dealer. He writes that the audio is available on the Plain Dealer blog Openers, but I don't see it there.

12th District: The Columbus Dispatch reviews the warm and fuzzy first TV ad for Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Genoa Township) here, and the new John Glenn spot for challenger Bob Shamansky (D-Bexley) here. The Tiberi ad features his wife praising him for his family values and for his willingness to "disagree with his party," although the ad never mentions that he is a Republican. Shamansky's ad gets a glowing review, as in "it doesn’t get a lot better than a personal endorsement from a former astronaut and U.S. senator from Ohio considered an American hero by many."

13th District: Video of the endorsement interview of Betty Sutton (D-Copley) and Craig Foltin (R-Lorain) by the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board and reporters is here. Reporter Steve Luttner gives a rundown, and Redhorse gives his take on Psychobilly Democrat.

15th District: The Campaign for America's Future has just launched a new web site called "BadPryce.org" that focuses on Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Columbus). In addition to being a repository for information about Pryce's record, the site also features a blog that will be updated daily.

Businessman Charles Morrision has abandoned his attempt to run as an independent candidate, after a federal appellate court upheld the lower court's ruling that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) correctly removed him from the ballot as being in fact a Republican.

18th District: Hotline commented on this race yesterday, noting the 14 point lead for Zack Space (D-Dover) over Rep. Bob Ney's hand-picked successor, State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coschocton), in a Democrat-sponsored poll, with Padgett getting only a 41%/34% favorability rating. The author, Josh Kraushaar, concludes that voters are connecting Ney's guilty plea and Gov. Bob Taft's (R) ethical problems to Padgett, helped by Space's TV ad that pictures Padgett alongside Ney and Taft. "Ney has been a burden on her campaign; she called for his "immediate resignation" on 9/20. But the longer he stubbornly remains in Congress, the longer the connection will stick." The author also notes that the new NRCC attack ad, while ridiculing Space, also "acknowledges that unemployment is a serious problem in Southeastern Ohio. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the GOP." Bottom line: "[T]he picture in this GOP-tilting CD isn't looking good for the majority party." Hat-tip to the outstanding blog People Have The Power.

Sen: Brown (D) Selected by Feingold PAC as Progressive Patriot

Following an extensive national online poll, the political action committee of Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), the Progessive Patriots Fund, has selected senatorial candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) as its newest Progressive Patriot candidate. For being chosen, Brown is the beneficiary of a national fund-raising email from Sen. Feingold. The annuncement also states that "the Progressive Patriot Fund has already contributed to [Brown's] campaign and sent a Patriot Corps staffer to help him."

Brown was chosen from a field of 18 Democratic candidates for the Senate. The others included such prominent names as Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island, Ned Lamont in Connecticut, Jim Webb in Virginia, Ben Cardin in Maryland, Jon Tester in Montana, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, and Harold Ford Jr in Tennessee.

Feingold describes the purpose of his PAC as "promoting a progressive reform agenda and supporting candidates across the country." The PAC has previously chosen three Progressive Patriot candidates in U.S. House of Representatives races and two in governors races, along with another candidate for U.S. Representative chosen at the YearlyKos convention.

Ohio Sen 9th: Kearney (D) to Host Forum on Audit of County Agency

State Sen. Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati) will host a forum on Wednesday, September 27th, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at the Westwood Town Hall, 3017 Harrison Ave., in Cincinnati to focus on questions surrounding a state audit that resulted in calls for the Hamilton County Job and Family Services to repay $224 million to the state.

The findings of the audit, by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, were issued earlier this month. The county agency is accused of using a "shell game" of improper accounting practices to conceal double billing for services used for poor families and children. The county maintains that it followed rules and guidelines provided by ODJFS, but that the state agency provided inaccurate and misleading guidance. At issue in the forum is who is to blame for the poor accounting practices that led to the massive overpayment.

UPDATE: This event had been postponed.

YDS Declares Victory and Thanks Supporters

This is an important post for me. Last week the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee, acting on behalf of Rep. Earl Martin (R-Avon Lake), committed the illegal act of stealing a photograph from this blog and using it without permission in a baseless attack ad against challenger Matt Lundy (D-Elyria). My initial protests were brushed off, with both Martin and the Ohio Republican Party asserting that my communications to them were misdirected.

Having passed the buck, the Republicans next declared that they intended to continue violating my intellectual property rights whether it was legal or not. Scott Borgamenke, chief of staff to House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering), told the Elyria Chronicle Telegram that they would look into the issue of whether my rights had been violated, but either way the ad would continue to run. "We won't change the ad," he said. "He can take us to court if he wants to."

After this stunning admission of disregard for the law, respected attorney Subodh Chandra and intellectual property expert (and 98th Ohio House District candidate) Raymond Ku stepped in to help vindicate my rights. In the course of preparing to file a federal copyright lawsuit, Chandra faxed a letter to the television stations and ad agency, requesting that the ad be retracted and stating our determination to sue, with copies to Martin and the OHRCC.

The Republicans folded. They had no intention of obeying the law before I had powerful representation, but afterward they swiftly announced that they would pull the offending ad and stop using my photograph. They did not admit their wrongdoing or apologize. (Rep. Earl Martin even told a reporter for the Elyria Chronicle Telegram that my threatened legal action is the kind of "frivolous lawsuit" that he combats as a legislator.) However, it is plain beyond real argument that they recognized their wrongdoing, and when they realized that they could not get away with it they capitulated.

I could have proceeded to file the lawsuit, in order to collect statutory damages and attorneys fees for the violation that occurred, but I made the decision to accept my out-of-court victory and move on. I did not obtain an apology or monetary compensation, but I stood up to them and made my voice heard and I believe that an important precedent has been set. Also, I helped to reveal the disregard for the law on the part of the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee and Rep. Earl Martin, and that may be the most important aspect of this victory.

I thank Subodh Chandra and Professor Raymond Ku wholeheartedly for their timely and expert assistance. I also thank the many bloggers who backed me up, both on their blogs and behind the scenes, including Cindy, Bill, Eric, George, Jill, Redhorse, Scott, and Russell. Finally, I thank the readers who left supportive comments or sent email messages.

Cong OH-14: Katz (D) to Sponsor Huge Rally for the Troops

Law professor and congressional candidate Lew Katz (D-Chesterland) will sponsor a major outdoor rally to support past and present members of the U.S. Armed Forces in Willoughby on Saturday, October 7. The event will start at 10:30 a.m. at the Willoughby Gazebo at Park Point, across from City Hall.

The rally will feature a decorated member of the famous 101st Pathfinder Company and elected officials and candidates from both parties. There will be live music and a festival atmosphere. Visitors are encouraged to display American flags and show their support for soldiers now deployed overseas, and will have the opportunity to personally recognize those who have sacrificed so much to fight in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia and Vietnam. Attendees also will be encouraged to share their stories, concerns, and support throughout the event.

A former Navy officer, Katz advocates a "Three 'R's" plan to gradually reduce our troop presence in Iraq and replace our soldiers with Iraqis and allied Muslim nations to help redevelop the nation.

This event will double as a fundraiser for Veteran's support organizations. People are encouraged to bring donations and items to be sent overseas for soldiers currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Monday, September 25

Cong OH-12: Shamansky (D) Has the Right Stuff for Air War

Word is Pat Tiberi (R-Westerville) secured the endorsement of Mrs. Tiberi for his first TV ad of this election cycle. Gallantry suggests that challenger Bob Shamansky (D-Bexley) should have responded with his own better half, but ... ah, hell, why play coy when you've got John Glenn on your side?

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

A damned fine TV ad. No nonsense, call it like it is. A real shot across the bow.

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Pleased with Dispatch Poll

Attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) is the only non-judicial Democratic statewide candidate to trail in this weekend's Columbus Dispatch poll, but he's not discouraged about it. In fact, he says, he's thrilled with where he is.

The poll indicated State Auditor Betty Montgomery with 47% support, Dann with 39%, and 14% undecided. The Dann campaign reports that a number of other surveys also have also shown the race to be close, in some cases within the margin of error, with Montgomery consistently below 50%. It's the latter part that particularly cheers campaign and communications director Leo Jennings. "Even though she holds a wide edge in name recognition, has won three statewide elections, was the GOP's top vote getter in 1998 and 2002, and has a boatload of special interest money, she has been unable to gain traction with the voters," Jennings says. "Clearly her campaign is in trouble, especially since Marc continues to pick up support despite her attempts to smear him and even though we really haven't spent much money to communicate with the voters."

As far as the undecided voters, look for them to break Dann's way because of widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo in Ohio. "Surveys have consistently shown that three out of four Ohioans believe the state is moving in the wrong direction," Jennings says. "And, unfortunately for Betty Montgomery, they know who is responsible for the problems we have."

Jennings said there is one other sign that Senator Dann is poised to win: Montgomery hit the air yesterday with an attack ad. "Desperate candidates do desperate things," Jennings says. "Ms. Montgomery is so afraid that the public will learn the truth about her failed record and her ties to corruption that she will say just about anything at this point to change the subject. We're confident, however, that the people of Ohio will reject her and her pathetic attacks on Marc."

Ohio Sen 27th: Candidate Forums Scheduled

Judy Hanna (D-Akron) will spar with incumbent Kevin Coughlin (R-Cuyahoga Falls) at three candidate forums in the coming weeks:
Wednesday, September 27th, at 6:30 pm
Akron Public Library
(Nurses Forum)

Tuesday, October 3rd, at 7:00 pm
The Wellness Center, Fairlawn

Tuesday, October 17, at 7:30 pm
Hudson High School Media Center
(League of Women Voters)
Internal polling by the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus recently showed this race in a dead heat.

It Is NOT 43 Days To The Election

A good reminder from Brian at Plunderbund. Get over the fallacy, people! The election doesn't start in 43 days, it starts in 8 days. That's October 3rd, the first day that absentee ballots can be cast, and starting this year anybody and everybody can vote absentee. And should.

Come to think of it, November 7 should no longer be called Election Day. How about Wait In Line Day, or Deal With Malfunctioning Voting Machines Day? Absentee voting is the way to go this time around. You can download an absentee ballot request form here, mail it in, get your ballot back, and mail that in too -- voting without ever leaving home! Or, you can drop by your county board of elections on or after October 3 and fill out the absentee ballot on the spot. I did that the last two elections and didn't have to wait in line at all.

Absentee voting creates a solid paper trail. So long as you follow the rules carefully (like NOT TEARING the ballot on the perforation, which would void it, and remembering to put two stamps on the envelope if you mail it in), it is a reliable and safe way to vote. The more people vote absentee, the shorter the lines at the polling place for everybody else.

Do it right, get it done early! Vote absentee.

Sen: Party for Brown (D) Down on the Farm

Last Friday night my wife and I attended a fundraiser for Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) at the John Gaynor Family Farm in Ashtabula County. I've been to many rousing political events while blogging this momentous election year in Ohio, but Friday's was the most fun and one I'll always remember.

The John Gaynor Family Farm is on a two lane highway pretty far from any big town. When we arrived the lawn around the farmhouse was already full of parked cars and trucks, so we squeezed into a space near the barn and were greeted by this amazing donkey with illuminated eyes. I don't know where the Ashtabula Democrats came up with this, but I think that every county party across the state should have one. Then my wife and I met Betty Layport, who had invited us to the party, and her husband Duane Feher, Chairperson of the Ashtabula County Democratic Party, who urged us to help ourselves to dinner from the long buffet table set up next to the barn.

The food was incredible, beginning with wonderful fried chicken and roast beef and moving on to dozens of homemade side dishes, highlighted by powerful pickles made by State Rep. George Distel (D-Conneaut). Above is a shot of the sheet cake, on a special dessert table inside the barn, decorated with a photograph and the words "Our Man, Sherrod Brown." We shared the piece with the "B" on it. Good cake!

The folding tables set up diagonally across the dirt floor of the barn were packed. In the corner was a hay wagon for a stage, with a microphone and big speakers on the near side and bales of hay pushed to the back, and a footladder was lashed to one end so people could climb on and off. While my wife and I stood at one end to eat (plates propped on a stack of lumber against the wall), the entertainment began: a singer named Kathleen Horvath (pretty sure, although I couldn't confirm on Google) belted out some good country tunes with recorded accompaniment provided by a DJ with a big sound system.

Congressional candidate Lew Katz (D-Chesterland) and his wife Jan arrived after we were done eating, as did Sherrod Brown and his wife Connie Schultz. For Connie it was a homecoming of sorts, having grown up in Ashtabula County. Sherrod seemed right at home as well, having grown up on a family farm near Mansfield. We talked to him a bit about his appearance in the "nondebate debate" on WTAM Radio 1100 in Cleveland that afternoon, before Connie pulled him over to the buffet. I'm not sure how much they actually had a chance to eat, as there were many people wanting their attention.

The program started appropriately enough with the host, John Gaynor, working from notes on the back of an old envelope, who welcomed everybody and thanked the organizers and got some laughs with purely local humor having to do with the small size of the unincorporated settlement in which the farm is located. His family has been working the farm since the 1870s and he totally looks and sounds the part, right down to the cap and plaid shirt and the unaffected manner. A very nice man.

Gaynor was followed by Bryan Wolfe, an Ashtabula dairy farmer and President of the Geauga, Ashtabula, and Lake County Farmers Union. He talked about how the policies in Washington and Columbus seem to be designed to drive family farms to extinction, so a big change is needed. He revealed that he is a registered Repubublican, but he's supporting Sherrod Brown.

County party chairperson Duane Feher thanked the crowd for their dedication and compared them to the Minutemen of 1776. He said that it is going to be a big Democratic year, and joked that "we aren't even in office yet and we've brought down the price of gasoline by 75 cents."

Lew Katz had only a few minutes to speak but he was terrific. Picking up on Feher's reference to 1776, he said that it was time once again to "control a King George" by working against his rubberstamps, Mike DeWine and Steve LaTourette. Katz zeroed in on LaTourette's broken promises: his 1994 "Contract with America" promise to only serve four terms (he's running for his seventh); saying "you can count on me" to oppose CAFTA and then casting the deciding late-night vote in favor of it; and saying again "you can count on me" to vote against Bush's "lousy budget" but once again casting the deciding vote in favor. "He's turned his back on you, and it's time to turn our backs on him," Katz declared, to thunderous applause.

Sherrod Brown was more relaxed than usual, with his hands sometimes in his pockets and clearly very comfortable with the crowd. He started with a joke that made his wife groan, having to do with an Amish dairy farmer, purportedly a friend of his father, who is slow to anger as his cow repeatedly kicks over the milk pail. Finally the farmer confronts the cow and says "Cow, thou knowest that I shall not curse thee and thou knowest I shall not strike thee, but what thou doesn't knoweth is that I shall sell thee to the Lutheran farmer down the road who will beat the heck out of thee!" He thanked a lot of people by name, including former Congressman Dennis Eckard.

I love this shot of the other speakers all relaxing on bales of hay while Sherrod talks to the crowd. He reminded everyone that John Kerry won Ashtabula County in 2004. He recalled that everyone worked hard that year and thought that we had won -- "and maybe we did win" -- but promised that if we have the kind of sweep we should have in 2006 then things are going to be very different in 2008.

Here's a group shot after the program, with all the speakers, candidates, and organizers of the event posed by Betty Layport. I had to hold my camera up high because I was behind part of the buffet table (that's the handle of a bread basket in the foreground). In the front row (left to right) are Mardy Townsend, Judge Tom Harris, Marge Townsend, Diana Wolfe, Bryan Wolfe, Kim Whitcroft-Parker, and Tracey Housel. In the back row are Roger Corlett, State Rep. George Distel, Rep. Sherrod Brown, Lew Katz, John Gaynor, former congressman Dennis Eckart, county commissioner candidate Dan Claypool, and county party chair Duane Feher. We had a wonderful time at this event and I want to especially thank Betty and Duane for their warm welcome. As Betty said in an email afterward, it was a tremendous showing of Democrats and some Republicans "and it just doesn't get any better than that."

Ohio House 20th: Campbell (D) Shows How To Use YouTube

Boy, I really want to see more Democratic General Assembly candidates do what Bev Campbell (D-Gahanna) has done in her race for the 20th District seat held by Rep. Jim McGregor (R-Gahanna)!

Campbell has uploaded a video of a short speech to YouTube and embedded the link on her campaign web site. The speech isn't made for TV (she's talking to a local gathering in New Albany) and it doesn't get into a lot of substance, but it's upbeat and fun to watch and it conveys her personality and determination. Here's the movie:

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

Campbell has quality professionals helping her with her site, but YouTube itself is free and easy to use. It accepts videos in .AVI, .MOV and .MPG formats, which covers most movies shot on digital cameras and even cell phones. On my Olympus C-7000 camera I get the best results by setting the movie function to the lowest resolution and using a tripod. I can record and upload almost five minutes of video before hitting the upload limit of 99 MB. I can edit the movie (at least, select the beginning and ending points) right on my camera.

Its a slamdunk strategy for General Assembly candidates trying to squeeze the most out of their campaign dollars. Web site visitors like audiovisual content, as long as it's not overdone, and the embedded link allows them to see the movie without leaving the site.