Statewide Races: News and Notes UPDATED
Governor: The woman who filed the voting residency complaint against Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) has asked to have it dismissed. A state appeals court had ordered that a board of elections hearing scheduled for yesterday be canccelled, after Strickland filed suit and argued that the hearing was not held within the ten day period allowed by law.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a great piece on the ugly and desperate sexual slurs launched by the campaign of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) last week:
With polls showing him so far behind that he could drag the entire Republican ticket down to defeat, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell launched an attack last week that took political discourse in Ohio to unplumbed depths. ..In the last debate, Blackwell accused Strickland of covering up for a campaign staff member who exposed himself to children and of supporting the platform of NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association, and campaign surrogates have since carried the accusations to "bizarre and outlandish" extremes. "These people are moral midgets," said Strickland. "It's just incredible. I've been through a lot of really rough campaigns as a congressman, but it seems as if the fringe element has invaded the mainstream in this election."
Meanwhile, Blackwell is trying to explain away the fact that he had a felon on his own payroll. Blackwell's ludicrous charges against Strickland are based in large part on Strickland's having employed an aide who previously was convicted on a misdemeanor lewd exposure charge, since expunged, but as state treasurer Blackwell "unknowingly hired a man with a long record of arrests and kept him on the payroll even after his office discovered the man’s record and brought it to Blackwell’s attention." The man had completed drug rehabilitation and Blackwell elected to keep him. After leaving the job the man committed a sexual assault. Blackwell asserts that had he known the man was a child molester, the man would have been fired. Strickland has said much the same about his former aide.
Attorney General: State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) has been endorsed by the Warren Tribune-Chronicle, a reliably conservative newspaper:
“Dann’s tenacity advanced the probe into the Tom Noe state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation scandal. Dann’s audacity dogged Governor Bob Taft until many details about his criminal behavior became public. Dann is the bulldog we want as Ohio’s top law enforcement office. ...Yesterday Dann called on William Mabe, Director of the Bureau of Workers Compensation, to release an internal audit which allegedly shows that some employer’s BWC rates and assessments were reduced after the employers complained to their state legislators about high premiums. Keith Elliot, an internal BWC auditor who recently testified in the Noe ‘Coingate’ trial and is credited with raising questions about the BWC investment in rare coins, reportedly completed the internal audit. Dann has been seeking release of the document since early October.
And we are certain that Dann, too, hates Internet predators and pedophiles. A Montgomery commercial hinting otherwise was an absurd attack. …
While Dann haunted Noe, Montgomery allowed the scandal to escape her auditor’s magnifying glass. While Dann surpassed his scope as senator in flushing out BWC corruption, Montgomery, as the former Attorney General, failed to prevent it.”
“Today I stand at the Lucas County Courthouse, where ‘Coingate’ mastermind Tom Noe is on trial for stealing millions of dollars from Ohio’s injured workers and ask for the BWC to do what’s right," Dann said. "Once again, the public records law in Ohio is being ignored. The allegations of impropriety in the BWC are serious and deserve a closer look. By not releasing the audit, it begins to appear as just another cover-up. They should release the audit immediately and implement recommendations that level the playing field of premiums for all businesses in this state.”
Auditor: The Toledo Blade covers the duelling TV ads released yesterday by State Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green) and State Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron). Taylor called her opponent "Tax-hike Sykes" before unveiling an her ad, ignoring the fact that the state auditor has no power to increase taxes. The ad attacks Sykes for voting in favor of a tax increase sought by Gov. Taft, placing Taylor in the strange position of "tying her Democratic opponent to an unpopular Republican governor and to a tax hike championed by her Republican colleagues."
Sykes accuses Taylor of citing influential GOP campaign donors in a letter last year when she asked House Republican colleagues to approve operating funds for the University of Akron's Global Busines Institute. "Mary Taylor has several questions to answer about her own record of inappropriate conduct before Ohio voters let her anywhere near the state's checkbook," said Sykes campaign manager Samantha Herd. "This letter is a smoking gun that needs to be investigated as soon as possible." Democrats have asked the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee to investigate whether Taylor violated ethics rules with that letter. Taylor denies any wrongdoing and has filed a "false statements" claim with the Ohio Elections Commission.
Taylor's ad includes footage from their October 13th debate in which Sykes proudly defended her decision in 2003 to help pass the tax hike in order to protect funding for schools and social programs. The ad shows Sykes saying "I did vote for the increase in taxes with Taft," but leaves out the rest of her statement:
"Why? Because I made the decision to get up and walk across the aisle. [Ms. Taylor] stood there and said 'no.' A 2-year-old can say 'no.' I voted 'yes' in order to take care of the neediest of our citizens. Barbara Sykes stood up and did what she needed to do."The article reports that Taylor "opposed the Taft tax hike and was stripped of a key committee post as a result."
UPDATE: Sykes was endorsed by the Akron Beacon Journal today. This is the major hometown paper for both candidates. The editors praise Sykes for her extensive experience (Akron City Council, deputy county auditor for 12 years, 6 years in the legislature) and independence (she "hasn't ducked difficult public fights with her own party"). They note that Sykes "rightly wants to bring greater transparency to [the Auditor's] operations, starting with making the paper trail of audits more fully available as public records," and discount the fact that Taylor is a certified public accountant because "the job involves management more than anything else. " They also state that Taylor "acted carelessly a year ago in urging her colleagues to support a building project at the University of Akron because big Republican contributors favored the effort."
Secretary of State: The second "Willie Horton"-style attack ad by Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati) against former judge Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) is covered in today's Toledo Blade. The ad features the mother of a 19-month-old child saying "My baby was killed," and "[i]nstead of a long prison sentence, Judge Jennifer Brunner gave my baby's killer just five years. Imagine what would happen if we elected her again. Jennifer Brunner, you let us down." Brunner imposed the shorter sentence pursuant to her interpretation of the statutory sentencing guidelines, resulting in the merger of two crimes for sentencing purposes. An appellate court disagreed with her legal ruling and the defendant was later re-sentenced to a longer term by a different trial court. Of course, this procedural history is routine in criminal cases, and represents only one out of thousands of cases handled by Brunner, but Hartmann is unrelenting in his exaggeration of its significance. "In case after case, Jennifer Brunner showed poor judgment with little regard to victims and their families," said Mr. Hartmann. "Brunner can't hide from this pattern. This is her record. If Ohioans couldn't trust Brunner to exercise common-sense judgment on the bench, then how can they trust her to be Ohio's secretary of state?" In fact, Brunner was highly regarded as a judge and no such "pattern" exists.
Treasurer: The Toledo Blade gave Richard Cordray (D-Grove City) a sterling endorsement today, saying that "[a] better candidate could not have emerged for state treasurer at this point in Ohio's history":
Mr. Cordray vows to undertake perhaps the most important change in state government we can imagine: aggressive oversight of the state's investments in the wake of the Coingate scandal. The latter can hardly be overemphasized, considering the state's $11 billion investment portfolio and the painful memories of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation fiasco. He plans to eliminate hedge fund investments, and pledges that not one taxpayer nickel will be invested in rare nickel.As for opponent Sandra O'Brien (R-Rome), whose "perfomance was criticized by Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery in a 2003 state audit," the difference in credentials is so lopsided "that if this were a boxing match, they'd stop it."