Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Thursday, October 19

Statewide Races: News and Notes

Developments in Ohio's statewide contests:

Governor: The Columbus Dispatch today published an editorial condemning Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) for "dredging up old stories about his opponent." The editors describe the current allegations about Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) as "leftovers from Strickland’s congressional races and ... Strickland’s Democratic primary opponent this year," note that Strickland "already has answered the charges," and state that "so far Blackwell’s campaign hasn’t introduced anything new that calls into question Strickland’s integrity." They explain in stark terms that there is no basis for questioning Strickland's relationship with a former aide or for characterizing his "present" vote on a Congressional resolution as "support" for improper sexual relationships.

A number of newspapers are reporting today on the pending challenge to Strickland's right to vote in Columbiana County. As noted in the Columbus Dispatch, the secretary of state’s office has sent the challenge back to the Columbiana County Board of Elections, ruling that the board must hold a hearing to decide whether Strickland meets the legal standard of living at his Lisbon address for purposes of voting. The elections board had split along party lines last week over whether to hold the hearing. Significantly, however, Deputy Secretary of State Monty Lobb rejected the position of Republican members of the board that the rules of residency for tax purposes should be combined with those for voting residency in making the ruling. The latter rules require only a residence and an intention to return, which is not a difficult standard to meet. The Dayton Daily News wrote that disqualifying Strickland from voting would also disqualify him from running for governor, because under state law "only qualified electors can serve as elected officials." However, the Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes an election expert who says that it is "not likely" although "conceivable" that Strickland could be thrown out of the race against Blackwell:
Moritz College of Law professor Steve Huefner said the time to question Strickland's eligibility for the ballot was in the spring, when he filed his nominating petitions."It might be that a court presented with this would say that they don't have the jurisdiction to rule on this anymore," he said. [Also, w]hile the deadline to formally change his voter registration has passed, Strickland could also vote with a provisional ballot merely by showing up at the Franklin County Board of Elections and signing a form under oath declaring a Columbus voting address.
Strickland campaign spokesman Keith Dailey called the challenge "frivolous" and "laughable" and a sign of desperation on the part of Blackwell and the Republican Party.

Attorney General: State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) is attacking Auditor Betty Montgomery (R) for approving a $57.5 million settlement agreement with Accenture while she was attorney general. Accenture had received a series of no-bid contracts totalling $63 million to design and implement an internet-based job placement system for the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The system (called Ohio Works) didn't work, yet state officials including Montgomery signed a settlement agreement that allowed Accenture to walk away with almost all of the money. "The Accenture debacle is part of an all too familiar pattern of incompetence and corruption at the highest levels of state government that includes 'Coingate, the MDL investment scam, the Hamilton County ODJFS, and numerous other failures and ethical lapses," Dann said. "The time has come for officeholders to stop playing Santa Claus to the special interests and to start doing their jobs: protecting the taxpayers." These abuses were revealed in a taxpayer lawsuit that will go to trial in 2007. ODJFS director Arnold Tomkins eventually pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the case. Dann said that Montgomery and other state officials "knew the details of the settlement agreement, they knew Ohio Works was a monumental failure when that agreement was signed, and they knew the agreement contained a demonstrably false statement designed to cover-up the fact that Accenture was being allowed to walk away with $55 million they didn't deserve."

Auditor: The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday that last year when Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green) urged her Republican colleagues in the Ohio House to continue funding for a University of Akron program, she let them know that some of the GOP’s biggest donors would be grateful. "Please take note that several of the Ohio Republican Party’s biggest supporters (W.R. Timken Jr., of Timken; Stanley C. Gault; and Gary L. Taylor, of InfoCision Management Corporation) have written requesting continued funding for this program," she wrote in a letter to fellow legislators. Taylor was referring to funding in the state budget for the University of Akron’s Institute for Global Business. Ohio Democratic officials called this another example of "pay-to-play" GOP politics and a violation of the General Assembly’s code of ethics against improper influence. Taylor spokeswoman Christina Haddad yesterday called the accusations "unwarranted and without merit," although campaign finance reports show that Taylor has received more than $10,000 in contributions from the three mentioned donors since writing the letter.

Secretary of State: The Cleveland Plain Dealer endorsed Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) today, calling her "one of the best-prepared candidates to seek the elections post in decades" and noting that she "spent well over a decade establishing herself as one of the state's - if not the region's - most knowledgeable election law experts. And before that, she worked as the deputy director and legislative counsel for the Ohio Secretary of State."

Treasurer: Yesterday the Youngstown Vindicator endorsed Franklin County Treasurer Richard Cordray (D-Grove City) over Astabula County Auditor Sandra O'Brien (R-Ashtabula), writing that it is not a tough decision because Cordray is "clearly more qualified." The editors praise Cordray's accompishments as county treasurer (resulting in his being named American City & County magazine's County Leader of the Year) as well as his prior legislative experience and other credentials. As for O'Brien, the editors point out that "there have been findings by the state auditor against her office, once for an accidental overpayment in her own salary and once for purchase of a vehicle without following procedures," and note that her claim to be the only pro-life candidate for treasurer has "nothing to do with the office she is seeking."

Supreme Court: Coverage of the debate between Supeme Court candidates yesterday at the Ohio Statehouse appears in the Toledo Blade, Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, and Cleveland Plain Dealer. Democratic candidates Ben Espy (D-Columbus) and William O'Neill (D-South Russell) cited the public perception that "justice is for sale" to big campaign donors, while Republican candidates Robert Cupp (R-Toledo) and Terrence O'Donnell (R-Rocky River) called that perception erroneous. The Democrats also criticized the Supreme Court's handling of the DeRolph school funding litigation, Espy saying that the court should have provided for a rememdy and O'Neill saying that the General Assembly should have been held in contempt. O'Neill called for voters elect Democrats in order to prevent the seven-member court from being staffed entirely by members of one political party, a situation that has never existed in Ohio history.


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