Today in series of events in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Ed FitzGerald made official what has been obvious for a while: he's going to take on Taxin' John Kasich for the governor's office.
He spoke to a packed ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Cleveland before heading off to similar stops in Columbus and Cincinnati, accompanied by his wife and four teenage children.
He was introduced by former longtime congressman Louis Stokes, nearly double his age. (Stokes retired in 1993 and was succeeded first by Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and currently by Marcia Fudge). Stokes' lengthy introduction ran through all the points of Ed's career — including his stints as an FBI agent and prosecutor, his terms as mayor of inner-ring Cleveland suburb Lakewood, and his role as the first county executive, coming in to clean up corrupt on the heels of a widespread scandal.
Ed is an early entrant in the Democratic drive to clean up some of the mess of the 2010 elections, when Republicans swept into the governor's offices of many swing states and immediately began to ram through a radical right-wing agenda. 2014 will be about trying to evict some of those ghastly govs from office, and Ed is ready to roll up his sleeves and got after Kasich.
In Ohio, that extremist agenda meant Kasich's beloved union-busting SB 5, which he and his legislative stooges rushed through despite massive protests. But protests turned into action, and a mere eight months after SB 5 passed, it was repealed at the ballot by by a landslide.
Ed made it clear he's not going to let Kasich bury that episode and that, if he's elected, the focus of the office will shift dramatically to protecting the interests of working people and creating the types of jobs people can actually live on.
He also spoke a lot about education, which he's emphasized in the county as well. In contrast to Kasich, who has robbed the public schools of money so he can redirect it to for-profit charter schools run by GOP donors and cronies, he's likely to make strong public education a cornerstone of his administration.
He got the biggest ovation when he promised to protect women's health-care choices. His second biggest ovation came when he said he would fight back against the wholesale voter suppression drive Ohio Republicans have been mounting.
Ed blew up Kasich's bluster about his brilliant budget-balancing by pointing out — too seldom mentioned — that Kasich's last budget was the largest Ohio has ever seen and that he paid for it by robbing public schools and local governments. He talked about Kasich's tax plan, maligned by right and left alike and currently cut from the state budget by the Tea Party state House: to cut taxes for the wealthiest Ohioans while making the sales tax much broader and moving the burden to ordinary Ohioans.
He also mentioned something else that the mainstream media in Ohio has ignored. Ed was elected to Cuyahoga County Commissioner on the tail of a scandal that involved county elected officials enriching themselves and their friends and donors at taxpayer expense. He promised to make that way of operating a thing of the past — and he did.
But he said, that is exactly the way state government is operating under Kasich. And it is. The creation of JobsOhio aka RobsOhio, which shifts state development money to a semi-private entity that's funded with tax dollars but isn't required to account for them, and his shifting of public school money to for-profit charter schools (which ought to be banned) run by big Republican donors are far more shameful and costly than anything former Cuyahoga County officeholders did. Papers like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch like to obsess over trivial Democratic scandals while downplaying and ignoring enormous thefts of public resources on the other side.
Kasich is already trying to paint himself as a frugal budgeter who has magically made jobs appear. But Ohio LOST jobs last month, and the effects of public service and school cuts will continue to exact a toll. Meanwhile, his legislature is in disarray, nixing one of his few positive policies — the expansion of Medicaid — tossing out his sales tax cut, and going on and on about abortion, abortion, and more abortion, while schools decay from neglect and the infant mortality rate in certain neighborhoods of Cleveland exceeds that of Haiti or Uganda.
Kick Taxin' John's ass, Ed.
Ed FitzGerald with Congressman Louis Stokes (Ed's wife is on the right; one of his teenage daughters is on the left).