His plane was delayed from taking off for two hours but he was happy to be back in Ohio, a state he and President Obama won twice, and a state he said will be watched closely this year as Republicans who won in 2010 and run for a second term, former two-term Democratic President Bill Clinton told about 2,500 ticketed Democrats who showed up Friday night in Columbus.
Clinton's message, delivered with his characteristic Arkansas drawl, was simple: If Democrats want to change the direction the state's going by electing better quality leaders who will work for everyone and not just the wealthy, that change won't happen if voters continue to fail to vote in midterm or off-year elections like they do in presidential election years.
Held at the Celeste Center, located on the Ohio State Exposition and Fairgrounds near The Ohio State University, the Ohio Democratic Party's annual dinner and fundraiser was a political event where candidates for statewide office were showcased, awards were given to outstanding volunteers and others, and party faithful gathered to collectively take on future election challenges. Among those challenges is a race for governor that pits a Democratic candidate, Ed FitzGerald, who isn't well known and who lags an incumbent Republican governor in fundraising by many multiples and who some fear may not have the heft to win a race against a well-financed, well-known incumbent Republican governor, John Kasich, who the last well-respected poll shows is ahead of FitzGerald by as many as 15 percentage points.
Earlier Friday the FitzGerald campaign filed its post-primary finance report showing that in seven weeks the campaign raised over $860,000. The campaign has $1.9 million cash on hand. Nick Buis, campaign manager for the FitzGerald-Neuhardt campaign, released a statement on the results. "Thanks to the contributions from Ohioans in all 88 counties, the campaign's fundraising has serious momentum," he said. "We raised over $200,000 more than our previous filing in half the time, and recruited over 3,600 new contributors. It's clear that the Governor's position on SB 310, women's healthcare, education, and tax cuts for the wealthy is increasingly causing Ohioans to join Team FitzGerald."
Gov. John Kasich, who narrowly won in 2010 with the help of Tea Party power and who has managed to alienate those former supporters from his voter base this election, dominates FitzGerald in campaign cash, fundraising prowess and friends and allies like the Republican Governors Association or other megadonors like Sheldon Adelson or even the Koch brothers who can and will contribute resources necessary to win again. FitzGerald still has not aired a TV spot to introduce him to Ohio voters, in spite the fact that one poll after another has found that only about a quarter of voters even know who he is, let alone what he has accomplished through out his political career, which currently is Cuyahoga County Executive.
President Clinton, who one Democratic official told CGE may be flying from Ohio west to Denver, CO, where his Clinton Global Initiative will hold a three-day event on solving problems in America in ten days, talked about the many issues where Democrats can win with voters because it's want a majority of Americans want, like increasing the minimum wage, protecting women's health rights, protecting local governments and schools, pay and gender equity, and expanding voting rights instead of shrinking them as they have done four times in three years.
Watch Ed FitzGerald on 60 Seconds Ohio answer questions from reporters at last night's event here, including when he'll introduce himself to Ohio voters with a TV spot.
Chairman Redfern reminded diners, who turned more than 1,600 more than Republicans did a few weeks ago at their annual event in downtown Columbus, that Kasich and SB 5 were beat back in 2011, that Barack Obama won Ohio again with more than 50 percent of the vote, that Sherrod Brown won a second term as U.S. Senator even though $40 million was spent to unseat him, and that the right to vote is not a privilege and that Republicans, including Kasich and a GOP-dominated legislature have been defeated four times in three years in shrinking the franchise.
FitzGerald told the crowd that big Republican wins in 2010 installed radical right-wing lawmakers and leaders who are bent on helping the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and low income people. In conversation with workers who lost their jobs at the Ormet facility in southern Ohio, FitzGerald said one of them told him that Gov. Kasich "doesn't work for us." John Kasich has already had two campaign spots air statewide, and his tag line is "John Kasich: working." FitzGerald called on voters to exercise their "righteous outrage" again this year as they did in 2011 when they turned out to nullify a bill Kasich pushed designed to strip public union workers of many hard-won rights over a period of decades.
Clinton spent time encouraging Democrats to vote even though Republicans have tried to suppress access to the polls. In 2012, when Obama won Ohio a second time, he said voting among registered voters was 70 percent, but only 49 percent when Kasich and Republicans won the field four years ago. If the fall election can look more like 2012 than 2010, Democrats can win, he said. He said Democrats want the economy to work for everyone, especially the middle class, who some who represent trillions in savings fear could collapse their financial system is they continue to lose out in income growth to the top percentiles.
In a dig at Gov. Kasich, who held a secret signing of a bill Friday that would suspend Ohio's renewable energy standards for two years, Clinton said German, which is less sunny than Ohio, now generates 74 percent of its electric power from wind and solar energy. Kasich has been lambasted lately for making Ohio the first state to shed its renewable energy commitments, undertaken by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland who was scheduled to be present last night but who got tied up in east coast air traffic. The crowd would have enjoyed Strickland, who lost to Kasich by a mere 77,127 votes, who remains the best person to lay the wood to a governor who inherited a state on the rise from Strickland but who has failed to acknowledge it.
Clinton said "we owe it to coal country to make more investments" so miners and others can transition from dirty energy to clean energy. Clinton used a chart last night to show President Reagan tripled the national debt over his two-term era while he helped a larger percentage of lower income people improve their financial lives. Clinton is credited with creating more than 20 million jobs compared to millions less from Reagan.
Even though Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is on everyone's radar as the likely candidate for president in 2016, he only mentioned her name once, thanking some in the room for supporting her in 2008. All the Clintons will be in Denver in ten days to discuss solutions to some of American's most pressing problems. This correspondent will be covering the event for again for Allvoices.
"Democrats have a bad habit of staying home during midterm elections," the silver-haired former Commander in chief told attendees. He called for a clear strategy that would show who Republicans are, the issues they stand for and the people they really work for. He spoke of Democrats winning on issues like open and transparent government, affordable college, shared prosperity and protecting both women's reproductive health and voting rights.
"This is a big election," he said. "All eyes are on you." Following his talk, President Clinton was mobbed by dinner guests who gathered to shake his hand as he made the rounds before leaving the Celeste Center.