The Ohio Democratic Party [ODP] State Executive Committee [SEC] met on a cold, drizzly Saturday to endorse certain candidates, take care of some party business and, in Memoriam, remember and honor former House Member William L. Mallory, John Powell and David Duffey.
The SEC gathered in the basement of the party headquarters in downtown Columbus to run through its agenda while the Holiday Party was underway, one floor above. In Columbus for the festivities was Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County Executive and all but nominated candidate to challenge Ohio's first-term Republican Governor John R. Kasich.
FitzGerald a face in the crowd
The Holiday Party was closed press, but according to reliable sources in the room, the invisible elephant in the room during Ed FitzGerald's brief remarks to party faithful and other officeholders in attendance was his failure to make any mention of the nearly three weeks of political agony his campaign went through, following reports by Ohio media that about $825,000 in back federal and state tax liens was owed by the candidate he selection as his Lieutenant Governor running mate, State Senator Eric Kearney of Cincinnati, that ended by Sen. Kearney withdrawing himself from the ticket to stop the blood letting from Ohio media who ran as a pack of "hyenas," as one reporter called the feeding frenzy on Kearney's tax misfortune..
Democrats familiar with these kinds of events told CGE that FitzGerald was just another face in the crowd, drawing little attention from those present even though the party will nominate him to take on Gov. Kasich next year. Had that star politician been someone like former two-term Gov. Dick Celeste, one source told CGE, "people would have gathered around him," drawn by his star power. But that wasn't the case with FitzGerald in Columbus Saturday.
Some scouting reports from Capital Square insiders say the former FBI agent, assistant county prosecutor and former Mayor of Lakewood comes off too cold for the hot medium of politics. He doesn't have the innate personality power needed to outshine and out perform a seasoned political performance artist like Gov. Kasich, who served in Congress for 18 years before working for years on the Fox Channel, where he hosted a political talk show in the style of the The O'Reilly Factor broadcast on the same network.
Party cognoscenti watched in agony as the FitzGerald campaign tripped on the starting line on Nov. 20, when it announced Sen. Kearney's addition to the Democratic ticket. Current conventional wisdom says FitzGerald can recover from the last three weeks of media scrutiny, but his next pick for a ticket mate must be unimpeachable to give that recovery a life of its own .
Sen. Kearney was FitzGerald's mulligan. His next selection will be his most important to date, because it will determine whether he has any chance of gaining the high ground on Kasich in the coming months, or whether it will effectively foreclose on his uphill climb to take down Kasich if its equally ill considered. Gov. Kasich will not want for money and will have media allies at his beck and call, two campaign assets Team FitzGerald lag far behind in so far.
Back in the basement
Meanwhile, back to the basement and the SEC meeting, ODP Chairman Chris Redfern introduced Rep. Tom Letson [D-64], a fourth term lawmaker who will challenge Supreme Court Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, who came to the court December 7, 2012.
Rep. Letson said he wants to be the "ear of the people."
Watch Supreme Court candidate Rep. Tom Letson 60 Seconds Ohio
The SEC endorsed it's slate of Congressional candidates including Tim Ryan [HD13], Marcia Fudge [HD11], Marcy Kaptur [HD9], Joyce Beatty [HD3] and Michael Wager, who will challenge Republican David Joyce and who spoke to the group.
Wager called Republican Congressman Joyce the "invisible incumbent" and called the 14th District a "true swing district." To retake the US House next year, Democrats need a 17-seat net pick up. Wager, who said he's raised about $700K so far, says the race is estimated to cost between $2-3 million.
Watch Congressional candidate Michael Wager on 60 Seconds Ohio
Also receiving the SEC's endorsement were a list of Democrats who are running for the Ohio House, where Republicans hold a supermajority, 60-39, which allows to control the chamber's agenda without fear Democrats can pose any voting obstruction.
In the resolution approved Saturday, House Democratic Caucus Leader Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard said the party has been fighting for working families and the middle class, policy points repeatedly heard last year by President Obama who won Ohio a second consecutive time. Heard hopes the slate of candidates can stop what she called "the harsh policies set forth by the members of the Tea Party who currently control their Chamber."
Among the names running for office is that of David Leland, who is expected to become a legislator again especially since he's running unopposed for House District 22, which is being vacated by Rep. Carney. Leland previously served in the Ohio House and from 1995-2002 ran ODP. An award-winning lawyer, Leland heads the public policy and government regulation practice at the Columbus-based Carpenter Lipps & Leland LLP law firm. Leland helped raise a record $18 million in 2006 for then Ohio Congressman Ted Strickland who went on to thrash Ken Blackwell in the race for governor.
The slate of Democrats endorsed by the SEC includes 11 women [44%] the 25 candidates.
Per requirement by the ODP constitution that all Democratic Statewide officeholders and Democratic candidates for statewide office as well as Democratic leaders of the Ohio General Assembly be appointed to the SEC, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, Candidate for Governor Ed FitzGerald, Candidate for Attorney General David Pepper, Candidate for Auditor John Patrick Carney and Candidate for Treasurer Connie Pillich were added by acclimation.
Rep. Kevin Boyce expressed reservations about Howard Heard, husband to Rep. Heard, running for the 26th House District.
These Senate Democrats—Edna Brown [SD11], Michael Skindell [SD25], Charleta Taveras [SD15], Joe Schiavoni [SD33]—also received SEC endorsements.
Redfern spent time discussing the series of low-dollar fundraisers called "Blue Cocktail House," which he said are communicative events that can and have been held anywhere, from a living room to a bar. Thirty-three events have held this year with $1,500-2000 raised at each. Next week in Lima will be the last for 2013.
ODP said it raised $118,000 at 40 regional events. It hopes to raise $20 million in 2014.
For next year, Redfern said 52 or more will be held. Events at the county level are needed, he said, noting, "I'm struck by how many counties are not taking me up on this."
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