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Ed FitzGerald's Lt. Gov: Sharen Neuhardt—Fierce advocate for middle-class, women

On Friday Ed FitzGerald, the politician little known outside his home county of Cuyahoga, picked a little-known lawyer and twice defeated candidate for Congress from the Dayton area, Sharen Neuhardt, to be his Lt. Governor running mate this year.

OCSEA/AFSCME likes Sharen Neuhardt.
OCSEA/AFSCME likes Sharen Neuhardt.OCSEA
Although not widely known outside the Dayton area, Sharen Neuhardt's advocacy for women and the middle-class, and her private sector experience, won applause Friday from Democrats at all levels.
Although not widely known outside the Dayton area, Sharen Neuhardt's advocacy for women and the middle-class, and her private sector experience, won applause Friday from Democrats at all levels.John Michael Spinelli

FitzGerald's second running mate selection was widely watched given his first pick, State Senator Eric Kearney from Cincinnati, crashed and burned last fall in about a three week period, during which tax problems surfaced that forced Kearney to bow out of the race to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. John R. Kasich and his Lt. Governor, former state auditor Mary Taylor.

The first elected official to hold the post of County Executive in the state's most populous county, a traditionally rich source of Democratic votes, FitzGerald compared Neuhardt's life story to the "lore of the American dream."

"She was raised in a Northwest Dayton neighborhood, home to many GM workers. As the daughter of a police officer and sales clerk, Sharen learned at a young age that sacrifice and hard work can one day lead to success. She was the first member of her family to go to college, and then continued to law school and to a career in Dayton as a successful business attorney," he said in a prepared announcement today.

Watch exclusive video of Neuhardt in 2012 on "60 Seconds Ohio"

Neuhardt's life experience, the former FBI agent and Mayor of Lakewood said, "shares my commitment to bolstering the middle class and restoring economic security to Ohio’s families – and my impatience with our state’s lackluster recovery."

As a champion of women’s health who shares his outrage at the current Governor’s attempt to dictate to women what should be private medical decisions and restrict access to critical health care services, FitzGerald said the new ticket will "continue to fight for all families and help restore the infrastructure for Ohioans to improve their lives ... [and] ... create an environment for both business and people to thrive, and one where hard work is rewarded and individual freedom is protected."

GOP comments

At the ready for today's announcement, a release from the Ohio Republican Party berated then mocked FitzGerald on his pick.

"FitzGerald failed his self-declared first major test of picking his running mate two months ago when he selected someone who failed to pay his employees' social security and Medicare taxes and allowed his campaign to mislead the public about it, ORP spokesman Chris Shrimpf said in a statement to reporters just minutes before FitzGerald's announcement. "Today FitzGerald is putting in the third-string backup to his original choice which only reinforces what we learned two months ago, that he simply doesn't have what it takes to lead a state."

Republicans are no doubt full of glee today, as "who's he" FitzGerald picks "who's she" Neuhardt to campaign with over the next eight months. In reliable polling, most Ohioans reveal they really don't know Ed FitzGerald, which is bad given the uphill climb to both familiarize voters about who FitzGerald is, then to convince them to vote for him instead of the incumbent Kasich, who's used every day of his three-plus years in office to saturate media with his many reforms and accomplishments, whether true or hyperbole.

Notwithstanding the fact that voters outside of Cuyahog County have little to know knowledge of FitzGerald, polling data show that he's within the margin of error with Kasich if Charlie Earl, the Libertarian Party's candidate for governor, is included in the poll. Last summer, following Gov. Kasich's signing of the largest spending budget in state history that also included harsh restrictions of women's health options, one survey conducted by Public Policy Polling showed FitzGerald enjoyed a three-point lead over Gov. Kasich.

When polling excludes Earl, FitzGerald trails Ohio's governor by a half-dozen percentage points. The bad news for FitzGerald is that he's little known. The good news for FitzGerald is that even though he's not well known to Buckeye voters, Gov. Kasich has his own set of challenges to convince voters he should be their choice for a second term, notwithstanding his overt interest in running for president on the GOP ticket in 2016.

Weighing in on Neuhardt, Ohio's leading advocate for reproductive rights and justice, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, expressed their support for Fitzgerald’s selection.

"Governor John Kasich and his policies endanger the reproductive health and well-being of Ohio women. Because of him, Ohio women are leaving the state to access abortion care when they face serious pregnancy complications," said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. "Ohio women need leaders that will fight for our right to make our own personal, private health care decisions. Neuhardt has been standing up for Ohio women her entire career."

John Kasich won a slim election in 2010 to become Governor of Ohio. The challenge for Ohio Democrats is to increase voter turnout in presidential-off years like 2014, which historically see a big dip in voter interest or enthusiasm. If the FitzGerald-Neuhardt ticket doesn't produce some genuine smoke among voters in the coming weeks, especially minority and women, unseating Team Kasich will prove difficult, especially when it comes to raising campaign cash.

To that end, FitzGerald and Democrats asked for $5 to "welcome Sharen" as a month-end campaign reporting date approaches.

By the end of Friday, Democrats and allied groups had weighed-in on the Neuhardt pick.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown: Neuhardt Has Background, Passion, and Leadership to Create Jobs and Grow Middle Class. "Sharen Neuhardt has the background, passion, and leadership we need to create Ohio jobs and grow our middle class. Alongside Ed FitzGerald, Sharen will use her business background to bring new economic development to Ohio and to help small businesses compete. Sharen's advocacy for women, families, and minority communities will help strengthen our state and improve conditions for all Ohioans."

David Pepper, Democratic candidate for Attorney General: "She is a respected business leader, a strong advocate for women, and a tireless campaigner."

Rep. John Patrick Carney, Democratic candidate for Auditor: Sharen is an incredibly hard worker ... dedicated to improving the lives of others – proven by her record of community service ... a fierce advocate for women's health with invaluable experience in the private sector ... a critical component of our team as we fight to put middle-class families first again in Ohio."

Sen. Nina Turner, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State: Neuhardt Has a Strong Record of Fighting for Women's Rights. "As an attorney and advocate, Sharen has a strong record of fighting for women's rights ... we are all excited to move forward on a strong foot towards victory this November."

State Rep. Connie Pillich, Democratic candidate for Treasure: "I’m excited that Sharen is joining Ed to fight for Ohio's women and working and middle-class families. Sharen has a record of standing up for Ohio women and good, middle class-jobs. Her enthusiasm for serving the hard-working women and men of Ohio make her the ideal lieutenant governor of Ohio."

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley emphasized Neuhardt's middle-class upbringing and why she would be a great and inspiring choice for women in Ohio, including her advocacy for issues women value, especially health care. Whaley thinks Energy, public service record and private sector experience are good additions to the ticket.

Youngstown Mayor John McNally: Neuhardt Will Use Experience to Help Ohio Gain Jobs, Not Lose Them

Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard: FitzGerald and Neuhardt Are the Team to Restore Trust, Rebuild Middle Class. "Neuhardt is the right person to help Ed FitzGerald make Ohio work for everyday people again. Our state needs good jobs and a strong middle class, and no one knows this better than Sharen and Ed. We need to prioritize our schools, communities and restore taxpayers' trust in their government. Ed and Sharen are just the team to do that."

Assistant Democratic Leader Debbie Phillips [D-Albany]: "Neuhardt means a lot for middle and working-class families and women all across Ohio. Ed and
Sharen will [be] true advocates for their interests ... by investing in the middle class and prioritizing our schools and communities."

Assistant Democratic Whip Dan Ramos (D-Lorain): "she stood up for our kids, local communities and middle-class jobs while Gov. Kasich pandered to special interests. I’m confident that Ed and Sharen have what it takes to get Ohio back to work."

Rep. Kathleen Clyde: Neuhardt Right Pick for Lt. Gov., Ohio Women. "Sharen is the right pick ... she will do an excellent job ... for the middle-class and women ... a team that will work tirelessly on their behalf. Ed and Sharen are more than ready."

State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood), chair of the Ohio House Democratic Women's Caucus: Neuhardt will be a fierce advocate for all hard working Ohioans and middle-class job growth ... Her diverse experience and strong stand on women as equal, competent participants in all aspects of their lives, will bring common sense to state government, and will restore the connection between our Ohio Capital and everyday people."

Christopher Mabe, President of The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which endorsed Neuhardt in her failed attempt to unseat Republican Mike Turner of the 10th District in 2012, did so again today. "We are pleased that the pick was someone our organization has come to know and respect. The selection also highlights the importance of a diverse ticket and one that represents the majority of Ohioans, not just the one percent."

Focusing on her middle-class family bona fides—Her father was a Dayton police officer and head of the local Fraternal Order of Police and her mother was a sales clerk at Elder Beerman— Mabe expressed the campaign's two themes: creating middle class jobs and restoring government services: "This state has been going in the wrong direction: not only has the economy not recovered under current leadership, but government services have been decimated. We believe this is the right ticket to get Ohio back on track and to put fighting for Ohio's middle class first."

Ohio's leading advocate for reproductive rights and justice expressed its support for Fitzgerald’s selection. Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, expressed the group's satisfaction this way: "Governor John Kasich and his policies endanger the reproductive health and well-being of Ohio women. Because of him, Ohio women are leaving the state to access abortion care when they face serious pregnancy complications," said "Ohio women need leaders that will fight for our right to make our own personal, private health care decisions. Neuhardt has been standing up for Ohio women her entire career."

The news article Ed FitzGerald's Lt. Gov: Sharen Neuhardt—Fierce advocate for women, middle-class appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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