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FitzGerald's second ticketmate pick key to Kasich KO

Democrats and others who badly want to defeat incumbent Republican Gov. John R. Kasich in November once harbored hopes that Ohio's undersized and untested Tea Party movement would field a primary candidate to take on the supply-side relic of the Reagan era in the Buckeye GOP primary with enough vigor that another General Election candidate, like Libertarian Party candidate Charlie Earl, could siphon off enough traditional conservative Republican voters whose defection in November would enable Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic's endorsed candidate for governor, to emerge victorious following a three-candidate vote-splitting race.

Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland with President Obama.
Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland with President Obama.
Getty Images
Democratic candidate for Ohio Government, Ed FitzGerald
John Michael Spinelli

2014 an echo 1992?

Would this scenario be an echo of the 1992 race for president in which Bill Clinton won by only 43 percent when independent upstart Texas billionaire businessman Ross Perot took 20 percent of the national vote that resulted in President George Herbert Walker Bush being a one-term president? You betcha it is.

Combining the news from last Saturday that the Ohio Tea Party's little known insurance salesman leader from southwest Ohio had scrubbed his threatened run against Gov. Kasich before it got started with the uncertainty of whether Charlie Earl can even get on the ballot, let alone take enough votes in the fall from Ohio's go-go CEO-style governor to cause worry among establishment Republicans, Ed FitzGerald's second pick for a lieutenant governor running mate becomes critical, given his botched first pick that was run out of contention following three weeks of hounding by reporters over his tax debts and liens.

If FitzGerald's much-awaited second pick is not unimpeachable, as most Capital Square insiders believe it must be to erase the catastrophe of his first pick, he and his campaign will be history before it gets started. Like toast ready to be buttered, the Kasich juggernaut will roll to victory on November 4 with ease.

But FitzGerald's options for a stunning running mate whose credentials and bona fides are unimpeachable are limited. Recall that FitzGerald, a former FBI agent who has served as an assistant county prosecutor and mayor of Lakewood, Ohio, before becoming the first elected Cuyahoga County Executive is already the party's endorsed candidate. Other Democrats who could have stepped forward to claim the endorsement didn't. From Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan to former Congressman Betty Sutton and others, each took a pass on taking on Kasich, whose slim win in 2010 by only 77,127 votes statewide should have been reason enough to get in instead of out of the race.

For many Democrats who since 1992 have suffered through 16 years of GOP-controlled legislatures and governors—two terms each for George Voinovich and Robert Taft—a second four-year term for Kasich, combined with another GOP-dominated legislature, would likely result in another Republican like Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Senate President Keith Faber or Secretary of State Jon Husted, among others, taking over eight years when Gov. Kasich ends his reign in 2018.

Poolmate possibilities

So who should Ed FitzGerald pick—and who in turn would be willing to run with him in view of his recent near fatal stumble over the starting line? Since most Democrats who currently hold a public office have decided to take a pass, FitzGerald may have to look beyond the traditional field of politicos.

Ted Strickland: Even though he had a chance to take on Kasich again at the top of the ticket, former Gov. Ted Strickland said no. Some may say he's too old for the rigors of serving as governor. But that may not be true for Lt. Gov. Unlike anyone else, he can take the fight to Kasich. There's plenty of Ohioans with buyers' remorse over Kasich, which would give them a chance to vote for Ted again. As FitzGerald's second, Strickland would pay big dividends. He's especially popular in volatile southeast Ohio, a normally conservative part of the state that he represented as a congressman for more than a decade. In swing areas like central, northeast and northwest Ohio, he is good. It would be sweet revenge for Strickland, who has said he blames the Wolfe family, owners of the historically GOP-biased Columbus Dispatch, for his demise in 2010. Strickland could provide the criticism of Kasich needed to even the score. Conventional wisdom, which often proves to be wrong, believes Strickland may have aspirations for a higher national calling, like a spot at the United Nations. But for the good of the state and the party, FitzGerald would benefit greatly with Strickland on the ticket. And if elected, Strickland could resign in the future, giving FitzGerald the opportunity to appoint a replacement.

David Pepper: Popular in southeast Ohio, David Pepper made friends around the state running for Auditor, an office he lost to David Yost in 2010. Some would have another attorney like John Patrick Carney, now running for state auditor, or even failed Democratic candidates like Lee Fisher or even Jennifer Brunner take on Attorney General Mike DeWine, a popular candidate who can self-finance his own campaign.

Jennifer Brunner: Even Jennifer Brunner, whose hubris and paranoia as Secretary of State give insight into her many and deep flaws which have resulted in her persona-non-grata status with some ODP insiders, could be a pick for FitzGerald. Brunner, whose family business for most of her career has been elected public office, might want mend her problems with her party. She could help win over female voters, who have many reasons to vote against Kasich. But Kasich's pubic embrace of Brunner could make her a non-starter.

Michael Coleman: As the longest serving Mayor of Columbus, Michael B. Coleman, who once had aspirations for governor, could also be a pick for FitzGerald. Coleman came out early as a state leader for President Obama in Ohio. But the president has not sought to elevate him to higher office in Washington. He's tied in with the Columbus power structure, including the Wolfe family and Limited founder Les Wexner, so he knows how to suck up to corporate interests. Maybe another big city mayor like Toledo's new mayor Collins could be convinced to take the plunge for FitzGerald.

Clark Kellogg: A former OSU star athlete is usually always an attractive pick. Basketball star Clark Kellogg could be an interesting wild-car pick. He's been a VP for the Indiana Pacers, a CBS TV basketball commentator and an OSU trustee. His son is now a basketball star at Ohio University, and he lives in Westerville like Gov. Kasich. He interviewed President Obama at the Final Four and as an African-American, his name recognition is stratospheric. CBS has demoted him from the top NCAA announcer spot, so maybe he might want to make up for that by giving politics a shot. Picking Kellogg, would be the equivalent of FitzGerald shooting from half-court.

Mark Mallory: A former Mayor of Cincinnati, state senator and son of long-time Ohio House Democratic Leader William Mallory, Mark Mallory would bring all the Statehouse tools and political experience FitzGerald needs, as well as geographical balance.

Ray Miller: A long-time African-American state legislator who represented central Ohio in the House and Senate, Ray Miller would be someone who knows the issues and could make convincing arguments about why another term for Kasich-Taylor would be bad for traditional Democratic constituencies, you know, the 47 percent Mitt Romney said was dependent on government for housing, food and "you name it."

Todd Portune: A former Cincinnati city councilman and now Hamilton County Commissioner, has teased the media and angered some Democrats by daring to suggest he, not FitzGerald, would do better against Gov. Kasich. Out shopping himself around the state, Portune might be convinced to join the ticket instead of opposing it.

Ben Espy: A former OSU football, Ben Espy served multiple terms on the Columbus city before serving in the Ohio Senate. Some say Espy, who ran but lost for the Ohio Supreme Court, could be the seasoned broker-negotiator for FitzGerald that Joe Biden as vice president has been to President Obama. Whether Espy has it in him to hit the road again for FitzGerald is an open question.

Tracy Maxwell Heard: Now the Minority Caucus House Leader, Heard would no doubt love to be on the ticket with FitzGerald. But would the political skeletons in her closet be enough to scare FitzGerald off?

Kasich's race to lose

FitzGerald has an important and difficult choice ahead of him. His disastrous first pick for running mate may have poisoned the water for other experienced politicos to team up with him. Without a large pool to choose from, FitzGerald finds himself in a difficult spot.

His pick must be exciting and unimpeachable. Otherwise, a newspaper like the Columbus Dispatch, which endorsed Kasich in 2010 and has already declared FitzGerald incompetent to be governor, will have months to dig his grave even deeper. And because Ohio media more often than not runs like a thundering herd on any given day and issue, FitzGerald will have a steep uphill climb to win any lasting favor with the mainstream media.

If a Libertarian Party candidate like Charlie Earl can mount a minimally respectable campaign this fall, which reliable polling shows is possible, Ed FitzGerald has a small chance to win after a fractionalized Republican voter base leaves him the last candidate standing.

If Earl proves to be a flash in the pan like Tea Party candidate Ted Stevenot was, Gov. Kasich can start planning his run for the White House in 2016 now.

The news article FitzGerald's second ticketmate pick key to Kasich KO appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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