If you haven’t made up your mind, at this late date, for whom to vote in the race for Ohio governor, or you’re a Democrat who has decided to sit this one out, here’s a number for you to consider: 62 (sixty-two).
That’s how many times Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has visited the Mahoning Valley on official business since taking office in January 2007.
No governor in recent memory, Republican or Democrat, has come close to spending the amount of time in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties that Strickland has, and neither will his Republican challenger, John Kasich, if he wins.
Kasich isn’t from here. He’s Columbus, Franklin County, national cable television talk show host, Lehman Brothers. He’s not us.
And that matters.
Why? Because as the country slowly recovers from the economic recession that began when Republican President George W. Bush was in charge, the competition for limited state dollars will continue to be intense. The Three Cs — Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland — will get the big slices and the Mahoning Valley will have to settle for the crumbs.
All politics is local
That’s why Ted Strickland must win re-election. All politics is local, and from a purely selfish standpoint, we need someone in the governor’s mansion who clearly understands that this region must be a priority.
Before winning the governor’s race in 2006, Strickland represented the 6th congressional district, which includes a portion of Mahoning County and Columbiana County. He knows us. He feels our pain. And, he has done everything possible within the structure of a very tight state budget to assist in the region’s job-creation effort.
(To understand what the governor has meant to the Valley, read The Vindicator’s endorsement editorial of him on www.Vindy.com).
But there’s another compelling reason Strickland deserves to win a second four-year term: Bill Clinton.
The former Democratic president, who has become one of the most popular politicians in America since leaving office 10 years ago, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of Democratic Party faithful Saturday morning at Mr. Anthony’s banquet hall in Boardman and made us understand why politics can be a higher calling.
In an era of sound bites, negative campaign advertising and the ridiculous notion that thoughtful discourse is elitist and that simple-minded solutions to complicated problems are all that are needed, Clinton gave a 35-minute analysis of what’s going on politically in Ohio and the country that would be heard in the hallowed halls of Ivy League schools (there’s that elitism again).
But, his presentation was in the language of the people — and the crowd responded.
Clinton did not equivocate in his support of Gov. Strickland and put forth a powerful argument for why the statewide Democratic ticket should win Tuesday.
It’s about which political party has a better vision for Middle Class Americans, Clinton said, adding that the state of Ohio will never have a better governor than Strickland “who knows what needs to be done.”
The former president’s speech was red meat for the party faithful and was designed to energize the base and encourage the precinct committeemen and women to pull out all the stops in the remaining days of the campaign to get out the vote.
Anyone who has been involved in the political ground game knows that turnout wins elections. In Mahoning County, for example, the Strickland campaign is hoping that 108,000 registered voters cast ballots this year, and that Strickland garners at least 72 percent of the vote.
That’s why Clinton came to Boardman — at the behest of county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, who was hosting his first pre-election breakfast for party executive and central committee members, officeholders and other party members who are now expected to hit the streets.
Strickland obviously knows that a huge vote from Mahoning and Trumbull counties will given him the push he needs to overcome Kasich’s advantage in heavily Republican counties.
“You hold the key to our victory,” the governor told the crowd.
It’s a key that must be used to unlock many doors in this Valley to ensure Strickland’s re-election.