A candidate for governor?

On the side

‘New nerve center’: The Mahoning County Democratic Party will relocate its headquarters early next year from its location on Mahoning Avenue on Youngstown’s West Side to 4011 Hillman Way in Boardman. The “new nerve center” for the party, as Chairman David Betras describes it, will provide more parking and additional space for campaign workers.

Upside down: The newsletter sent by state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, to his constituents has a confusing look to it because the inside pages are upside down. After you’re done with the cover page and open up the newsletter, you’ve got to turn it around to see photos of Schiavoni at a ribbon cutting and reading to families at the Newport library branch.

Time for R&R: I’m on vacation next week and a portion of the following week, returning to work on Jan. 2. No column next week and depending on what needs to get done, perhaps no column the week after — though I will try to get one done for Jan. 4.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald hasn’t announced his official candidacy for governor, but he’s giving many signals that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for the seat.

Case in point: FitzGerald has been the unquestionable leader on organizing efforts to criticize Gov. John Kasich’s plans for the Ohio Turnpike.

FitzGerald opposed the possibility of the governor privatizing the turnpike that runs for 241 miles across northern Ohio.

He wasn’t alone as many elected officials — Democrats and Republicans — and citizens in the upper half of the state made it clear that privatization was a bad option. But he actively worked to organize the opposition.

Now FitzGerald is front and center in criticizing Kasich’s proposal to borrow $1.5 billion, leveraging turnpike tolls, for infrastructure improvements.

When Kasich made the announcement last week, FitzGerald’s office sent emails to 20 commissioners in northern Ohio counties asking to include their names on a rapid-fire statement. His office gave the commissioners about 20 minutes to respond. Only three did.

The turnpike issue, FitzGerald says, is about 90 percent of that money will go towards infrastructure projects in the northern part of the state, and work in the south will be funded by the gas tax.

So those in northern Ohio paying the state’s gas tax won’t see any benefit from the tax.

Kasich said with this move, the state will have the money to make significant road improvements throughout the state much faster than scheduled.

FitzGerald again moved perhaps too fast by calling Monday for a public meeting the next day in Lordstown to discuss the turnpike issue.

Hardly anyone showed up, including Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka, the county’s Democratic chairman who was listed as co-hosting the meeting.

FitzGerald said the meeting and his objection to Kasich’s turnpike plan have nothing to do with his potential gubernatorial bid.

But Republicans certainly think so, and they are treating FitzGerald as a gubernatorial candidate.

A Republican video tracker taped most of Tuesday’s meeting in Lordstown. He was among the 17 nonmedia attendees there. Among the other 16 were six elected Democrats.

Also, Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesman, said, “It’s blind ambition that’s putting [FitzGerald] in the position to oppose this.”

On Wednesday, the Ohio Republican Party emailed my article about the meeting to the state media with a quote that “the only opponents of [Kasich’s] plan are overly ambitious politicians jockeying for a higher office.”

I guess that was an attempt to be subtle rather calling FitzGerald by his name. FitzGerald is working hard to get his name known outside his home county.

During a visit last month to Boardman, FitzGerald told me Kasich’s “overall leadership style has been abrasive, and I think that’s reflective in his poll numbers, which are pretty lousy.”

FitzGerald expects to make an announcement in early 2013 about running for governor. It seems like he’s already running.

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