Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a potential 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, criticized Republican Gov. John Kasich for being “hostile” and “absolutely devastating” to local governments.
“His overall leadership style has been abrasive, and I think that’s reflective in his poll numbers, which are pretty lousy,” FitzGerald told The Vindicator when asked about Kasich. “But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, because being an incumbent governor is a big plus. It is a challenge. That’s why if I’m going to do it, I have to get a fairly early start.”
The Democratic Party- affiliated Public Policy Polling called Kasich “highly vulnerable” Tuesday because a poll by the organization has the incumbent leading a generic Democratic challenger 44 percent to 43 percent. Two other recent nonpartisan polls had Kasich’s job approval rating at 49 percent and 56 percent, respectively.
FitzGerald said Kasich’s decision, backed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature, to make deep cuts to Local Government Fund money given to communities and counties created serious problems for government entities and Ohio citizens.
The statements came before FitzGerald spoke Wednesday at a Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber Government Affairs Council luncheon at Mr. Anthony’s in Boardman.
In response, Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesman, said the governor doesn’t comment on polls and the administration is focused on “fixing the state and not politics.”
But Nichols added, “We want to return taxpayer dollars to the people who for far too long have paid too much. He wants to see that money grow government. Different philosophies; we’re happy letting Ohioans decide who’s right.”
FitzGerald said he’ll decide early next year whether he’ll run for governor. Other Democrats considering runs include ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, who lost a close race in 2010 to Kasich, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th.
“There’s always two routes to go,” FitzGerald said.
The party can “go with someone that’s run before statewide. It also means they’ve also been defeated statewide; or you can go with someone new who hasn’t been defeated, but on the other hand, is not as well known.”
FitzGerald is traveling the state delivering speeches and talking with Democrats about the decision he faces.
“The Valley is very important politically, and it just provided it again with the recent election with the turnout it had for the president,” he said. “It’s part of any successful strategy for a challenger to Gov. Kasich. The whole Valley area has to be part and parcel of that.”
David Betras, chairman of Mahoning County Democratic Party, who attended the luncheon, said if FitzGerald runs for governor, he is “going to give Kasich more than he can handle.”
During his speech, FitzGerald discussed the change in Cuyahoga County government. After a government scandal, Cuyahoga voters approved a home-rule charter in 2009 that included an elected county executive and county council and streamlined county operations. For example, the county recorder, treasurer and auditor offices were merged, and the total number of county employees is down about 10 percent.
The county also established a $100 million economic-development bond fund that uses revolving loans to attract, retain and expand businesses there, he said.