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FitzGerald’s miscue could be costly

Published: Fri, December 13, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

On the side

Democrats for Johnson: The campaign of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, announced a “Democrats for Johnson” group that will work to get the two-term GOP incumbent re-elected next year.

Those forming the group are: Steubenville Councilmen Gerald “Yonk” DiLoreto and Robert Villamagna, Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile, and Joe “Sluggs” Smarrella, a retired United Steelworkers of America Local 1190 official.

The campaign statement acknowledges that Smarrella has previously supported Johnson.

It doesn’t mention that while Villamagna is a Democrat, he told The Columbus Dispatch last year that he supported Republican Mitt Romney for president.

Johnson is being challenged in next year’s election by former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison, a Democrat from Marietta.

We’ll have to see if Garrison can find some Republicans in the 18-county 6th District who’ll endorse her candidacy.

The district includes all of Columbiana County and portions of Mahoning County.

The failure of Ed Fitz-Gerald, running for the Democratic nomination for governor next year, to realize having a running mate who, along with his wife and his businesses, owes about $826,000 in unpaid taxes is a big deal should make people pause.

It would be logical to think that after a vetting process showed state Sen. Eric Kearney, FitzGerald’s choice for a lieutenant governor running mate, had serious financial problems that he would be automatically disqualified from the selection process.

But FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive, aware of Kearney’s unpaid taxes about a month before announcing the state senator from Cincinnati as his running mate, didn’t see a problem.

“No distinction was made between Eric’s personal financial situation and the companies’ indebtedness,” FitzGerald told me after Kearney left the campaign. “The problem is you’re having that conversation [about Kearney’s finances] and not why are we not creating jobs in Ohio or slashing the Local Government Fund or why taxes are going up for everyone but the wealthy.”

Despite FitzGerald’s explanation, it’s still surprising that he and his campaign staff, which includes some seasoned political operatives, failed to see this impending disaster.

FitzGerald laughed when I mentioned the word disaster, and said, “My answer is this is not a standard that was applied before. On a going-forward basis, I am assuming [business] financial issues applies to everyone on the Republican ticket.”

FitzGerald specifically pointed to Republican Gov. John Kasich’s time as a managing director for Lehman Brothers, a financial services firm that experienced the nation’s largest bankruptcy when it occurred in September 2008.

FitzGerald contends Kasich’s business experience “should disqualify him from office.”

Lehman was in issue in the 2010 gubernatorial race, but voters didn’t think it was a major concern when they elected Kasich over incumbent Democratic Ted Strickland.

How did it get to the point where FitzGerald, running on a platform that focuses on what he calls “Kasich’s faltering economy,” felt it was fine to do so with a running mate who — along with his wife and companies — owes about $826,000 in unpaid taxes?

“We didn’t think [the tax issues] would overshadow his qualifications and experience,” FitzGerald said. “But it distracted us from having that discussion” of the state’s economy. “It ended up capturing the conversation. We now have to head in a different direction.”

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said, “What I want to talk about in this campaign is John Kasich’s failed economic policies” and “anything else that distracts from that is a distraction.”

The problems emerged almost immediately after FitzGerald named Kearney, a likeable state senator from Cincinnati, as his running mate Nov. 20.

With each article on Kearney’s finances, the campaign dug in their heels with Kearney insisting he was staying. On an ill-conceived conference call last week with state political reporters, Kearney tried to explain away the problems, but only dug a deeper hole.

FitzGerald said he’ll have a new running mate around the beginning of next month, and that he’s already vetted a number of candidates who he considered as possible running mates before selecting Kearney.

We saw how the original vetting process went.

“I’m sure the vetting is going to be twice as hard as the last time,” said state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th.


1author50(1121 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

"Anything that distracts from a distraction is a distraction" David Betras.

Politicians continue to follow the pattern of 1) Do it. 2) Deny doing it. 3) Deflect it. 4) Demonize it.

What will the Chairman's #4 quote be about?

PS David Betras From here on in the party of the first part shall be known as the party of the first part.

Suggest removal:

2questionreality(728 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

#4 "The capacity to change one's mind in the face of new evidence is the hallmark of a rational being - exactly the sort of being that we want every one of our endorsed candidates to become."

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3TERRAPINST(320 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Ed Fitzgerald is a fine guy who had a bright political future and this is coming from A Republican-However, in the desperate search to knock out Kasich-which is a challenging task if you are not one of the brainwashed Mahoning County Democratic electorate, they threw a relatively unknown into the mix as another example of Redfern being an idiot. This guy is now ruined. He holds one of the prime positions in the state as Executive of Cuyahoga County and the party ego'd him up and threw him to the wolves. Kasich is formidable like it or not. He will have about a zillion dollars first of all. THEN they put Kearney on the ticket in an effort to get blacks and the southern part of the state. Problem is, he's a train-wreck and now its over simple as that.. Kasich gets 2 terms like it or not. Why does Redfern keep his job? After the 2010 massacre you would think he'd be a goner. Liz Brown running party operations???? Wanna know why? You recognize any similarities with Sherrod Brown's name?

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4walter_sobchak(2674 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

To attempt to compare a man owing the govt over three-quarters of $1,000,000 in back taxes to man that was a director at a regional office of a financial firm that filed bankruptcy is ludicrous. It wasn't John Kasich that established policy at Lehman Brothers but Eric Kearney is most certainly responsible for his tax debt. Well, no it is up to the Democrats to find a minority or woman to be on the ticket. Definitely won't be a white guy!

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5lacrossemom14(14 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

i just dont see this one blowing over quickly.

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