Lack of name ID not fatal

On the side

Speaking from experience: With the president’s announcement about major gun control laws and a push to have others enacted by Congress, it would be wise to listen to the advise of a guy who’s been in the U.S. House for less than three weeks.

Why? Because freshman U.S. Rep. David Joyce of Russell, R-14th, spent 23 years as a Geauga County prosecutor. Of interest, Joyce replaced Steven C. LaTourette, who jumped from Lake County prosecutor to the House.

While some Republicans and Democrats had strong reactions to President Barack Obama’s announcement and dug in their heels, Joyce’s was even-handed.

“I saw first-hand the tragic effects of when certain individuals slip through our mental health system and therefore believe it’s crucial that we address this as both a public safety and mental health issue,” he said. “That said, we cannot let recent tragedies be an excuse for groups to either sell more guns or infringe on Second Amendment rights.”

If Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald decides to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014 — and it would be a huge surprise if he chose not to — his lack of name recognition outside his home county shouldn’t be a concern.

Can Republican Gov. John Kasich be beaten next year is a topic for a different column. Let’s focus now on people not knowing FitzGerald.

Like several politicians who’ve won statewide before, including Republicans Treasurer Josh Mandel and Auditor David Yost in 2010, FitzGerald isn’t well-known.

Some Democrats are concerned that a Quinnipiac University poll last month showed 84 percent asked didn’t know enough about FitzGerald to formulate an opinion about him or never heard of him.

While that’s a lot, consider that 29 percent of those polled didn’t know enough or never heard of former Gov. Ted Strickland, and he ran the state for four years.

FitzGerald should take some comfort in how Strickland, a fellow Democrat who said he’s not running for his former position next year, was elected governor in 2006 despite no money and little name recognition before kicking the campaign into overdrive.

When Strickland ran seven years ago, he had decent name ID only in the sparsely-populated south-eastern and south-central parts of the state and in the portions of the Mahoning Valley. Those areas are certainly not big enough bases of power to get someone elected governor.

But Strickland, a six-term congressman who lost four other U.S. House races, and his campaign team spent millions of dollars on the gubernatorial campaign with significantly more spent by special-interest groups on his way to an easy victory over Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell, then-secretary of state and a former Ohio treasurer.

When Kasich ran in 2010, his name recognition was better than Strickland’s in 2006. With both candidates raising a lot of money, about $33 million combined, a struggling economy under Strickland and a bad political year for Democrats, Kasich won the 2010 race by two percentage points.

Based on the last two gubernatorial races, there’s no cause for Democrats to be concerned about few people knowing FitzGerald before the election.

FitzGerald is touring the state and speaking to party leaders to get his name out. He is likely to announce in a few weeks that he’s running for governor. Then it’s up to FitzGerald to put together the team to raise enough money to make sure voters know who he is.

There are three other potential candidates on the Democratic side.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-13th, says he’s considering a run, but as I’ve mentioned before, I seriously doubt he’ll be a candidate. He has too much to lose risking his political future on a gubernatorial bid.

But there are two other Democrats who have nothing to lose politically by running for governor.

Richard Cordray, a former attorney general and state treasurer, is a strong possibility. Politically ambitious, Cordray has indicated he wants to run for governor. He is the president’s director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and because of how he was appointed, he’s out of a job at the end of the year. For him to run for governor, he’d have to quit his current job, probably sooner than later if he is serious about seeking the elected position.

The other is ex-U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, who lost a re-election in November in a congressional district gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. Out of elected office, she has nothing to lose by running for governor.

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