Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, Democratic candidate for governor, said that before the process of selecting a lieutenant governor running mate started, he thought Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney would be chosen.
Two days after FitzGerald, of Lakewood, announced that Kearney, of Cincinnati, D-9th, would be his running mate, the two joined U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Cleveland, at a Friday campaign rally at the Yankee Kitchen in Boardman.
The Boardman event, the first of three stops Friday for FitzGerald and Kearney, started about 30 minutes late with the duo and Brown briefly speaking to a crowd of about 75, which included several elected officials and Democratic Party loyalists.
They later visited Cleveland and Columbus, and stopped Thursday in Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Kearney said. “It’s been amazing from the Senate session on Wednesday to” the campaign stops Thursday and Friday. “As minority leader, I’ve had to travel throughout the state. I have 240,000 miles on my car, which I imagine will increase substantially in the next few months. We’ll see if my car will [hold] up.”
The initial pool of potential lieutenant-governor candidates was around 30, and was then cut down to six, FitzGerald told The Vindicator after the rally.
“I had a feeling [Kearney] would end up being our pick,” FitzGerald said.
Kearney is “universally respected” and “still manages to be effective” in state government despite Democrats being outnumbered by Republicans in the Senate 22-11.
Also, Kearney from southwest Ohio brings a geographic balance to the ticket, said FitzGerald, who is from Northeast Ohio.
When asked if Kearney being black benefits his campaign, FitzGerald, who is white, said, “Diversity on the ticket is important, but we didn’t have a predetermined idea [of selecting a black candidate]. Most of the people we considered were not African-American. Eric happens to be the best choice.”
Brown said Kearney “is a huge difference[-maker] in the state Senate,” and praised FitzGerald for the selection.
Kearney, Senate minority leader since January 2012, said he would step down from the job in two weeks to focus on the statewide campaign.
Kearney said he wants state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, the current assistant minority leader, to succeed him. Schiavoni, who was at Friday’s rally in his hometown, said he wants the appointment.
Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said, “There’s a clear contrast between the two tickets” in next year’s election.
“After years of job loss under Democrat control, since Gov. [John] Kasich took office, Ohio has created over 174,000 private-sector jobs, including nearly 40,000 over the last year, and Ohio wages are going up faster than the nation’s,” he said.
FitzGerald pointed out that the state’s unemployment increased to 7.5 percent in October, up 0.1 percent from the previous month, according to state numbers released Friday. It’s the highest unemployment rate in the state since February 2012.