Gov. John Kasich’s statements that the state’s economy has improved during his administration shows “he’s not in touch with the average person in Ohio,” said Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat candidate challenging the Republican incumbent.
“He was elected originally on a platform of turning the state around, and I don’t think the state has turned around and I don’t think most people think it has,” said FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive, during a 55-minute interview Friday with The Vindicator’s editorial board. “There’s been some very sweet deals for a very small group of people, but I don’t think that’s the way the state should be run.”
Kasich has declined several invitations to meet with the newspaper’s editorial board since his election in November 2010.
In the Mahoning Valley last week, Kasich touted job creation in the state under his leadership. He pointed to recent employment statistics that showed Ohio went from 48th nationally in job growth when he started as governor in January 2011 to No. 5 over the past three years.
The state is no longer in a recession, FitzGerald said, but Ohio has “had extremely tepid job growth.”
He added, “This state has not turned the corner economically” and is “underperforming.”
FitzGerald said Kasich’s nearly 50 percent cut in the Local Government Fund has caused major economic damage to cities, villages, townships and counties.
“It’s an issue where Gov. Kasich has a real disconnect,” and the governor’s downplaying the reduction “shows a complete lack of understanding what local communities have really faced,” FitzGerald said.
“The hypocrisy of the whole thing is it was a time for sacrifice, but then he’s saying on the other hand that he has a [state] surplus and giving people tax cuts while communities are making cuts,” FitzGerald said about Kasich. “The governor is just unwilling to concede that he balanced the state budget by unbalancing local budgets.”
FitzGerald will face Larry Ealy, who’s never had a political office, in the Democratic primary. It’s the only statewide race on the May 6 primary ballot.
FitzGerald dismisses Ealy, saying he will spend “gas money; very, very, very little” money on the primary.
FitzGerald acknowledged raising money for his campaign has been an issue and that he’ll be outspent by Kasich. He also said polls show about 30 percent of people recognize his name.
“Name recognition is the one political disease that has a 100 percent cure: you advertise so when we start to go up [on television] our numbers will go up,” he said.
Chris Schrimpf, an Ohio Republican Party spokesman, said, “Although there is still work to do, there’s no doubt that Ohio’s economy is recovering under Gov. Kasich’s administration.
“The governor has also made fiscal responsibility a top priority. He inherited a nearly $8 billion budget shortfall and balanced it without raising taxes. Not only that but he refilled the state’s rainy-day fund from less than a dollar to nearly $1.5 billion. He got the state’s finances back on track.”