Schiavoni’s loss in governor’s race proves money matters in politics

Joe Schiavoni said his struggle to raise money for his gubernatorial bid in the Democratic primary was the main reason he lost.

Well, also Richard Cordray’s ability to raise money, gain key endorsements and have higher name recognition made a win by Schiavoni impossible as soon as Cordray entered the race.

“At the end of the day we raised $800,000 in 14 months and we needed to raise $3 million,” Schiavoni said. “If we had raise $3 million we would have been able to get to the casual voters right before they voted.”

Schiavoni, a state senator from Boardman, said, “You have to reach the casual voter. If you’re not in every media market across the state pounding them in the morning when they’re watching TV and at nighttime and on the radio stations and sending absentee mailers that makes it difficult” to win.

Cordray got 62 percent of the vote in a field of six Democratic candidates with Schiavoni finishing third with 9 percent. Ex-U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich was second with 23 percent.

When Schiavoni was Senate minority leader, he was able to raise $1 million for Senate Democratic candidates from organized labor and lobbyists. But those same groups and people weren’t with him during his governor’s bid.

“That was much different than the $800,000 I raised from everyday Ohioans giving me 50 bucks, 100 bucks, 10 bucks,” he said.

In analyzing the election after it was over, Schiavoni said, “We were reaching people, but the problem I had was people were between me and Cordray, or me and Kucinich. So Cordray’s campaign used a tactic that if [voters] were between me and him they had to vote for him because the last thing they wanted was to have Kucinich win” the primary because his extreme positions would make it impossible for him to win the general election.

Schiavoni said he came in second place “in a lot of people’s minds” who chose him over Cordray.

“The other thing is people would tell me, ‘Joe, you’re so young. Rich has the name ID. We’re going with Rich this time, but we love you,’” Schiavoni said.

After a poor fundraising report for the second half of 2017 was released, there were calls – including an editorial in The Vindicator – for Schiavoni to get out of the race.

That editorial, Schiavoni said, “hurt me because people said, ‘His hometown paper told him to get out of the race. His hometown paper endorsed Cordray.’ That was not helpful. It as just another thing I had to deal with. Maybe it was naive on my part, but I didn’t realize that if you cannot reach the casual voter that’s only in for the last week” you can’t win. “You’ve got to be there to grab them. That’s why name recognition is important. That’s why money is important.”

When the party was looking to fill its statewide slate of candidates, Schiavoni said: “A lot of people pushed me to run for state auditor, but I didn’t want to run for state auditor. I would have had a clear field to run for it. That’s the traditional stepping stone to run for governor – state auditor or state treasurer. A lot of people suggested I do that. But I didn’t think Richard Cordray was going to run for governor. I didn’t think Dennis Kucinich was going to run for governor. They got in the race late. Dennis Kucinich hurt my chances because it eliminated a one-on-one with Rich and paint a contrast in a two-man race.”

As for Schiavoni’s political future, he said: “I don’t know. I’ll be in the Senate until the end of the year and work to get Democrats elected. I might run again. If people want me to be there and run for something, I will do so.”

Schiavoni is a workers’ compensation attorney who stopped practicing about a year ago to concentrate on running for governor. He plans to resume that work shortly.

Schiavoni will also help Cordray and other Democrats campaign this year.

Schiavoni and Cordray have spoken a few times after the primary and were together Monday in Vienna for what was called a unity event with dozens of Mahoning Valley elected officials and labor leaders coming out to support the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

Schiavoni spoke at the event in support of Cordray.

It won’t be the last time as Cordray made it clear he wants Schiavoni to campaign for him.

I asked Schiavoni if he would join Cordray’s administration if the Democrat beats Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Republican nominee for governor, in the general election.

“If I could be impactful and help people, I’d join if asked,” he said, adding: “If there was an opportunity there I’d do that. We’ll see. But he’s got to win first.”

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