Friday, January 27, 2006

Strickland taps Lee Fisher for LG; Blackwell Might Go With Raga

Leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate and US Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) tapped former Ohio Attorney general and 1998 Democratic gubernatorial candidates Lee Fisher (D-Cleveland) as his running mate for Governor. Fisher is currently director of the Center for Families and Children (?) in Cleveland. Fisher served as Ohio Attorney general from 1991 to 1995 before being defeated in the 1994 general election by Betty Montgomery. Fisher is also the last Democrat in Ohio to run a semi-competitive gubernatorial race in Ohio, losing to then Secretary of State Bob Taft, 50%-45%. Fisher served in the State Senate and State House before being elected Attorney General. Fisher is the first former gubernatorial candidate to later run for Lt. Gov.

Another piece of gossip circulating through the press concerning Lt. Gov. choices involved the Blackwell campaign potentially choosing St. Rep. Tom Raga (R-Mason) as Blackwell's running mate.

Analysis: I suppose Fisher brings marginal statewide experience to the Strickland campaign (don't get me wrong, Strickland desperately needs that) but not as much as he needs to play to the minority groups in Ohio that vote solidly Democratic. In other words, Strickland basically needed to pick an African-American. Obviously, racial "diversity" is an important characteristic of a statewide ticket to DNC Chairman Howard Dean (see the Skyes' article below), and Strickland went with an uninspiring choice if not potentially disastrous choice with Lee Fisher. Indeed, there already appears to be discontent within Democratic circles of Strickland choosing Fisher for LG. Steve Reece, who ran for Ohio Democratic Chairman last month and is the father of former Vice Mayor of Cincinnati Alicia Reece, seemed upset of the choice based on racial diversity. Referring to Democratic candidates in the primary he said, "Minorities can't be governor. They can't be lieutenant governor. They can't be treasurer. They can't even be secretary of state."
All St. Sen. Eric Fingerhut has to do to make this primary suddenly competitive is convince a leading African-American in the state (Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, Toledo Mayor Jack Ford, to name a few) to join his ticket and Fingerhut suddenly has a message of his candidacy representing the racial "diversity" many Democrats are apparently craving, partricularly the minority groups that vote straight-ticket Democrat. Not to mention the lack of geographical diversity on the ticket (which I personally feel is more important in a gubernatorial election). Fisher is from Northeastern Ohio (Cleveland area) and really doesn't bring much to the campaign in terms of Cleveland votes. Fingerhut and Flannery are going to dominate the Cleveland vote in the Democrat primary, being from that area and all. Fisher's name won't even be on the ballot in the Democrat primary in early May.
This lack of geographical diversity also calls into question Blackwell's probable choice of Tom Raga, whose district is in suburban Cincinnati (Mason) and is basically a safe GOP seat that probably is going to be won by Blackwell overwhelmingly in the GOP primary, again being from that area. Petro's original LG choice of Heimlich was so strong because it united two leading Republicans from northern and southern Ohio. Blackwell needed to tap a LG running mate from northern Ohio or at least the Columbus area. Also for sheer political and public perception issues, I think Blackwell should choose a woman. I think it could act to counterbalance claims of him being an uber-conservative who is too ideological to be governor, perhaps not someone as moderate as Former Lt. Gov. Nancy Hollister (R-Marietta) but perhaps someone like my St. Rep. at home in the Cleveland area, Sally Conway Kilbane (scratch that suggestion Kilbane apparently has a lesbian daughter who would end up being placed in the barn) or maybe even wait and see if Rep. Deborah Pierce (R-Upper Arlington) might be interested in the switch and getting out of Washington, especially since her future in the leadership position of Chairwoman of the Republican Conference has recently been called into question by fellow Republican members of Congress.
With all that said, I feel like gubernatorial candidates should wait until after the primary to choose Lt. Gov. running mates anyway, they don't bring much to a primary election and a Lt. Gov. choice whose candidate ends up losing is forever politically damaged.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Taft Delivers Final State of the State Address

Gov. Bob Taft (R-OH) delivered his last State of the State Address as Ohio's Governor in the statehouse this afternoon. In his speech, Taft devoted much attention to the issue of education and said, "Unfortunately, we also know that in Ohio too few high school graduates are prepared for college or a well-paying job. The evidence is overwhelming that when it comes to our high school students, it’s not just about graduation. It’s about preparation.
Only one in three of Ohio’s high school graduates have the skills they need to succeed in a good entry-level job, an apprenticeship, the military, or in college.
And our students know it. A survey of recent high school graduates found that 39 percent of those who went to college and 46 percent of those who went straight to work said they were not well prepared. They said that if they’d only known, they would have taken tougher courses in high school. "

While Gov. Taft is undeniably correct about the continuing devaluing of a high school diploma in this country, his State of the State address remarkably (sarcasm) lacked any details on how he would strengthen high schools throughout Ohio to ensure the value of a diploma does not continue to decrease. I know Taft has felt the issue of education is (was?) an issue near and dear to the heart of his Administration, but little has been on that front recently. The most recent reform in education came from the federal level with passage of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Taft only very briefly mentioned the scandals and crimes that have plagued both himself and his Administration within the past year saying, "Workers’ Compensation has been an asset for Ohio in the competition for jobs, and it will be again. We’ve got a new leader and management team hard at work transforming the Bureau to better serve injured workers and employers." Taft did not mention his midemeanor conviction for failing to report golf club outings that were actually campaign fundraisers.

Taft's State of the State Address essentially reflected his current state: lame duck. Taft feebly attempted to promote some sense of a positive legacy that he can leave behind in Columbus when he will be leaving the Governors' Mansion next January. But if the approval ratings recently released by Survey USA are any indication, 76% of Ohioans simply cannot wait for him to leave office, including this one.

Boehner Calls on Republicans to Build 'A Majority That Matters'

In an op-ed posted on, Rep. John Boehner (R-West Chester) explained his call for Republicans to renew the vision and boldness they had during the Gingrich Revolution of 1994 and the innovative legislative proposals that encompassed the Contract With America. Boehner a struck a theme for his campaign to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) as majority leader: 'A Majority That Matters.' In other words, a Republican majority that is hawkish on spending (including in Iraq, see below) and other issues that strike a chord with disillusioned conservatives. Boehner laundry lists various legislative victories of Congressional Republicans since their takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994 including the largest tax cut in US history under the urging of the Bush Administration and the highlights of the Contract With America that were all passed in the first 100 days of the Republican majority in Congress. The substance of his article has some eyebrow-raising comments including criticism of the current House leadership for simply surrendering Congress' power of the purse to the Bush Administration over Iraq. Boehner is currently embroiled in a three-way race (Boehner, Blunt, and Shadegg) to replace embattled Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) as US House Majority Leader.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the article is what Boehner did not say. While he devotes a sizeable paragraph at the end of his op-ed to the recent scandals plaguing House Republicans, most of his article his devoted to conservative values and principles rather than the current state of the Republican Party. The focus of Boehner's article compares starkly with Rep. John Shadegg's (R-AZ) article from last week. Shadegg devotes almost the entirety of his article to the issue of corruption and even mentions Boehner by name, "Yesterday John Boehner wrote on this page about a proposal to reform the earmark process offered by Rep. Jeff Flake. While Mr. Boehner is suddenly talking about this idea, I was one of the first co-sponsors when it was introduced last spring. Aside from Shadegg treating "last spring" as if it were Biblical time, Boehner has always been a fiscal conservative and he has been especially troubled with recent spending hikes under Republican leadership. Boehner's election as US House Majority Leader would bring a lot of clout and public spotlight to the state of Ohio, which as an Ohioan I would like to see, but Boehner's election as Majority Leader would mean a lot as a Republican who is looking for a Majority Leader that is the opposite of Tom DeLay. John Boehner's mild-manndered approach to politics (which includes a willingness to reasonably compromise) is what this party and Congress needs now more than ever before.

Ney Makes Re-Election Bid Official

Embattled US Rep. Bob Ney (R-Bellaire) announced his re-election bid today to his US House seat (Oh-18) in eastern-central Ohio. Ney has been recently implicated as the infamous "Representative No. 1" in court documents obtained from convicted DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But despite all the recent ethical questions surrounding Ney, he has remained amazingly popular in his home Congressional district. But Ney's critics have not been exclusive to Democrats here in Ohio, Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett said, "If he's indicted for a felony, we would ask him to step aside until the matter is cleared up." Ney responded angrily, "No party boss tells my constituents what to do..." Ney will likely face former St. Rep. and current Chillicothe Mayor Joseph Sulzer, Sr. Sulzer's House campaign against Ney has been MIA recently, which still only has a temporary website up on the internet and accepts online contributions only through a Democratic third party organization, ActBlue. Sulzer has been viewed by many as something of a political novice, especially when he continually mispronounced convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's surname as "Abaramoff." And while some national political figures like Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) have given away contributions from Ney's PAC that they received as candidates during the 2004 election cycle, some state lawmakers in Ohio are standing firmly behind Ney and refusing to give up donations from his PAC:

"I looked him in the eye," St. Sen. Joy Padgett said. "We've talked. If he says to me that he is going to be cleared of all of this, then I believe him."

"Bob has worked hard for us, and his constituents know that," State Rep. Jim Aslanides (R-Coshocton) said. "And I'm anxious for all the facts to come out in the case, because knowing Bob as I do, I'm confident that most of those concerned and their concerns will be mollified."

Additionally, Ohio Republicans have claimed they took a poll in Ney's Congressional district when Ney was first implicated in the Abramoff scandals and that he is still "not in trouble." But the recent confrontation with Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett highlights the high stakes of this House race and the GOP prioritiy of retaining the seat in their grasp.

Analysis: Just a few weeks ago I assumed Ney would be stepping aside from his re-election effort and someone along the lines of Joy Padgett would be stepping in for Republicans and maintaining the seat for the GOP. And if somehow Ney stayed on and ran, it'd be a very close election in a Republican district that he would ultimately lose. Now I think Ney has to be the favored candidate. His main Democratic opponent, Joe Sulzer, does not even appear to have a campaign appartus up and working yet, and it's January 24th and counting. Sulzer seems almost aloof, unable to effectively fundraise, and merely running because he sees a potentially vulnerable incumbent. But Ney might not be as vulnerable as conventional wisdom would have us believe, he has $600,000 in his campaign warchest and many high profile endorsements within his district. As the Cook Political Report has now been predicting, this House seat now leans Republican, at the very least.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Barbara Sykes to Run for Auditor

St. Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) has announced her candidacy for State Auditor and her entry into the Democratic Primary for that office. Sykes' announcement is suprising because just two months ago the State Representative had announced her intent to retire entirely from state politics. In her reasoning to retire from state politics Sykes said to the Akron Beacon-Journal, "There are other things I can do. I am looking forward to not driving to and from Columbus, attending long meetings and ending up at the same place every week." She added that she'd rather go back to doing work "at her own pace and on her schedule." (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/15/05) But suddenly now she is ready to become Ohio's next Auditor, almost reminiscent of a Ted Strickland who wanted to stay in Washington to tackle issues near and dear to his heart but now is the leading Democrat running for Governor. Sykes replaced her husband in the state legislature after he was forced out of the seat due to term limits. Barbara Sykes has served as President of the Black Legislative Caucus in the General Assembly. She served on the Akron City Council in the 1980s and ran as the Democratic candidate for State Treasurer in 1994 but was defeated by incumbent Treasurer Ken Blackwell. Now Sykes' husband, Vernon Sykes, who Barbara Sykes herself replaced, is taking out petitions to run for the legislative seat. Interesting hypocritical action from a political party that has recently denounced tactics by statewide Republicans and viewed their process of 'musical chairs' as undemocratic, as the LincolnLog blog intelligently argues.

Sykes' change of heart in deciding to continue her political career is being linked to her secret meeting with DNC Chairman Howard Dean last Wednesday when he came to Columbus to unveil the Democrats' political corruption reform package. Dean's strong encouragement for Sykes to enter the race for Auditor is almost a direct slap in the face to Mahoning County Treasurer John Reardon, who before Sykes' entry, was the absolute favorite for the being the Democratic nominee. But that is no more for Reardon. Dean's overt recruitment of Sykes may have something to do with the remarkably lack of diversity (always a paramount concern of Democrats) in their potential statewide candidates for 2006. Other then potential Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Bruner, there is not much diversity among the candidates to speak of. Meanwhile, the Republicans may have two African-Americans running statewide in 2006 with Ken Blackwell for Governor and Jeanette Bradley for Treasurer. Mary Taylor and Betty Montgomey are also heavy favorites in their respective primaries for statewide posts as well.

But whomever ultimatey wins the nomination for Auditor in the Democratic Primary, the candidate will have to gear up for the November general election against CPA & St. Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green), who will almost assuredly be the Republican candidate.

Montgomery Quits Gov. Race, Jumps into AG Race

As the Columbus Dispatch first reported early last night, State Auditor Betty Montomgery has decided to withdraw her candidacy for Governor in the Republican Primary and instead jump into the Republican Primary for Attorney General, a statewide post Montgomery formerly held from 1995 to 2003. Montgomery had consistently lagged in third place in polling and fundraising numbers between her two other GOP rivals for Governor, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro. It is not immediately clear what effect her exit will have on the GOP primary for governor, in what is now essentially a two-man show between Blackwell and Petro. With Montgomery's departure, Secretary of State Blackwell called on Attorney General Jim Petro to also drop out of the primary for Governor. Montgomery was the top statewide vote-getter in both 1998 for her re-election as Attorney General and in 2002 in her election as State Auditor.

Her entry into the primary for Attorney General may not heal all the rifts in the Ohio Republican Party. The GOP primary for Attorney General already has two delcared candidates, St. Sen. Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien. Grendell's brief but harsh statement was that he was running for Attorney general because "I don't need the job, but I want the job." O'Brien went even further in his criticism of Mongtomery's apparent entry into the primary for Attorney General, claiming he had been promised by her personally that she was in the Governor's race to stay.

Analysis: Montgomery's departure from the race for Governor gives Petro's candidacy a much needed breath of fresh air. Now with only Blackwell as a main rival, he can focus his attention on Blackwell and not worry of a fracturing in the GOP moderates voting in the primary. I would expect a new Lt. Governor running mate for Petro coming very soon to boost his name ID and capture headlines in hopes of polling better against Blackwell. As for Montgomery, she's a lock for the Attorney General primary and will beat any Democrat she faces in November. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if St. Sen. Marc Dann (D-Youngstown), who is a declared candidate for Attorney General, bowed out in the face of what would surely be a creaming at the ballot box against him. If O'Brien's assertion is true and she assured him that she would not be running for Attorney General and was committed to the Governor's race, I can't say that's good conduct on her part and I would personally have to evaluate all the candidates in the Republican primary for Attorney General before casting a vote, otherwise I would be supporting her.

Monday, January 23, 2006

National Health Care from the Governor of Ohio?

In a campaign speech for Ohio Governor delievered by gubernatorial candidate and Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon), the Congressman claimed he would use his insider DC connections to push for a national health care system that would supposedly benefit "all Ohioans." Strickland said, "I am absolutely convinced that we need a national health-care system." He tried to quell potential criticism about such a health care system modelling the system put in place by our neighbors to the North in Canada, by describing their system as a "paper trial." This speech did earn Strickland a key union endorsement from SEIU District 1199, which mostly represents hospital and health care workers.

Analysis: This speech hightlights what is fundamentally wrong with the Strickland campaign and why I think he will ultimately lose his bid for Ohio Governor. Strickland is focusing on alot of federal issues, particularly as evidence here, health care. How could the Governor of Ohio possibly push for a national health care system? And if such a system is truly Strickland's pet project, why is he running for governor? Such legislation is drafted and debated on Capitol Hill in Washington, not in the Governor's Mansion in Bexley, Ohio. It's amusing to see Strickland brag about his DC connections that could benefit Ohio. Apparently Strickland isn't aware that he is a member of a minority party that currently holds no power in Washington. The election of a GOP governor, assuming national Republicans hold onto both houses of Congress, is the best kind of connection Ohio could have to DC.

Fingerhut Getting Vocal with Tax Cut Plan

St. Sen. Eric Fingerhut (D-Shaker Heights) became a vocal and bold candidate for Governor in the Ohio Primary with a bold business tax cut plan designed to spur economic growth and job recovery in the state of Ohio. The plan would only tax certain small businesses in the state of Ohio, while letting various other businesses run tax-free by the state. Another tax on bussinesses, that of equipment, Fingerhut believes should be eliminated. While Strickland remains the heavy favorite in the Democratic Primary for Ohio Governor with the full establishment behind his candidacy, dealing with shrewd and well conceived tax reform proposals is probably not something the Strickland camp felt they would be dealing with at this point. In potential match-ups for the general election this November, Strickland is now trailing Secretary of State Ken Blackwell by about 4 points in the latest Zogby Poll, 45.9% to 41.4%. Blackwell's GOP rival for Governor in the Primary, Attorney General Jim Petro, is trailing Strickland, 41.8% to 34.3%.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

McEwen to Challenge Schmidt in OH-02 Primary

Former Congressman Bob McEwen (R) made the official announcement last night, 01/18, in Anderson Township that he would be challenging incumbent Congresswoman Jean Schmidt in the Oh-02 Republican primary in May. McEwen, who also ran in the Republican primary for the same seat last year in the special election following Rob Portman's resignation, was a Congressman in the US House from Hillsboro for 6 terms before redistricting and a bitter primary with Congressman Clarence Miller in 1992 led to his ultimate yet narrow defeat against Democrat Ted Strickland in 1992. McEwen flirted with the possiblity of challenging incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) in the Republican primary but ultimately decided against that. McEwen also briefly considered running as Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's Lt. Governor and running mate. This will be McEwen's third attempt to represent the OH-02 district in Washington, DC. McEwen ran also in the 1993 special election but lost the Republican primary to Rob Portman. After his failed 1993 campaign, McEwen moved permanently to the Washington, DC metro area and became a Congressional lobbyist. McEwen moved back to Ohio shortly after it became clear that Rep. Rob Portman was going to be accepting a position in the Bush Administration as US Trade Representative and his House seat would be opening up. McEwen is originally from Hillsboro, a city outside of OH-02 district, but much of his old Congressional district has since been merged with the OH-02 that Schmidt currently represents. McEwen faced an unlikely primary battle in 1992 against Clarence Miller mainly because of his involvement in the house banking scandal and supposedly bouncing checks repeatedly. He has since made amends for that and promised such practices would never happen again.

Rep. Jean Schmidt has come under fire recently for characterizing Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) as a coward on the House floor, but her defense was that she was merely quoting a constituent of hers, St. Rep. Danny Bubp, a former US Marine. St. Rep. Tom Brinkman made it clear a few weeks ago that someone credible would need to challenge Schmidt in the Republican primary but it's unclear whether or not Brinkman meant himself specifically or another challenger like McEwen. Brinkman is currently grabbing headlines with his lawsuit against Miami University of Ohio (Oxford) over the institution's domestic partnership health care package. Brinkman and his lawyer contend it violates the state Constitution's amnedment that was added by voters overwhelmingly in 2004, which defines marriage in the state of Ohio as between a man and a woman. Miami's domestic partnership program allows any couple (same-sex or otherwise) that has been together for more than 6 months to earn certain health care perks (dental particularly) if they sign an affidavit affirming their relationship. This lawsuit has garnered much attention for Brinkman and leaves open the possiblity for his entry into the Republican primary.

Analysis: Schmidt now has marginal incumbent advantage in a Republican primary but McEwen should be able to eat into her solid conservative support that led her to victory last summer in the special election primary. McEwen is already characterizing himself as an elder statesmen who will bring "dignity and experience" back to Congress, a clear allusion to Schmidt's controversial remarks regarding Rep. Murtha a month ago. But Schmidt's style of politics has always been aggressive and "in your face." McEwen has already lost one key endorsement in the primary that he garnered in the special election primary last year, that of Rep. John Boehner. Boehner now finds himself embroiled in a hot race for US House Majority Leader and his staffer made it clear that in any possible primary the Boehner camp would be supporting Boehner's colleague, Jean Schmidt. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who briefly considered McEwen as his running mate for Lt. Governor, said he considered both McEwen and Schmidt "good friends" and probably will not make an endorsement of either candidate over the other.

This blogger is personally pulling for McEwen simply because Schmidt has garnered far too much unwanted publicity, that is bad publicity. McEwen is a solid conservative with identical stances on the issues as Schmidt but approaches politics with a much different style and is well regarded by many power brokers in Washington.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hackett Compares Republicans to bin Laden

Democratic US Senate candidate Paul Hackett compared the so-called "right wing" of the Republican Party to terrorist Osama bin Laden on Monday in comments made to The Columbus Dispatch. Hacket was referencing the divisive battle over gay marriage in the country and called actions to implement gay marriage bans "un-American." 2004's "Issue 1" was approved overwhelmingly by voters and was added an amendment to Ohio's state consitution, defining marriage only as a union between a man and a woman. Hacket's most controversial remarks came in regards to religious conservatives who vote Republican.

Hackett said, "The Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious fanatics that, in my opinion, aren't a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden and a lot of the other religious nuts around the world."

In an e-mail message sent out today, 01/18, Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett demanded an absolute apology from Hackett over the bin Laden comparison but Hackett refused. Hackett replied, "I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it."

Heimlich Steps Aside as Petro's Lt. Governor

Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Hemlich (R) stepped aside Monday as Attorney General Jim Petro's running mate for Lt. Governor, citing his desire to run for re-election on
the Hamilton County Commission and his wish to preserve the current 2-1 GOP majority on the board. Petro accepted his formal withdrawal and Petro has begun searching for a new running mate. Heimlich's departure from Petro's gubernatorial run potentially signals a Petro campaign that is in total disarrray. But the Petro camp pointed to their recent endorsement from the Franklin County Republican Party (Columbus) as proof that their message is catching on and that rank and file Republicans are supporting Petro's candidacy. Heimlich joined Petro's campaign as his running mate in March 2005, scores ahead the other two main GOP candidates for governor (Blackwell and Montgomery) in finding a running mate. But both Blackwell and Montgomery have yet to annonce their respective choices for Lt. Governor, so Petro is not behind any of the two candidates.

Phil Heimlich is currently a member of the Hamilton County Commission and formerly a member of the Cincinnati City Council. Heimlich is the son of the developer of the famous Heimlich maneuver but when Phil Heimlich ran for City Council he became famous for his record fundraising abilities. In his race for City Council in 1997, Heimlich raised over $400,000. A record-breaking total at that time. His hard work in fundraising made him a valuable asset to the Petro campaign for Governor and may be one of the reasons the Petro camp has been able to raise so much money over the past year. Heimlich says he will continue to support Jim Petro for Governor and he is confident Attorney General Jim Petro will be able to find another quality candidate for Lt. Governor.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bob Ney Steps Down as House Administration Chairman

Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has temporarily stepped down as Chairman as the small but significant House Adminstartion Committee because he claimed the current investigation of him is distracting other lawmakers on the committee and preventing the committee from doing its tasks. While small and not capturing much news coverage, the House Administration Commitee is highly significant for members of Congress themselves. The Committee often deals with issues of parking, transportation, food services at the Capitol Building, staffing salaries, office space alotted, and other various concerns that directly impact federal lawmakers. Despite this resignation, Ney maintains his innocence and claims he has done nothing wrong. According to him, this decision was simply made because he felt he was a personal distraction to the management of the committee.

Back home in Ohio, St. Sen. Charlie Wilson (D-Bridgeport) (himself a US House candidate to replace Ted Strickland) was very cautious in verbally indicting Ney as corrupt and said that, "I don't believe we should pass judgment until he's had his day. I think we should wait and see when he has his day in court what he can say to defend himself."

Commentary: Not to diminish the possible severity of the alleged acts committed by "Representative No. 1" in the Abramoff plea agreement but newspaper columnist Colin McNickle wrote a very interesting and highly personal take on Bob Ney's political career in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

One remarkable story was Ney's promise to drive the columnist to a job interview in Columbus while Ney was a State Senator but something came up yet Ney still offered his car to the columnist for the interview, since he had made a promise. A strikigly different take on a man that many have come to loathe in the national media recently.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

John Boehner a 'Frontrunner' for House Majority Leader

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) has become one of two frontrunners to replace Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) as US House Majority Leader after DeLay contacted House Republicans on 01/07 to inform them that he would be stepping down as House Majority Leader amid charges back in his homestate of Texas of corruption and illegaly funneling campaign funds of more than $200,000 to Texas Republicans running for the state legislature.

Boehner's main Republican opponent for Majority Leader is Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), who also took over DeLay's duties as Majority Leader in the interim, when he was forced to step down temporarily a few months ago. Blunt leads Boehner in a tally of public endorsements from House GOP members by a count of 45-30. There continues to be a debate among Republican caucus members to decide when to hold the election for Majority Leader. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, has moved to delay the final vote for Majority Leader until at least a retreat meeting that is scheduled for Jan. 30th-31st. But five GOP members of the House from Florida that includes US Senatorial candidate Katherine Harris and Rep. Clay Shaw, have asked the vote to occur before President Bush's State of the Union Address on Jan. 31st.

John Boehner represents the Eighth Congressional District of Ohio, which comprises Butler, Preble, and parts of Hamilton Counties. He was first elected in 1990 after a Republican primary against two former House members, Thomas Kindness and Don Lukens. Boehner served as the Republican Conference Chair from 1994 to 1998. Boehner currently serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and is credited with House passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. Boehner was also a key part of a coup attempt against House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1998, by vocally supporting New York Congressman Bill Paxon for Speaker over Gingrich.

If Boehner were to be elected US House Majority Leader, he would be the first Majority Leader in Congress from Ohio since Sen. Robert Taft (R-OH) led the US Senate in 1953.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Eric Fingerhut to Enter Governor's Race

St. Sen. Eric Fingerhut (D-Shaker Heights) is preparing to enter the Democratic Primary for Ohio Governor. Fingerhut has already sent out fundraiser fliers to potential supporters and he also moving roughly $14,500 from his State Senate campaign account to a new financial account for Governor. Fingerhut joins two other delcared candidates in Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) and former St. Rep. and Democratic challenger for Ohio Secretary of State in 2002 Bryan Flannery of Strongsville.

Analysis: Strickland is the heavy favorite here and almost a lock to be the Democratic candidate for Governor in '06. Both Fingerhut and Flannery are not well known outside the Cleveland area and they will be hard pressed to raise the necessary funds to get their names out there. Strickland has the support of the Ohio Democratic establishment and of big Democratic donors in the state. Aditionally, Fingerhut and Flannery will effectively split the Cleveland vote since they are both known fairly well in the metro area. This leaves Strickland with the support of much of the state outside Cuyahoga County. Expect a Strickland blowout at least in margin of victory but perhaps not in over percentage of the primary voters. Something like a 50%-30%-20% victory is plausible but nothing worse than that for Strickland.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Abramoff's Guilty Plea Could Spell Doom for Ney

Former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea yesterday 01/03 could spell doom for Rep. Bob Ney (R-Bellaire). According to the LA Times, the unnamed federal lawmaker in court documents who exchanged legislative favors in Abramoff's behalf for gifts from Abramoff is Bob Ney. But Ney has contiuned to deny any wrongdoing or even acknowledging being aware of Abramoff's illegal actions. But Abramoff's guilty plea could mean his eventual cooperation with federal investigators and an indictment of Bob Ney.

Ney's most recent claim to fame was his resoultion on the House floor to officially rename french fries "freedom fries" in protest against France's refusal to participate in the Iraq War. Ney also chairs the House Committee on Administration, which oversees management of House facilities, including parking spaces for House members. Ney was first elected in the 1994 GOP landslide and re-elected subsequently.

Commentary: His district was redrawn after the 2000 census to make his seat overwhelmingly Republican. But this recent scandal could make his political future uncertain. There is already one declared candidate to defeat and/or succeed Bob Ney. Chillicothe Mayor Joseph Sulzer, Sr. is so far the only declared Democratic candidate for OH-18. Sulzer is a former Ohio House member and current Mayor of Chillicothe, Sulzer was defeated in 2002 for his state house seat by Republican John Schlichter. Sulzer would be Ney's toughest opponent since he defeated Robert Burch, Jr. by less than 4 points in 1996. Oh-18 is now an overwhelmingly GOP district and if Ney would be forced to retire and not run for re-election, a non-Ney GOP candidate would have to be favored, no matter the circumstances surrounding Ney. There are no possible replacements for Ney since he is still officially running for re-election but a feasible GOP list would include: State Rep. John Schlicther, State Sen. Joy Padgett, State Sen. John Carey and State Sen. Ron Amstutz. The Oh-18 runs north into Carroll County and New Philadelphia and extends south all the way to Chillicothe. The district also runs west into the Columbus exurbs of Newark and Mount Vernon.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Blackwell, Montgomery Revert to Push Polling

According to reports from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, calls have been made to Ohioans across the state by pollsters hired by the Blackwell campaign denouncing Blackwell's gubernatorial rival Jim Petro's supposed "horrible track record" and fundraising relationships with "favored GOP whipping boy Bill Clinton" and also "being part of the problem in Columbus." The calls are not really measuring any voter support for any candidate and never even mentions Ken Blackwell by name, only Petro in a purely negative light. Blackwell has been able to sucessfully avoid mentioning himself in the calls by masking the effort through his front gorup "Citizens for Tax Reform."

The third main GOP contender for Governor, Auditor Betty Montgomery, has also hired pollsters to do a similar practice over the phone. The Petro denounced the practice as pure "push polling" in an e-mail sent to supporters this morning on 01/02.

Betty Montgomery

UAW Endorses Hackett

A surprise announcement came from the United Auto Workers of Ohio when they decided to endorse the candidacy of Paul Hackett over Congressman Sherrod Brown on 12/16. The vote to endorse Hackett over Brown in the Democratic Primary for US Senate was overwhelming, a 26-1 vote in favor of Hackett. Hackett is a mere political novice compared to organize labor supporter Congressman Sherrod Brown. Brown dismissed the union endorsement claiming, "I've won consistently in Republican areas and I'll continue to fight for working families," he said. "I predict with absolute certainty that I'll still get a majority of the rank-and-file. They know me and know my record." But the surprise endorsement could signal a divide in Ohio's organize labor groups between Brown and Hackett and that spells bad news for Ohio Democrats this coming year.

Jackson Sworn in As Cleveland Mayor

Former Cleveland City Council President Frank Jackson was sworn in as the 56th Mayor of the City of Cleveland on Monday after defeating incumbent Mayor Jane Campbell last November 54%-46%. Jackson faces tough challenges as he takes his new executive post, including a declining population rate in the city of Cleveland, high poverty, and a public education systemthat will see its reknown Superintendent Barbara-Byrd Bennett leaving soon. Jackson promised to make Cleveland "one community," but the challenges remain. Meanwhile, the defeated incumbent Jane Campbell took a temporary 4-month teaching position at Harvard University in Massachusetts where she will be teaching courses on politics.