Friday, February 24, 2006

Charlie Wilson's Dilemma in OH-06: He's Off the Ballot

This Wednesday at approximately 4pm the Columbiana County Board of Elections confirmed that Democratic Congressional candidate in OH-06 and current State Senator Charlie Wilson (D-Bridgeport) did reach the 50 required (and valid) signatures to be placed on the ballot. This was verified despite insistence from (non?)candidate Wilson earlier in the week that he believed his campaign had the 50 required signatures, even with all the evidence pointing to the contrary. As it turned out, Wilson only had 46 valid signatures actually from the OH-06. He originally submitted 96 but 5o of those signatures were obtained from outside the OH-06. Despite the State Senator's apparent difficulty in obtaining 50 signatures from within OH-06, two obscure and unknown Democratic candidates were able to reach the 50 John Hancock's threshold rather easily. Former Michigan Republican Congressional candidate Bob Carr and John Luchanstay will be on the Democratic Primary ballot for OH-06 on May 2nd but Charlie Wilson won't be.

This complicates Wilson's two remaining options from here on out. Wilson can either 1.) run as a write-in candidate in OH-06 Democratic primary and if he should beat Carr and Luchanstay, then Wilson would appear as the Democratic candidate in the general election or 2.) he could run as an independent candidate in the general election. The second option would be disastrous and practically hand the election to likely GOP candidate St. Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R-East Liverpool). Wilson would be splitting up Democrat votes with the Democratic candidate on the ballot (either Carr or Luchanstay), while Blasdel would coast to victory with soild GOP support. The first option is the most appealing at this point but by no means failsafe. Victorious write-in campaigns are the exception, not the norm, in politics. Democrats seem to have an odd overconfidence in that Wilson's failure to initially get on the primary ballot is no big deal. They seem to think DCCC Chairman and Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) will come to the rescue and send in footsoldiers to obtain the 1,886 signatures Wilson will need to qualify as a write-in candidate in the Democratic primary. The manpower, resources, and money necessary to carry out this signature drive shouldn't be downplayed, not to mention that merely qualifying Wilson as a write-in candidate doesn't secure victory. Certainly there are historical examples of successful Congressional write-in campaigns (Strom Thurmond, Joe Skeen, etc., etc.) but OH-06 is a special circumstance. First the physical boundaries are such that Wilson is not a political powerhouse or even well known (particularly in conties bordering the Ohio River in southern Ohio). Managing a successful write-in campaign (which are at least Demcrat-leaning) will not be easy.

The political ramifications of this screw-up are becoming abundantly clear in the aftermath of Wilson being thrown off the ballot. CQPolitics now lists the Congressional race as a true toss-up thanks to Wilson's blunder and fellow Democrats are starting to wonder out loud if Wilson's staff (consisting at the top of a campaign manager that also happens to be his son) is second rate. The fact that the Wilson campaign could not even determine where OH-06 began and ended is more than a simple screw-up, it suggests a candidate who thinks he's entitled to the seat without an election.

Corruption also looms over the entire event. Columbiana County Board of Elections Chairman John Payne apparently contacted the Wilson campaign to alert them ahead of time that their were problems with their filing petitions. Wilson wanted to get the petitions back to add more signatures and qualify for the primary ballot, but Wilson was informed that the deadline had passed and doing so would violate Ohio election laws. Why would John Payne personally contact the Wilson campaign like this? Payne had made it clear to Democratic circles that he would like Wilson's state senate seat if he is elected to Congress. There's so much here for the Blasdel campaign to use that it might not be worth the Democratic effort to go ahead with the Wilson write-in campaign, but don't tell them that.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Strickland Leads; Blackwell Falters

It's been a rough start to the week for the Blackwell campaign. First came the bad news from Rasmussen Reports, showing Secretary of State Ken Blackwell the weaker general election candidate against Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) for Governor in November. According to Rasmussen, Strickland leads Blackwell by a whopping 12 points, 47% to 32%. The other Republican candidate for Ohio Governor, Attorney General Jim Petro, fares much better against Strickland. He trails the Democrat by only 6points (just outside the MOE of 4.5%) at 44%-37%.
The bad polling numbers for the Blackwell campaign coincided with a stunning rebuke from Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett of their tactics:
"The race for governor should be a contest of ideas, not smear tactics and attack ads. I expect this kind of negative campaigning from the Democrats, but Ken Blackwell should have a better strategy for winning this primary than simply burning down the house. A man who models himself after Ronald Reagan should have a little more respect for winning on ideas and vision. He knows the accusations in these ads are politically motivated, and this kind of guttural politics doesn't win votes. If we can't win with substantive ideas for leading Ohio, we don't belong in the race."

The smear tactics Bennett alludes to appears to involve Summit County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff and a local political ally of his in Akron, area attorney Jack Morrison, who accused the Petro for Attorney General campaign of soliciting campaign contributions from him by claiming that in order to receive legal work from the Attorney General's Office, Morrison would have to get out his checkbook. This charge has been brewing for a while but Blackwell has recently made it the centerpiece of his negative attack against Petro and last month Arshinkoff endorsed Ken Blackwell for Governor, which should at least raise a few eyebrows. Petro wrote a defense in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on February 3rd saying campaign contributions never affected decisions regarding who to hire for legal work in the Attorney General's Office and that the attempt to question his integrity was being brought on by Arshibkoff and the Blackwell campaign.

The new TV ad released by the Blackwell campaign this week tries to link Gov. Bob Taft and the Tom Noe Coingate scandal all with Attorney General Jim Petro. In many ways, the ad could have been made by the Strickland campaign. Furthermore, the negative ad doesn't make much sense. It shows Tom Noe and Bob Taft at the beginning of the ad and then tries to tie in Jim Petro with allegations that are in no way connected to Taft or Noe.

With the strategy of going negative seemingly have blown in their collective faces, the Blackwell campaign cannot even revert to the policy arena. Opposition against Blackwell's proposed Tax Expenditure Limitation (TEL), which is modeled after Colorado's failed Taxpayer Bill of Rights, is still gaining steam from the Ohio Municipal League, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The Columbus Dispatch. The main weakness of TEL appears to be the devastating effect it could have on higher education; especially profitable athletic program like Ohio State Buckeyes football, whose revenue is used to pay for the program and various academic ventures (books, computers, library, staffing, housing, etc., etc.) at The Ohio State University. Under TEL, revenues from Ohio State's collegiate football program would be frozen in bank accounts to prevent institutions like Ohio State from overspening beyond the limits outlined in Blackwell's proposal. In the Plain Dealer article linked above, one of the authors of TEL acknowledges the proposal did not take programs like Ohio State's into account when writing the proposal. To me, it seems like TEL was poorly conceived and too hasitly drafted. It directly prevents state institutions of higher education in Ohio from spending on their own students.

To boot his own policy credentials, Petro propsed his own statewide ballot iniative to curb state tax rates, the Citizens' Amendment for Prosperity (CAP). CAP would be a revenue limit, essentially a cap on state tax rates, rather than a limit on actual dollar spending (like Blackwell's TEL) by state institutions. Petro was joined by St. Sen. Gary Cates and St. Rep. Larry Wolpert in the introduction of the proposal.

Through this all, Petro has chosen to take the high road and not go negative like Blackwell. His campaign is for the future of Ohio and not driven by ego. Petro has the better temperment, policy formulation, and vision to be the next Governor of Ohio. Ohio Republicans need to vote for Jim Petro on May 2nd, for the betterment of our party and our state.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Taft's Approval Dips Down to 14%

I was In the new batch of polls for January 2006 from SurveyUSA, Gov. Bob Taft's (R-OH) approval rating for the month of January stood at an incredible 14%. The second most unpopular governor, according to this SurveyUSA poll, is Gov. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), which is strange because as a US Senator he was fairly popular with Alaskan voters. I guess appointing his daughter to his US Senate seat didn't help matters but they did elect her back to Washington in 2004.
Back to Ohio and Taft, Gov. Bob Taft has previously set a record for the lowest approval rating of any Ohio Governor at 17% (the previous record was held by Dick Celeste in the mid-1980s, in the neighborhood of 30%), but this new number beats Taft's own previous record. His numbers for last month, according to SurveyUSA, were 14% approve, 82% disapprove and apparently 4% unsure of any opinion of the Governor. With all the gubernatorial candidates for '06 continually distancing themselves from Gov. Taft (both the GOP and Democrats) it's no wonder that Taft truly exemplifies a lame duck executive. Taft will also be a haunting ghost for either Petro or Blackwell come November. With Taft still in the Governor's Mansion in Bexley, he is a constant reminder of how dissatisified Ohio voters may be with the status quo and how they may want a change in political leadership. It would have been nice for the White House to step in and appoint Taft to some far off US Ambassadorship so he could have become an afterthought in Ohio. At this point, appointed-Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson (R-Columbus) would serve as a more effective Governor of this state anyway. Had the rumors of about a year ago worked out, Gov. Taft would have gotten an Ambassadorship from the Bush Administration but only before Taft would fill the vacant Lt. Gov. spot (due to Lt. Gov. Jeanette Bradley being appointed State Treasurer after Deters' resignation to become Hamilton County Prosecutor) with then-US Rep. Rob Portman. Portman would almost instantly be elevated to Ohio Governor after Taft would resign to become an Ambassador. Thus, Portman could walk into 2006 as an incumbent and possibly scare off Blackwell, Petro, and Montgomery in the Republican primary for Governor. But this well-orchestrated plan (pure speculation but I think the whole idea has Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett's fingerprints all over it and much kudos to him for thinking of it) never panned out. Portman was ultimately appointed US Trade Representative and Taft was left to his own devices in Columbus. What a squandered opportunity. Now, as a party, we face an energized Democratic gubernatorial candidate who is currently leading in the polls. What could have been...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rasmussen: DeWine Leads Brown 46%-37%

According to a recent poll published by Rasmussen Reports, incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R) leads his likely Democratic challenger Rep. Sherrod Brown, 46%-37%. The poll was taken on February 16th of 500 'likely' Ohio voters, the MOE is +/- 4.5%. The trend here is very encouraging for DeWine. Just last month, Rasmussen had DeWine over Brown by just 5 points, 45%-40%. He has finally been able to get out of the margin of error of 4.5% and statistically leads Brown. But DeWine is still under the 50% benchmark for incumbents. Political conventional wisdom usually dictates that any incumbent still polling under 50% is technically vulnerable, at least on paper. But the circumstances of this Senate race have changed drastically since Hackett's departure and bitter remarks about the Ohio Democrats, DSCC, and Charles Schumer (see postings below). Hacket's remarks about the strongarm tactics against his Senate campaign has apparently left a bitter taste in the mouths of at least some Ohio Democrats. From the Rasmussen poll: "Overall, 29% of the state's voters agree with Hackett and say he was betrayed by party leaders. Fifteen percent (15%) say he was not, but a majority of voters (55%) have no opinion on the topic. Among Democrats, 31% say he was betrayed and 24% say he was not." This Democratic bitterness about Hackett could match hardline (social) conservatives' concern for DeWine's more moderate stances, meaning neither Senate candidate would have the full backing of his respective parties' factions. The softing of Brown's support from fellow Democrats is evident in Rasmussen's internal numbers: "Brown's support among Democrats has fallen from 77% in January to 69% this month." Brown's softening of Democratic support coincides with growing pessimism of Brown's chances of taking this Senate from DeWine. From the poll, "Fifty-four percent (54%) of Ohio voters believe DeWine will be re-elected while 29% expect Brown to defeat the incumbent. Republicans overwhelmingly expect a DeWine victory while Democrats are evenly divided." Hopefully this downtrodden attitude will be a self-fulfilling prophecy for Ohio Democrats come November!

OH-06: Charlie Wilson Files Election Petitions Illegally

From reporting posted by The Columbus Dispatch and the wonderful LincolnLogs blog, St. Sen. Charlie Wilson (D-Bridgeport) failed to file his petitions to run for Congress in OH-06 properly before the deadline, which was Thursday, 02/16. The controversey began when his son and campaign manager, Jason Wilson, failed a second set of petitions that totaled 96 signatures. By Ohio election law passed in late 2002, which Wilson amusingly voted for as a member of the General Assembly, requiring 50 signatures for each county that a US House district is composed of. The local Ohio media has been underscoring the fact that Wilson's first set of filing petitions actually had 53 signatures, 3 more than what is required by law. But this lovely fact is totally irrelevant. Jason Wilson formally and legally had the first set of petitions withdrawn on Thursday. It's as if the first set of petitions never legally existed and they should not even be considered for certification when the Columbiana County Board of Elections meets next Wednesday at 4pm to certify the petitions of various candidates. Acceptance of the first set of petitions would be a clear violation of Ohio election law cited above. A Democratic member of the Board of Elections, John Payne, apparently contacted Democratic Party boss Dennis Johnson to tell him that the first set of petitions included invalid signatures and many of the signatures would have to be thrown out. This led to Jason Wilson going back to the BOE and filing the illegal second set of petitions that simply does not meet the guidelines spelled out in Ohio law. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's office then got involved and said that the second set of petitions could be discarded. The Wilson campaign has been arguing that must mean they can revert back to the first set of petitions and certify those 53 signatures and then Wilson can be placed on the Democratic primary ballot. This argument completely ignores Jason Wilson's withdrawal of the first set of petitions. One cannot revert back to a legal set of documents only because the other documents one was relying on are now discovered to be illegal. Certification of the first set of petitions would be a violation of the law and I can only imagine that either St. Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R-East Liverpool) or the Ohio Republican Party would go to court if such action was taken by the Columbiana County Board of Elections.

And by all accounts, John Payne and the Columbiana County Board of Elections is prepared to certify Charlie Wilson's first set of petitions next Wednesday. This is where the story gets really juicy. Again relying on the exhaustive and highly detailed reporting of the LincolnLogs blog, the Democratic member of the BOE who contacted the local Democratic bosses and who also apparently met with Democratic partisan officials after the BOE office had closed Thursday, John Payne, has made it quite clear that he is in the race for Charlie Wilson's state senate seat if Wilson is elected to Congress. This direct conflict of interest is utterly disgusting. Payne has a vested interest in ensuring that Wilson is ceritifed and becomes a Congressional candidate. He should not even be involved in the certification process. Even the appearance of impropriety should be frowned upon. After all, it looks like Payne met in private with Democratic officials and the content of their conversation is still unknown. To speculative how serious this could be, it's entirely possible that Payne was promised Wilson's state senate if Wilson wins his Congressional race, as long as Payne certifies his withdrawn petitions on Wednesday. This level of corruption and total disregard for the law even trumps Frank Lautenberg's move of 2002 in the New Jersey Senate race, after the Torch faced the music and realized his own sleaziness was going to get him kicked out of office. The Democrats' ignorance and waving off of the applicable election laws is honestly very troubling. Wilson has pled ignorance and has said he "thought" he was filing the law. It's nice to see his intentions were sincere but unfortunately for him that means squat legally. Democrats are also arguing, on a partisan basis, that voters in OH-06 should be given a "meaningful choice" in their Congressional election. But the reality is that Charlie Wilson gave up the opportunity to be that "meaningful choice" when he failed to follow the law. Following the law (as always) is what matters here, not ensuring there is a Democratic candidate on the ballot. The Democrats can always wage a strong write-in campaign. But let this fiasco be a lesson to both major political parties: never clear the primary field for an establishment-favored candidate until it assured that all the proper paperwork has been filed on a timely and legal basis.

UPDATE: The plot thickens yet again, much thanks to LincolnLogs blog. Apparently, Charlie Wilson has a history of difficulty in filing election petitions. In 1994, Wilson sued The Tuscarawas County Board of Elections because they refused to certify his candidacy. Apparently, he only filled out the front page of the declaration of candidacy. The BOE refused to accept his candidacy as valid and the case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, in Wilson v. Hisrich. A decision was reached unanimously against Wilson and he was left off the ballot. So there might be some legal precedent here that actually involves and would presumably go against Wilson!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ney Gets Primary Opponent

Embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-Bellaire), with the deadline to file petitions with elections boards across the state looming yesterday, found out he would be having a primary battle in May after all. As per The Hill's reporting, Ney will face off against James Brodbelt Harris, a financial advisor from Zanesville. Harris has never run for political office and his included quote reflects that, "I think this is an unusual opportunity for someone like me to get into the race," said the 36-year-old political neophyte. "I believe any good Republican could hold this Republican gerrymandered district and the only way a Democrat could win this district is in the midst of a scandal." Acknowledging Republican-engineered gerrmandering to kick off your Congressional campaign in that very "gerrymandered" district, as a Republican, is no way to start.

The more interesting aspect of this article is Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett's role in contacting Washington to get a feel for their sentiment regarding Ney and directly asking if a credible candidate like St. Sen. John Carey (R) or St. Sen. Jay Hottinger should enter the Republican primary against Ney. Ulitmately, they apparently decided against that. St. Sen. Carey is running for re-election and Hottinger is running for State House due to term limits. Bennett's contacts to DC campaign insiders illustrates the latest episode in a Ney v. Bennett showdown that started last month when Bennett suggested the Ohio Republican Party would ask Ney to step down if he was indicted. Ney had this to say about Bennett's phone calls, "No matter what phone calls Bob Bennett made, no one considered running...Bob Bennett gets phone call dialing fever, but he did not call me."

Ney appears to be a good Congressman for his district, representing their interests proudly in Washington and trying to save jobs for his district as well. But the impact of Jack Abramoff and his testimony and evidence over "Representative No. 1" looms large over this election. I agree with Bennett that if Ney is indicted, he should step down. Unfortunately we may be left with this political novice who thinks it proper to point out possible GOP gerrymnadering tactics, but it's better than an indicted Congressman who may lose. Without an indictment though, I think Ney will win by better than 10 points. His campaign staff is fighting back tirelessly and the Joe Sulzer (D-Chillicothe) campaign is still asleep behind the wheel.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Schumer May Have Violated Election Laws Against Hackett

Despite his exit from the US Senate race and his apparent retirement from politics, the Paul Hackett saga continues, much to the chagrin of Democrats. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, if Hackett's report that Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-NY) contacted campaign donors to Hackett and strongarmed them into stopping their contributions and switching their support to Sherrod Brown (D-Avon), then Schumer was acting in direct violation of Federal Elections Commission laws governing campaign committee chairman from harassing political donors of any persuasion. Hackett has since shrugged of Schumer's strongarm tactics, but if this supposed proof of Schumer using the FEC electronic database to gather information on Hackett contributors, Schumer could stand indictment by the FEC.

Commentary: Hackett's Senate campaign would be totally worth it if it led to an indictment or even a mere fine against the political showboat that is Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. Schumer is a raving partisan who is unbending and unwilling to compromise on any issue anyone could possibly name. He has an ego as large as the state he represents, which is evidenced by his personality conflict with NY Attorney General and current gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer. Election law violations would sure deflate an ego that needs to be brought back into the atmosphere. Attempting to avoid a divisive party primary is perfectly within the confines of Schumer's job as DSCC Chairman, but strongarming donors he's never met from Ohio is entirely a different matter.

Brinkman Endorses McEwen; Fmr. Congressman Returns the Favor

State Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout) formally endorsed the candidacy of Former Rep. Bob McEwen for Congress in OH-02 in the Republican primary against incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland). Brinkman said, "“It’s more important that we restore integrity and honor to that office than that I become a congressman." He also indicated that either he or McEwen could beat Schmidt in the GOP Primary but in a three-way race, Schmidt would most likely claim a narrow victory, much like the special election primary of last summer. McEwen returned the endorsement afvor by signing Brinkman's petition to run for re-election as state representative.

Commentary: Here's hoping to a McEwen victory. Schmidt has brought on a lot of unnecessary attention and her comments on the House floor concerning Rep. Jack Murtha were political story for about a week. It's not so much that I find her comments so terrible, just perhaps rude. Then again, her comments were no more rude than Congressional Democrats were during the State of the Union Address. But McEwen is much more of a gentlemanly figure with many contacts in DC, and respect from the conservative community. In other words, he's less of a political liability. And let's drop the House checking scandal of over a decade ago. This race is not about political differences or public policy positions, as I'm sure both Schmidt and McEwen would be hard-pressed to point out any significant differences in their stances. Rather than policy, the Schmidt vs. McEwen race will be about temperment. What's ironic in all of this, however, is Tom Brinkman's apparent disdain for Jean Schmidt. He speaks of the desire to restore "honor and dignity" to OH-02 by supporting McEwen, but the whole controversey that made Schmidt so vulnerable concerning Jack Murtha (D-PA) was actually based on a note written by none other than everyone's favorite state representative, Schmidt protege, and co-sponsor of HB 515 (see below) with Brinkman, Danny Bubp. If Schmidt's conduct was so disgraceful, as it appears Brinkman is contending, perhaps he should not be co-sponsoring legislation with the person most responsible for Schmidt calling Murtha a coward.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

HB 515 to ban Gay Adoption in Ohio But Husted Kills the Bill

HB 515, a bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives by Representatives Ron Hood, Tom Brinkman, Linda Reidelbach, Willamowski, Derrick Seaver, Hoops, Dan Bubp, Gilb, Buehrer, Schaffer, would ban the adoption of children by "homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered" people in the state of Ohio. The bill was introduced on the Assembly floor last Thursday, 02/09, and the co-sponsors are currently pushing for a Housewide floor as early as possible. Aside from this legislation being in clear violation of the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution, which nearly all anti-gay legislation is, the extent to which adoption agencies in Ohio would have to go to determine the sexual orientation of those wanting to become adoptive parents is humorous and would be funnier if it was not so scary.
The bill stipulates: "The (A) Except as provided in division (B) of this section, the following persons individuals may adopt:
...(B)(2) An unmarried adult;

Now plenty of gay, bisexual, and transgendered Ohioans are 'unmarried adults.' And so starts the sexual witchhunt that would follow if this legislation is enacted. The bill even goes further though, and prevents gay adoption even if the possible parent is a step-parent. What a wonderful way to break families apart. The bill is slim on enforceable measures (likely because it is unenforceable) but one interesting section reads as follows:

"(2) When the department of job and family services is satisfied as to the care given such children, and that the requirements of the statutes and rules covering the management of such institutions and associations are being complied with, it shall issue to the institution or association a certificate to that effect. A certificate is valid for two years, unless sooner revoked by the department. When determining whether an institution or association meets a particular requirement for certification, the department may consider the institution or association to have met the requirement if the institution or association shows to the department's satisfaction that it has met a comparable requirement to be accredited by a nationally recognized accreditation organization."

Thus, the bill mandates the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services to somehow formulate protocol that would be in complete compliance with preventing gays from adopting (i.e. an exhaustive investigation into a potential parent(s) and their sexual orientation). I'm not even sure how this is possible. A married man (sadly) can be gay or bi, same with married women. Does an unmarried person immediately become the subject of a sex investigation? Will the adoptive agency worker be forced to solicit the potential parent for sex? How ridiculous. This bill is just another way to hold up gays and others not conforming to 'traditional' standards as deviant and menaces to society. There are actually really issues out there that the Ohio General Assembly could be grappling with other than this bigoted and unenforceable legislation. Issues likes secondary and higher education, the state budget and setting spending limits, political ethics reform, etc., etc.

The Cincinnati Enquirer had a nice article on a lesbian couple from Anderson Township who were raising young daughters. By all accounts, the daughters in question appear to be living happy and normal lives with two loving parents in a stable home, which is what all adopted children ultimately need. The Ohio Supreme Court recognized this fact when in 1990, the Court ruled 6-1 that "nonmarital sexual conduct" including "homosexual activity" must be shown to have a direct adverse impact on the child before it can be the rationale for prohibitng the adoption of a child(ren). HB 515, as written and presented to the General Assembly, simply assumes that homosexuality itself is harmful to a chilren. The question on everyone's mind should be: how?

Fortunately, the infinite ill-effects of this proposed legislation need no longer cause migraines because House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering) has ensured the bill will not get to the floor for a vote. Through his Chief of Staff, Speaker Husted said, "Most reasonable people would have a preference for being in a loving, alternative setting rather than an abusive, heterosexual setting," Scott Borgemenke told the Columbus Dispatch.
"There’s a growing concern within the Republican party of continuing to introduce this divisive legislation."
Speaker Husted said he would like to concentrate the rest of the legislative session on job creation. Jon Husted makes me proud to be a Republican.

A note on Brinkman: State Rep. Tom Brinkman came to my school (Miami Univeristy--Oxford, Ohio) a few weeks ago to address the merits of his lawsuit against Miami Univeristy concerning its domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples. Brinkman did try to answer every question thoughtfully. The basis of his lawsuit is that the current domestic partnership benefits program here at Miami violates the Ohio constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage and defined marraige only between a man and woman. As a matter of strict state law and putting blinders onto implications of the US Consitution, Brinkman may be right. After all, the unversity is extending medical benefits to couples who cannot be legally marriaged in this state but are receiving medical benefits from their relationship, nonetheless.

However, the Constiutional amendment is in clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause and possibly (depending on the circumstances) Art. IV, Sec. I also known as the 'Full Faith and Credit' clause. If a gay married couple from Vermont or Massachusetts moved to Ohio, their marriage has to be recognized on a constitutional basis by Ohio. The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 does not null and void Art. IV, Sec. I. Congressional statues cannot supercede clear constitutional text. My hope is that Brinkman's unintended consequence of his lawsuit is a court ruling against the ban on gay marriage itself on constitutional grounds and the upholding of Miami's domestic partneship program.

One pehaps irrelevant but troublesome inconsistency with Brinkman was pointed out by a friend of mine. One questioner at the forum a few weeks ago brought up Brinkman's floor vote against a symbolic acceptance of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. (Apparently Ohio has never technically ratified the 14th Amendment because the state legislature had to adjourn but obviously it still has the force of law, having been ratified by the necessary number of states). Brinkman was the only member of the Ohio General Assembly to vote against this symbolic gesture because he felt he wanted to cast a symbolic vote against an amendment that has allowed the legalization of marriage and has been used to broaden federal government power at the expense of the states. I don't mind this point at all, but when Brinkman came out in favor of a Federal Marriage Amendment banning gay marraige, the inconsistency of his ideology (agenda?) became abundantly clear. This was not about constutitonal principle or the rule of law. Brinkman wanted to curb the right of individuals, at the expense of the states. His opinion falls right in lines with the court decisions he considers abominable.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hackett Steps Aside in Senate Race; Assails National Dems

Cincinnati area attorney and Iraq Veteran Paul L. Hackett III dropped his bid to become the next US Senator from Ohio today. When Hackett initially announced his campaign for Senate, he was being wooed by national Democratic leaders like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Hackett's entry into the Senate race came only after Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) announced his intent to run for re-election in his safe Democrat US House district and pass on an opportunity to take on incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R) in the 2006 election cycle. But just days after Hackett's entry, Brown changed his mind and entered the Senate race as well. Since Brown's entry, it has been quite clear that Rep. Sherrod Brown has been the establishment choice of Democrats (particularly DC Democrats) to take on DeWine in November. And Hackett more than acknowledged this reality in his exit from the race, Hackett denounced national Democratic leaders like Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer for 'sabotaging' his Senate campaign by telling big Democratic to donors to skip on giving to the Hackett coffers and pointed them in the direction of the Sherrod Brown camp. Hackett specifically targeted Sen. Schumer, claiming, “The original promise to me from Schumer was that I would have no financial concerns. It went from that to Senator Schumer actually working against my ability to raise money.”

Analysis: As some sort of consolation prize, both national and Ohio Democrats urged Hackett to enter the OH-02 race against incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), who narrowly beat Hackett in a special election by about 3 points in August of 2005. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown), DCCC Chairman Rahm Emmaunel (D-IL), and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory all urged Hackett to enter that race yet again but it seems this latest conflict with the party establishment and its swing of support to Brown almost immediately has left a sour taste in Hackett's mouth. Hackett said he'd return to his private law practice and is now most likely done with political life.

Republicans cannot help but feel some sense of satisfication that Hackett's Senate campaign ended up being a thorn in the side of many national Democrats who had themselves originally begged and pleaded with Hackett to join the Senate race. It's also great to see Hackett go public with his complete dissatisification with the Democratic Party. Ohio Republicans knew the Hackett candidacy would turn out to be an utter disaster for Democrats (both Ohio and national) but I thought that disaster would play out at the ballot box rather than as a clash of egos between Democratic bigwigs and Hackett.

There's no doubt that DeWine is a vulnerable Senate incumbent but much of the dissatisfication with DeWine comes from the right-end of the political spectrum who are themselves fellow registered Republicans (case in point for this theory is the Senate candidacy of Bill Pierce, who received the endorsement of the Knox County Republican Party on January 27th with 70% of the vote). Hard-right Republicans were not going to turn out at the ballot box to cast votes for Hackett OR Brown, the worst they could do is stay home in November. DeWine is a scandal free incumbent who is also largely uncontroversial and notably moderate. With this backdrop, it's hard to imagine a known liberal Congressman from northeastern Ohio mounting the campaign necessary to beat the 2-term incumbent.

It's also worth noting that DeWine's future in the Senate could rest on the outcome of the Republican primary for Ohio Governor in May. If the darling of the social conservatives, Ken Blackwell, wins the primary and goes on to November as the Republican standard bearer for Governor, his campaign machine will turn out social conservatives at the ballot box to the same degree that the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign team was able to do in 2004. With this key demographic presumably turning out in high numbers to cast votes for Blackwell, they certainly would be holding their noses when they got to the Senate race on the ballot, but all of them would almost certainly cast votes for DeWine over the liberal Brown. This situation would lead to a 10-12 point win for DeWine over Sherrod Brown, assuming Blackwell is the gubernatorial nominee for the Republicans. If Petro is to win (which this blogger is praying for), DeWine's future could be more uncertain and more vulnerable. This may perhaps be the only possible advantage of a Blackwell candidacy for Governor.

Fingerhut Ends Campaign for Governor

St. Sen. Eric Fingerhut (D-Shaker Heights) has officially ended his bid for Ohio Governor in the Democratic Primary. Fingerhut was a second tier candidate for Governor to begin with when he entered the Democratic primary for Governor earlier this year, but as the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, Fingerhut's rival for Governor, US Rep. Ted Strickland's (D-Lisbon), choice of former Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher as his running mate for Lt. Governor struck a big blow to Fingerhut's fundraising base of the Jewish community in northeastern Ohio. Without that fundraising base solidly behind his candidacy, Fingerhut could not hope to raise the necessary funds to compete with Strickland in the Democratic Primary for Governor. In his announcement, Fingerhut endorsed Strickland-Fisher for Governor and pledged his support throught the campaign.

Commentary: With Strickland all but handed the nomination for Governor with this announcement, his $3 million campaign warchest can now be kept intact for the general election (Former St. Rep. Bryan Flannery is a non-entity, despite going to St. Ed's). This announcement and Fingerhut's realization that the fundraising support he had for his 2004 campaign for US Senate was not fully behind him with Lee Fisher in the mix illusrates the Strickland campaign's true motive in adding Fisher to the ticket. Rather than spending a hefty amount in defeating Fingerhut in what could have been a fairly contentious primary battle, Strickland & Co. swept the fundraising rug right from underneath Fingerhut.

Blackwell Picks Raga for Lt. Governor

On 02/05, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell made his choice official with the selection of St. Rep. Tom Raga (R-Mason) as his running mate for Lt. Governor. Raga is a three-term state representative in a solidly Republican district, where he did not even receive major party opposition in the general election of 2004. He also currently serves as vice chairman of the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee. Raga hails from a region of the state (solidly GOP Cincinnati suburbs) that should already expect to heavily favor Blackwell in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Analysis: I have said this before in posts made here last month and I will say it yet again: Tom Raga is a poor choice by the Blackwell campaign for governor. He does not bring any strategic, geographic advantage to the campaign at all, whether in the Republican primary or general election. As a former Cincinnati politician with much name recoginiton, Blackwell should fully expect to carry Mason (about 20 miles from downtown Cincinnati) in either the primary or general election. If he is having trouble accomplishing that easy feat, perhaps his campaign is in more trouble than anyone currently realizes. Some spin doctors in the Columbus Dispatch article tried to make it seem that Raga is some sort of "rising star" in the Ohio GOP, and while we could debate the actual definition of "rising star" for hours, the point remains is that he is not a "risin star" specifically for Blackwell and brings nothing to the table for him. Politically and ideologicall, Raga also has no advantage for the Blackwell camp. Raga is a solid conservative who is currently heavily invested in budget and state spending debates in Columbus. Many of the question marks surrounding the Blackwell campaign have been concerning his rigid conservative ideology. Blackwell should have selected a moderate yet respected Republican Ohio politician who would help to balance his overt conservative ideology, without doing this, the selection of Raga is entirely underwhelming and constrats significantly with Petro's pick of Padgett, who can bring an obvious geographic advantage in southeastern Ohio against Ted Strickland in the general election, not to mention a little gender diversity that plays well with Ohio voters (re: Nancy Hollister, Maureen O'Connor, and Jeanette Bradley).

Padgett Joins Petro Campaign

St. Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton) joined the Jim Petro for Governor campaign as Petro's running mate for Lt. Governor just weeks after Petro's original Lt. Governor nominee, Phil Hemilich, left the campaign to run for re-election as Hamilton County Commissioner. According to analysis provided by the Columbus Dispatch, Padgett was selected by the Petro campaign to counter southeastern Ohio strength by favored Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland of Lisbon, if Petro wins the Republican primary for Governor on May 2, 2006. A week before the Padgett announcement, Strickland as selected former Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher of Cleveland as his Lt. Governor candidate. The other major Republican candidate for Governor, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, has yet to make an announcement concerning his choice for Lt. Governor. In Ohio, the winning gubernatorial candidate of his or her party's primary election selects their own Lt. Governor candidate and they both run as a ticket, unlike in Illinois or Pennsylvania, where Lt. Governor candidates run in their own separate primaries without much input from the gubernatorial candidates themselves.

Commentary: The choice of Joy Padgett is an especially solid pick for the Jim Petro campaign. Her gender makes her the first female to be part of a gubernatorial campaign of the 2006 cycle in Ohio and her geographical advantage would be of immense help against Ted Strickland in the general election in November 2006. As a former school teacher, Padgett also brings much legislative and professional experience in education. Before being elected to the State Senate in her own right in 2004 against Democrat Terry Anderson (which was a fairly competitive race that ended 54%-46%), Padgett served as Director of the Office of Appalachia for Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and before that served four elected terms in the Ohio House of Representatives.