More than 30 prominent Democrats gathered in Pam Miller’s Medina living room Tuesday to hear Ed FitzGerald make his case why he should be the party’s candidate for governor next year.
Miller, a member of the county Board of Elections and former head of the county Democratic Party, hosted the event, which was described as a fundraiser.
FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive and former mayor of Lakewood, took time to meet with supporters one on one, discussing everything from jobs, taxes and the economy and changes he’d make if he’s successful in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. John Kasich.
He stressed how Kasich’s policies have hurt local governments and schools.
“Everyone who works in local government knows their budget has gotten worse,” FitzGerald said. “But the state budget is bigger than ever.”
FitzGerald said if voters are told the facts about the jobs, the economy and taxes, the Democratic Party can win back the governor’s post, lost three years ago when Kasich upset Gov. Ted Strickland’s bid for re-election.
“In 2010, all Kasich did was say Ohio lost 400,000 jobs and that it was Ted Strickland’s fault,” FitzGerald said.
That wasn’t true, FitzGerald said, arguing the job losses stemmed from the national economic recession that began in 2008. FitzGerald said the most detrimental policies implemented by Kasich were the ones he didn’t talk about on the campaign trail, such as Senate Bill 5, a measure that restricted collective bargaining rights in Ohio and eventually was repealed by voters in a referendum vote.
“He’s cut funds to local governments by 50 percent, which has hit this county as well as other counties around the state,” FitzGerald said.
FitzGerald also bemoaned $2 billion in cuts to education and an increase in sales tax. He said the policies of Kasich have benefited some big corporations and wealthier taxpayers, while the majority of Ohioans struggle.
“His tax cuts benefit the wealthy,” FitzGerald said. “If you’re making $30,000 a year or you’re a senior, your taxes are going up.”
He said Kasich’s state government has grown, while support for education and other local governments has been slashed. He said unemployment is up, while actual wages have decreased across the state.
“I’m not claiming John Kasich created these inequalities,” FitzGerald said. “But his policies are making them worse.”
In the coming year, FitzGerald said his campaign largely will be focused on how budget cuts have impacted local communities. In campaign stops around the state next year, FitzGerald said he will stress how local services have suffered under Kasich.
“When we talk in Medina County, we’ll be talking about how these policies affect your school, your community,” he said.
FitzGerald fielded a handful of questions from those in attendance about his running mate, state Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney, D-Cincinnati.
News media have reported that $218,000 in liens for back taxes have been filed against Kearney and his wife in connection with their business, Sesh Communications, also known as KGL Media Group.
Kearney’s company publishes the Cincinnati Herald, a newspaper aimed at black readers. The Kearneys have paid off all but about $83,000 of the debt, according to published reports.
In addition to the liens against the Kearneys as individuals, federal tax liens against Sesh Communications have totaled $683,000 since 1996.
The company has a payment plan established to pay off the debt.
FitzGerald said he knew about the liens when he picked Kearney as his running mate.
“A couple of years ago, he and his wife bought a company that had tax liens on it,” FitzGerald said. “He has a small business, and they have about eight to 10 employees and they’ve managed to keep it open.”
FitzGerald added that the tax liens were well publicized during Kearney’s bid for the state Senate and didn’t have an impact on that race.
“He’s an outstanding public servant,” FitzGerald said. “Do I think people are still going to be talking about this a few weeks from now? No, I don’t,” he said.
FitzGerald took one question that wasn’t about politics — about the unusual capitalization of his name.
Blame his ancestors, he said. FitzGerald said the name dates back to 12th-century Ireland.
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.