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Published: Sunday, 5/13/2001

A governor from Cleveland?

Does Ohio want or need another governor from Cleveland? As guardian for the half of Buckeye state residents who do not live in the Three Cs, we don't believe it has to be a foregone conclusion.

The announcement by former Cuyahoga County commissioner Tim Hagan that he is strongly considering a run for governor against Bob Taft in 2002 strikes us as more of the same moldy old mantra that candidates for governor must come from Cleveland, Columbus, or Cincinnati, and those from the Other Ohio need not apply.

The candidacy of Mr. Hagan, a self-described liberal Democrat, is just a variation on the theme that candidates from outside the Three C's corridor must automatically give way to the supposed inevitability of those who reside along the I-71 corridor. While it is true that, to be elected governor, a candidate must do well in Cuyahoga County, it also is true that the same candidate cannot win without a big vote from the Other Ohio.

Neither would a Hagan candidacy do much to shake up the moribund Ohio Democratic Party, which currently is shut out of all statewide administrative offices and holds only two seats on the seven-member Ohio Supreme Court.

Ohio has had governors from Cleveland - Democrat Dick Celeste and Republican George Voinovich - for 16 of the past 20 years, with decidedly mixed results. The one common thread, though, was that each took care of his hometown in terms of state spending, occasionally to the detriment of much of the rest of the state, especially northwest Ohio.

It's true that we supported Cleveland-area Democrat Lee Fisher against Bob Taft in 1998, but it was clear Mr. Fisher embraced the Other Ohio's mission and supported it.

Mr. Hagan, who has zero credentials in the Other Ohio, does have some built-in advantages over other Democrats who have been mentioned for governor.

First, he's long been thick with the Kennedy family, most recently raising money for Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is running for the top spot in her state. Presumably the fabled Camelot magic could be conjured one more time for Mr. Hagan, who would need about $10 million against Mr. Taft.

Second, he's married to actress Kate Mulgrew, whose TV role as Starfleet Capt. Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager would assuredly beam up a lot of publicity. But can a gubernatorial candidate succeed on the strength of reflected glamour?

Meanwhile, other possible Democratic candidates have been equivocating about 2002. U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, of Lorain, has some traction in the Other Ohio by virtue of his background in Mansfield and two terms as Secretary of State. Jane Campbell, a Cuyahoga County commissioner, is largely unknown outside Cleveland.

Also unknown is how well Mr. Hagan's reputation as “an unreconstructed New Dealer,” which he happily embraces, would play outside his adopted hometown. Pro-choice on abortion, an opponent of capital punishment, and a supporter of gun control, the 55-year-old Youngstown native was rejected by Cuyahoga County voters in the first of five campaigns for commissioner, and he lost in the 1989 Democratic primary for mayor of Cleveland.

Governor Taft will be a formidable candidate for re-election next year, but certainly not unbeatable. The success of his opponent may well lie in how well the Democratic candidate relates to the Other Ohio.



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