Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Schiavoni’s longshot crusade


Joe Schiavoni’s gubernatorial run is informed, substantive, and injects further life into the race.


To his credit, Joe Schiavoni is staying in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor even though his path to the party’s nomination on May 8 is anything but wide and flat.

Mr. Schiavoni, a lawyer from Boardman, near Youngstown, and a member of the state Senate for the last 10 years, makes a worthwhile claim: He’s the only candidate left standing who is directly involved in making and voting on state policy.

VIDEO: Joe Schiavoni talks with The Blade's editorial board

The No. 1 issue Mr. Schiavoni emphasizes is the opioid epidemic. His approach is two-fold: get drugs off the street, and get users into rehabilitation.

Issues No. 2 and 3 are infrastructure repair and charter school reform.

“I’m the only one who has plans for anything,” he says.

The brash, young Mr. Schiavoni — he’s 38 — sees himself as the best positioned Democrat for governor. He fresh and he’s hard hitting. As a former Golden Gloves boxer, he knows a thing or two about staying in the ring, and how to win on points.

His opponents are Richard Cordray, who is a former state attorney general and state treasurer, and most recently head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Dennis Kucinich, a former congressman from Cleveland, former mayor of Cleveland, and two-time presidential candidate; and former state Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill.

Mr. Schiavoni says Mr. Cordray is a conventional politician at a time when people are weary of conventional politicians. He says Mr. Kucinich and Mr. O’Neill are unrealistic. The former promises to end fracking, and the latter promises to legalize recreational marijuana and pay for all manner of new state programs with the proceeds. Neither, Mr. Schiavoni says, will ever happen.

Of Mr. Cordray and Mr. Kucinich, Mr. Schiavoni says, “I respect the work they’ve done for the last decade, but it hasn’t been on the state issues that matter to Ohioans.” He is hoping a healthy swath of organized labor will rally behind him and link up with support from eastern Ohio Democrats and Dems who are Trump voters to put him over the top on May 8.

“I understand it’s an uphill battle. When [some of] the other candidates saw it was an uphill battle they bailed out. You finish what you started,” Mr. Schiavoni told The Blade.

Chalk that kind of talk up to bravado, but it also the talk of a leader.

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Mr. Schiavoni was appointed for his first two years as a state senator and now is in the last year of two terms to which he was elected — overwhelmingly the first time and with no opposition the second. Mr. Schiavoni has earned a reputation for policy depth. He was a leader in the fight against Senate Bill 5 in 2011 and participated in the campaign to have that anti-labor bill rolled back in a statewide referendum. He was one of four state lawmakers who put legislative redistricting reform on the 2015 ballot, which passed.

Democrats in the Ohio Senate unanimously elected Mr. Schiavoni minority leader in 2014 — a substantial job and a tough one. His intimate and up-to-date knowledge of Ohio issues and political dynamics will inform the upcoming two or three debates between the Democrats running for governor — including one to be held in Toledo. That’s good for voters, whoever wins the Democratic nomination.

Follow @BladeOpinion on Twitter.

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