COLUMBUS - U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Democratic candidate for governor, has picked former Attorney General Lee Fisher as his running mate, campaign and party officials said yesterday.
By choosing Mr. Fisher, Mr. Strickland, from southeast Ohio, picks up a political figure from the vote-rich Cleveland area, a skilled fund-raiser, and a veteran candidate who lost to Republican Bob Taft in the 1998 governor's race by 5 percentage points.
"Lee has great wisdom and keen judgment and he will make not only a great partner in the campaign, but also a great partner in governing if we are lucky enough to win," said the campaign aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Mark Weaver, a Republican strategist, called Mr. Fisher "a faded memory to most Ohioans" because he has not held statewide office since January, 1995. Mr. Fisher defeated Paul Pfeifer by 1,234 votes in the 1990 attorney general's race, but was defeated in 1994 by Republican Betty Montgomery as the GOP swept all statewide executive offices.
Mr. Fisher, who is president and chief executive officer of a Cleveland-based social services agency, couldn't be reached for comment.
Alan Melamed, who was Mr. Fisher's campaign manager in 1998, said yesterday Mr. Fisher "was the last attorney general to stand up to allegations of corruption, and it was in his own party."
Steve Reece, an African-American businessman and former candidate for Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said the choice of Mr. Fisher, who is white, sends a "dangerous message" to blacks that they "can't be party chair, can't be governor, can't be lieutenant governor, can't be secretary of state, can't be treasurer, but we might let one of you run for auditor in a contested primary."
Mr. Reece questioned whether the decision "appeals to our base," given that black voters could embrace a fellow black for governor, Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, or not vote.
"The Democratic Party has missed a great opportunity for inclusion and the ability to excite a very loyal constituency, who basically feels right now that they have been left out, overlooked, and not been appreciated," said Mr. Reece of Cincinnati.
Since 1990, the four Democratic nominees for governor have picked one white man, two black men, and one black woman as their running mates.
The two GOP nominees in that same period have picked one white man, two white women, and one black woman as their running mates.
The GOP has swept the races for all executive posts in the last three statewide elections. Campaign aides to the two leading Republican candidates for governor, Mr. Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro, declined comment on Mr. Strickland's decision.
Herb Asher, a political science professor at Ohio State University who was active in the failed effort last year that would have dramatically overhauled the state's election system, called the Fisher selection "a wonderful choice" for Mr. Strickland's campaign.
"He gets somebody from Cuyahoga County, he gets somebody who is experienced in statewide campaigns, and somebody with smarts and intelligence," Mr. Asher said.
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