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Published: Friday, 3/15/2013

Top Cleveland Dem headlines annual St. Patrick's Day lunch in Toledo

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Ed Fitzgerald, the Cuyahoga County executive who is exploring a run for Ohio governor, speaks at the Lucas County Democratic Party's St. Patrick's Day luncheon at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo. Ed Fitzgerald, the Cuyahoga County executive who is exploring a run for Ohio governor, speaks at the Lucas County Democratic Party's St. Patrick's Day luncheon at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo.
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Democrat Ed FitzGerald of Cuyahoga County, who this week announced he has formed a committee to explore a run for governor of Ohio, blasted the administration of Republican Gov. John Kasich in a speech to Toledo Democrats today.

Mr. FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, headlined the Lucas County Democrats' St. Patrick's Day Party luncheon at the Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Toledo. About 200 people attended the event where meal tickets were $15.

"The state budget was balanced by unbalancing your budget," Mr. FitzGerald said. "The state budget was balanced by cutting your police officers, your teachers, your firefighters, your EMS workers. They're using your money. They're taking local money, and they just transferred it into the state budget."

Noting that the state budget is gaining revenue, he criticized the administration for proposing an income tax cut rather than "giving it back to the school districts that they cut it out of" or to "Toledo and the suburbs of Toledo to try to make up for some of the money they stole from you in the first place."

He said people earning $25,000 will pay more in taxes while people earning $1 million will get a $10,000 tax break.

"It's the same movie that we saw in 2012. It's just that John Kasich is now playing the role of Mitt Romney," Mr. FitzGerald said, referring to the 2012 Republican presidential contender.

He credited local Democratic lawmakers with helping to prevent Governor Kasich from "giving [the Ohio Turnpike] away completely."

Mr. Kasich is advocating a plan to borrow $1.5 billion to spend on highway and bridge work against turnpike revenues rather than, as he was originally considering, leasing the turnpike.

Mr. FitzGerald also blasted the governor's plan to expand what's covered by the sales tax. The governor also proposes to reduce the state portion of the sales tax from 5.5 to 5 percent.

"If you end up getting more in debt because of these extra taxes and you need tax counseling, be careful because there's another tax on debt counseling," he said.

And in an appeal to union representatives in the audience, he said he has no doubt that Gov. Kasich is thinking about how to get right-to-work legislation passed in Ohio. Right-to-work would undermine the power of unions or organize workplaces.

Mr. FitzGerald said that when he took office in 2011 - the same time as Governor Kasich - he established a job development fund, but rejected suggestions to form a private corporation such as Governor Kasich's JobsOhio group. The governor is under fire from Republican Ohio Auditor David Yost to allow the program to be audited.

"I said it sounds like a bad idea and it sounds illegal to me," Mr. FitzGerald said. "It hasn't created a lot of jobs," he said of JobsOhio, joking that two people allegedly hired by Governor Kasich to videotape him are "the only two jobs he actually created in Ohio."

Mr. FitzGerald on Monday said he formed his gubernatorial committee, saying it was to explore a run for the governorship.

Mr. FitzGerald wasn't wearing any green colors today, unlike most of the guests, but said with his last name and the middle name of O'Donnell, he doesn't have to prove his Irishness. Mr. FitzGerald said later that he is 100 percent of Irish descent, from great-grandparents who immigrated to the Cleveland area.

He was born in and grew up in Indianapolis and returned to Lakewood, in Cuyahoga County, in the 1980s, he said. Being a non-native is not something Mr. Kasich could use to attack Mr. FitzGerald, since Mr. Kasich is a transplant from Pittsburgh.

Mr. FitzGerald said forming an exploratory committee allows him to fund-raise more aggressively. He predicted a 2014 race between him and Mr. Kasich will rival the cost of last year's U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D.) and Republican Treasurer of State Josh Mandel. Between them they spent about $43 million, not counting about $36 million in spending by outside groups, according to www.opensecrets.org, the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Other names mentioned as potential contenders for the Democratic nomination for governor are Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general and currently President Obama’s top consumer watchdog in Washington; U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan from the Youngstown area; and former Akron area congressman Betty Sutton.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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