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COLUMBUS — Gov. Ted Strickland today passed the political torch of sorts to the next generation of Ohio Democratic candidates as he endorsed Ed FitzGerald as Ohio’s best shot of defeating Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014.
Mr. Kasich and fellow Republicans often cite the former governor’s economic record during his recession-era administration whenever making the case for what Mr. Kasich has called the “Ohio miracle.”
“This election is about the future, not the past, as it should be,” Mr. Strickland said. “I can point to Gov. Kasich’s record. I don’t want to overstate things, but I believe the recovery began in the last year of the prior administration. Unemployment decreased during that last year about the same amount if decreased in the first full year of the Kasich administration.”
The endorsement came as no surprise. Mr. FitzGerald is the only Democrat in the race. But Mr. Strickland said he has been watching Cuyahoga County’s first executive in the six months since the former governor decided he would not seek a rematch with Mr. Kasich.
“It’s very clear to me that he gets it, and he gets it done,” Mr. Strickland said. “He’s someone, I believe, the middle class and people struggling to become part of the middle class can put their trust in.”
Mr. Kasich’s poll numbers have rebounded significantly since hitting lows in the midst of the 2011 ballot fight over a Republican-passed state law restricting the clout of public employee unions. That fight handed the governor a decisive defeat just months after taking office.
But now, assuming he wins re-election next year, his name is mentioned in the company of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and other potential contenders for the GOP nomination for president in 2016.
Mr. Strickland came up roughly 80,000 votes short in his campaign for re-election. A weaker-than-expected turnout from Cleveland area Democrats was considered a key factor in his loss.
Hailing from Cuyahoga County, Mr. FitzGerald should be able to bridge that gap, Mr. Strickland said.
Mr. Kasich, however, has also been wooing Ohio’s most populous county, most notably by partnering with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in ushering through legislation to enact reforms in Cleveland city schools.
Most recently, Mr. Kasich went to Mr. FitzGerald’s back yard to tout the state aggressive new highway and bridge construction program fueled by borrowing against the Ohio Turnpike. Perhaps the highest profile project, the $390 million Opportunity Corridor, would extend the I-490 expressway into the heart of the city.