Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive and Democratic candidate for governor, left, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), chat after Mr. Brown endorsed him during a visit to Toledo.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald collected the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) Friday during a rally in a downtown Toledo restaurant that showed labor will be a big part of next year’s political race.
About 70 people, many wearing jackets emblazoned with labor union labels, jammed into Michael’s Restaurant for the rally for Mr. FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive.
“I’ve known Ed a long time, and I even had the pleasure of swearing him in as mayor of Lakewood in 2008,” Mr. Brown said, after initially saying “city of Toledo.” He cited Mr. FitzGerald’s public service, including work as an FBI special agent and mayor of the Cuyahoga County city of Lakewood, before winning the first election for Cuyahoga County executive in 2010.
Mr. Brown’s predictable endorsement of his fellow Democrat appeared aimed to build momentum in the Democratic grass roots for Mr. FitzGerald against Republican Gov. John Kasich next year.
Mr. Brown said the Republicans are implementing a “national playbook” with attacks on women’s rights, workers’ rights, and voter rights that he said Mr. FitzGerald will roll back.
“You know they’ll go after prevailing wage, right-to-work, the middle-class standard of living,” he said. “Ed FitzGerald has shown ... his leadership turning around a county with as many problems as Cuyahoga had and has. I think his background and leadership will matter in fighting for the middle class and making sure we don’t continue this trickle-down economics that has never served our state or country very well.”
Mr. FitzGerald said he was heartened by the crowd. “Having this turnout and this energy level a year in advance is a really good sign for the campaign,” he said.
Mr. FitzGerald attacked Mr. Kasich’s administration as one created for “a small group of friends,” saying the GOP has raided education and local government funds and reduced eligibility for the homestead exemption in property taxes to pay for tax cuts for “the richest people in the state.”
He said that as county executive, “you have to have a governor that works with you in a partnership instead of raiding local funds.”
A poll by Public Policy Polling paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party and released Tuesday showed Mr. FitzGerald and Mr. Kasich tied at 41 percent each. Libertarian Charlie Earl of Bowling Green garnered 6 percent The poll was conducted among 595 Ohio voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Republicans rejected the poll as biased and not reliable, and said it was released to take attention away from the downgrading of Cuyahoga County’s bond ratings by Standard & Poor’s last month.
“Ed FitzGerald’s fiscal and economic mismanagement is coming to light and it is similar to the state Democrats who presided over the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs four years ago,” Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges said.
Mr. FitzGerald blamed the downgrading on the county’s loss of population from 2000 to 2010 and said the report from Standard & Poor’s complimented the county on excellent fiscal management.
A fund-raising appeal by the Ohio Democratic Party cited the Public Policy Polling results that for the first time measured the Libertarian candidate’s impact. They believe that Mr. Earl, if he gets on the ballot, will take votes from Mr. Kasich, and point to the recent gubernatorial election in Virginia as the prototype. Democrat Terry McAuliffe was elected with 48 percent of the vote to 45.5 percent for Republican Kenneth Cuccinelli. Libertarian Robert Sarvis got 6.6 percent.
“Kasich and his team are terrified that Republicans will follow through on their threats to abandon him, especially after witnessing a Libertarian cost Republicans the Governor’s office in Virginia,” the Democratic Party’s fund-raising message said. “No wonder the Governor is up to his usual tricks, just last week signing a bill to make it harder for the Libertarian to make the ballot.”
Governor Kasich last week signed a bill imposing restrictions on minor political parties’ access to Ohio’s ballot that critics dubbed the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act.” Senate Bill 193 imposes new signature thresholds for the Libertarian, Green, and other so-called “third parties” to get on Ohio’s ballot and then a subsequent election performance standard to stay there with the Republican and Democratic parties. The Libertarian Party of Ohio has filed a challenge in federal court.
GOP spokesman Chris Schrimpf disagreed Virginia’s election was a warning for Republicans.
“The lesson of Virginia is that Obamacare is an albatross for Democrats and it is only going to get worse for them. That should terrify Ohio Democrats,” Mr. Schrimpf said.
Mr. Kasich has been criticized by conservatives in his party for supporting the expansion of Medicaid and failing so far to get behind a right-to-work effort.