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Newcomer Ealy eyes upset of FitzGerald

Democratic primary for governor is Ohio’s only statewide contest Tuesday

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COLUMBUS — The bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. John Kasich in November is the only statewide contest on Tuesday’s primary election ballot.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the party’s endorsed candidate, faces a challenge from the little-known and little-financed Larry Ealy of Trotwood near Dayton. Mr. Ealy’s campaign has been largely invisible, relying primarily on occasional appearances at local government meetings to gain free TV exposure.

 
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EDWARD O’DONNELL FITZGERALD

AGE: 45

RESIDENCE: Lakewood

OCCUPATION: Cuyahoga County executive (2011-present)

EDUCATION: Law degree, Cleveland Marshall College of Law (1993), bachelor's in political science, Ohio State University (1990)

PUBLIC SERVICE: Lakewood mayor (2007-11), city councilman (2000-07), Cuyahoga prosecutor (1994-95, 2000-04), FBI special agent (1995-98)

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LARRY ELLIS EALY

AGE: 51

RESIDENCE: Trotwood

OCCUPATION: Disabled

EDUCATION: Didn’t finish high school

PUBLIC SERVICE: Self-professed civil rights advocate

Call his phone, and you’ll hear Mr. Ealy’s recorded message: “I’m reminding everybody to vote on or before May 6 for the governor’s race where Larry Ealy is looking to become the first African-American governor in Ohio in 211 years…Spread the news.” Then you’re told his mailbox is full.

The two candidates have not focused much on each other and have not engaged in a formal debate. Mr. FitzGerald continues to target the Republican incumbent.

He accuses the governor and the Republican legislative majority of pursuing policies that benefit the wealthy, engaging in a war on women by imposing new restrictions on abortion services, making it tougher to vote, and cutting aid to local governments.

“Ohio families are struggling, and John Kasich’s policies are making it even harder,” a narrator states in Mr. FitzGerald’s first radio spot. The ad doesn’t mention his primary opponent.

“Kasich raised taxes on the middle class and seniors while giving the wealthy and corporations a tax cut he said would create jobs, but it’s not working for us,” the narrator said.

The former FBI special agent, Lakewood mayor, and city councilman has locked in the bulk of labor’s endorsements, and he’s banked $1.5 million at this point for the presumed general election battle ahead against a much better financed Mr. Kasich.

Mr. Ealy has focused largely on race, arguing that African-American Democrats have had no choice but to vote for a white candidate for governor in the past. He is believed to be the first black candidate to appear on an official Democratic ballot for governor, even though he registered with the party in Montgomery County for the first time last year and has no recent voting history there.

The former tow truck driver collects disability benefits, has been officially declared a “vexatious litigator” by the Ohio Supreme Court because of the numerous lawsuits he’s filed, and has had a number of run-ins, primarily traffic violations, with the law.

John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said Mr. Ealy’s candidacy is largely seen as a potential protest vote.

“The question is to what extent will there be a protest vote, and would be it because people are dissatisfied with Ed FitzGerald or more broadly with the Democratic Party,” Mr. Green said. “If he gets 10, 15, or 20 percent [of the vote], that would still be a huge victory for Ed FitzGerald numerically, but it might cause a number of observers to question FitzGerald’s strength.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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