Jill Smith shakes hands with Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald along the parade route.
If Ed FitzGerald wants to win the race for governor of Ohio this year, he’s going to need Toni Ricker to get out to vote.
Ms. Ricker, 52, was one of hundreds of people who lined the African-American Festival Parade route Saturday in central Toledo and who shook hands with the Democrat who wants to be Ohio’s next governor.
“I voted one time in my whole life — when I was trying to get Bush out,” Ms. Ricker said after shaking Mr. FitzGerald’s hand. “I just wanted Bush out. I didn’t care who come in.”
It was not clear which Bush Ms. Ricker was referring to.
Mr. FitzGerald, the county executive of Cuyahoga County, walked and ran the full 2½-mile parade route, repeatedly sticking out his hand and saying, “Ed FitzGerald, I’m running for governor.” His newly acquired campaign bus, painted black, orange, and blue, slowly followed him.
He’s seeking to dislodge incumbent Gov. John Kasich in the Nov. 4 election.
“It’s just nice to get out and see people. We got very good feedback. This is a Democratic area, yes, but we’ve gotten a good response everywhere. We’ve got a lot of people saying they support us, and we’ve got a lot of people saying they do not like John Kasich,” Mr. FitzGerald said.
The Toledo visit occurred between stops on what the FitzGerald campaign called the “Hometown Tour,” with events in Parma and Oak Harbor on Friday and Norwalk and Ashland on Saturday afternoon and evening, with a message focused on Governor Kasich’s cutbacks in local government funds. Governor Kasich has put his emphasis on cutting state income taxes.
Mr. FitzGerald began running his first television ad of the campaign last week on cable channels in Toledo and broadcast channels in Columbus and Cleveland. He is lagging Mr. Kasich, who is on his third television commercial since April, because of the Republican incumbent’s better fund-raising efforts so far.
“I saw you on television,” said one man who stood on his porch when Mr. FitzGerald went up to meet him.
“That’s why we have to buy television,” Mr. FitzGerald said. “That’s like the fifth person who said, ‘I saw you on television.’ ”
A poll by Public Policy Polling commissioned and carried out earlier this month in Ohio showed Mr. Kasich leading Mr. FitzGerald by 45 percent to 44 percent, with 11 percent undecided.
Mr. Kasich has also been paying attention to Lucas County voters. He was in Toledo on Thursday to sign paperwork designating a 52-acre former park on the Maumee River as a demonstration site for alternative uses of dredged material aimed at improving the quality of Lake Erie water.
Maleka Hill, a grad coach and advisor for YWOE members at Jones Elementary School, left, Diamond Himon, a sixth grader at Jones, and Alana Belcher, a seventh grader at Jones, carrying the flag for TPS' YMOE/YWOE.
Connie Wehrkamp, a spokesman for the governor, said later Saturday, “Governor Kasich’s top priority remains getting Ohioans back to work and adding to the nearly 263,000 private-sector jobs created since he took office. Ohio is coming back thanks to his pro-jobs leadership, but there’s more to do.”
Focus on turnout
In 2010, 95 percent of voters in the ward in which the parade started and finished, Ward 14, voted for the Democratic candidate, incumbent Ted Strickland — the highest percentage in Lucas County. But it also had a below-average turnout, at 34 percent. Mr. Strickland carried Lucas County with 61 percent of the vote and turnout was 46 percent, but he lost the election.
The parade route also cut through Ward 8, which went 89 percent for Mr. Strickland but had only 26 percent turnout in the 2010 election.
Turning out Democratic voters is the goal of Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, who addressed Lucas County Democrats in a fund-raising gathering Thursday night.
Mr. Redfern said that if Lucas County Democrats increase the turnout this year by 8,788 votes — and other counties increase their turnout as well — Mr. FitzGerald will win the fall election by 125,000 votes statewide. Mr. Strickland lost his 2010 re-election effort against Mr. Kasich by about 77,000 votes.
Ms. Ricker said she wants Mr. FitzGerald to do something about gang violence.
“A lot of innocent people are getting killed. Really, you should have a license to get a gun,” she said.
Ms. Ricker stood with a friend, Ron Russell, 53, along Indiana Avenue as the two-hour parade went by.
“Don’t forget that you shook my hand,” Mr. Russell told the candidate. “I could tell he’s going to be a cool governor because he’s out already, walking in the community,” he said after Mr. FitzGerald left.
The parade featured men on horseback, a Corvette club, groups from Toledo Public Schools, and numerous Democratic politicians, including Ohio attorney general candidate David Pepper.
Councilman Jack Ford, who is running as an independent for the Ohio Senate, rode in a late-model Mustang convertible. His Democratic opponent, incumbent state Sen. Edna Brown of Toledo, rode in an open 1969 Pontiac Firebird. Both threw candy to children as they slowly drove the route. The Lucas County Democratic Party is trying to have Mr. Ford thrown off the ballot on the grounds he is a Democrat, not an independent.
Mr. Ford said the parade has grown over the years, and Mr. FitzGerald is the first gubernatorial candidate, to his knowledge, to walk in it.
While passing by the historic home of jazz great Art Tatum, Mr. FitzGerald noticed the house’s condition, with a broken window, a window swinging open, and peeling paint.
“I have never seen an Ohio historical marker that is not maintained to that extent,” Mr. FitzGerald said.
Senator Brown, who rode a couple positions behind Mr. FitzGerald, said addressing the blight of the Tatum house, on City Park Avenue, “is on my to-do list.”
The ‘right track’
Cenia Prior, 52, of Grand Avenue, who watched the parade from Dorr Street, said Mr. FitzGerald likely had her vote already, though she didn’t know much about him.
“He is a Democrat, so I am very interested in him. From what I’m reading on this pamphlet it sounds like he is on the right track,” Ms. Prior said, referring to a campaign card Mr. FitzGerald gave her.
Jeanette Lively, who came to the parade from her home on Inverdale Avenue, said she’s had enough of Mr. Kasich.
“I come here every year to support the African-American festival, and I enjoy it so much. I will support Mr. FitzGerald,” Ms. Lively, 62, said. “I am not happy with how our government is going as far as health care and violence here in Ohio.”
The Toledo African-American Festival, in its 10th year, is sponsored by the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, at the University of Toledo Scott Park Campus. VIP admission today is $15 and general admission is $10. Tickets for seniors, college students with ID, and children age 4 to 18 are $5. Children under 4 are admitted free. Gates open at 1 p.m. and the festival closes at 10 p.m. A schedule of performances is at toledourban.com.