COLUMBUS — One campaign manager is out and another is in at an Ed FitzGerald gubernatorial campaign that is underfunded and under fire.
The Democratic campaign announced today that Chip Shannon, political director since January 2013, would assume the duties of manager, a position now held by Nick Buis. Mr. Shannon has never headed a major campaign before.
That’s one of several shakeups within the beleaguered campaign expected to continue through the end of the week.
Veteran Democratic campaign consultants Aaron Pickrell and Louis Capobianco have also left the campaign.
Campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said it would be inaccurate to present the changes as a sign that key campaign workers are abandoning ship.
“It’s clear that the reasons the campaign is making these changes are because, in order to win, we have to address challenges in fund-raising and negative press,” she said. “If everything was going according to the plan, we wouldn’t be changing things.”
The campaign plans to announce the results of its staffing shakeup on Friday. Ms. Hitt would not say whether she would be among the changes announced or whether communications director Daniel McElhatton is also out.
Ms. Hitt said it’s not true that the changes are being made because the campaign can’t afford the staffing it has.
“There’s no question we can afford them,” she said. “The question is what’s the best use of our resources.”
The campaign has struggled to gain momentum after early stumbles, including having to replace Mr. FitzGerald’s first lieutenant governor pick because of questions over unpaid business and personal taxes.
Republican Gov. John Kasich has nearly a 5-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage, $11.4 million to $2.4 million, over Mr. FitzGerald as of July and is getting major help on top of that from the Republican Governors Association. No deep-pocketed counterpart has come to fund similar ads on Mr. FitzGerald’s behalf.
The RGA began airing its latest TV ad this week in support of Mr. Kasich, consisting entirely of media reports on the fact that Mr. FitzGerald drove for years without a permanent drivers’ license. The emphasis is on the “shady” in the ad.
The revelation about Mr. FitzGerald’s lack of a permanent driver’s license for nearly a decade followed the release of a Westlake police report that Mr. FitzGerald was found in a car alone with a woman who was not his wife while parked in an industrial complex parking lot in the early hours of an October 2012 morning.
The police officer reported they were “just talking.” Mr. FitzGerald has said nothing improper occurred, and the woman with him, Joanne Grehan, a member of an Irish delegation visiting the county, issued a statement that the situation was “innocuous.”
All of this piled on a campaign that was already having difficulty raising the kind of money needed to mount the a TV presence to defeat a well-financed incumbent and effectively make its case that Mr. Kasich’s policies benefit the wealthy at the expense of middle-class and lower-income Ohioans.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, has had the governor’s race at “likely R” in the center’s Crystal Ball predictions for gubernatorial races across the nation for some time.
“For all practical purposes, we’ve put Ohio’s governor’s race to bed,” he said. “If something big happens, we’ll obviously go back to it. …The lines have been drawn, and a kindergartner could color in the likely results at this point.
“It’s the failure of the FitzGerald campaign as much as it the success of Kasich,” Mr. Sabato said. “(Mr. Kasich) still has rough edges. But Ohio is highly competitive and tends to reflect the national mood of any given year. Right now the mood is leans-Republican. I don’t see a Republican wave. ..That may develop in late September or October, but it’s not there yet. If things continue on the current track, this could be a safe Republican race.”
And that was before the internal shake-up within the FitzGerald campaign.
Among other things, Mr. Shannon was previously deputy director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in Ohio and worked on the We Are Ohio campaign that led to the 2011 voter rejection of the Senate Bill 5 restrictions on collective bargaining signed by Mr. Kasich.
Mr. Shannon is from Mt. Sterling, Ohio. Ms. Hitt said she doesn’t “buy into” the assessment of some that the campaign had filled its ranks with out-of-state staffers, including herself.