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Wednesday, October 01, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

FitzGerald campaign appoints new manager

Several top aides leave struggling drive to replace Kasich

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
FitzGerald FitzGerald
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COLUMBUS — The manager of Ed FitzGerald’s gubernatorial campaign has left and been replaced as a campaign that is underfunded and under fire struggles to get back on message in its bid to unseat Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Kasich Kasich
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The Democratic campaign announced Tuesday that Chip Shannon, Mr. FitzGerald’s political director since January, 2013, would assume the duties of manager, a position held by the departed Nick Buis. Mr. Shannon has never headed a major campaign before.

That’s part of a larger shakeup within the beleaguered campaign that is expected to continue through the end of the week. Aaron Pickrell and Louis Capobianco, veteran Democratic campaign consultants, also have left the campaign, spokesman Lauren Hitt confirmed.

She said it would be inaccurate to present the changes as a sign that key campaign workers are abandoning a sinking 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 final results of its staffing shakeup on Friday. Ms. Hitt would not say whether she would be among the changes announced and would not confirm that communications director Daniel McElhatton is also out.

The campaign has struggled to gain momentum after early stumbles, including needing to replace Mr. FitzGerald’s first lieutenant governor pick because of questions over unpaid business and personal taxes.

Mr. Kasich has nearly a 5-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage over Mr. FitzGerald as of July and is getting major help with TV ads on top of that from the Republican Governors Association.

The latest RGA ad this week focuses on 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 at an industrial complex lot in the early hours of a morning in October, 2012.

The responding officer, Mr. FitzGerald, and the woman in question, a member of an Irish delegation visiting the county, have all said nothing untoward occurred. But all of this has piled onto a campaign already in difficulty.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, has marked the governor’s race at “likely R” in the center’s Crystal Ball predictions 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.”

Jim Ruvolo of Toledo, former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said it’s too soon to write off Mr. FitzGerald.

“It’s not good to make changes in August, but it’s still August,” he said. “The public is not paying attention, so there’s time. What impact this has on potential contributors is the big issue.

“Obviously, the first election is with opinion leaders — reporters contributors, people who are highly tuned in right now,” Mr. Ruvolo said. “The campaign is in trouble with those people. They can turn it around if they have a good team that hits the ground running and puts out good policy that goes after what Kasich is doing on issues that people care about.”

Mr. Shannon of Mount Sterling, Ohio, was 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.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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