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Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic candidate for governor, campaigned at the Labor Fest picnic Monday in Maumee, vowing to use the unofficial Labor Day kickoff of the general election season to focus on the serious issues.
Not drivers’ licenses.
Mr. FitzGerald was one of several statewide political candidates to bring their campaign to the Northwest Ohio Labor Fest held at the Lucas County Recreation Center. The picnic followed the Labor Day Parade held in downtown Toledo.
Mr. FitzGerald said the media coverage of his campaign has been “extremely superficial.”
“What I’m hoping is that now that we have 64 days left I know what I’m going to be doing and that is talking about issues that matter to working people of Ohio, and I hope the media does the same thing,” said Mr. FitzGerald.
He is seeking to unseat Republican Gov. John Kasich in a race that is increasingly seen as Mr. Kasich’s to lose, largely because of political stumbles by the FitzGerald campaign.
“If people think that my driver’s license is one of the great moral issues I’m not going to have time for that,” Mr. FitzGerald said. “The public deserves a campaign that is focused on the big issues, and we have that on display here in Toledo where almost half a million people lost access to safe drinking water.”
The city of Toledo issued an advisory urging residents not to drink city water Aug. 2-4 because of a toxin caused by an algae bloom in Lake Erie. A spokesman for Mr. FitzGerald has accused Gov. John Kasich of putting special interests ahead of Ohioans’ safety by allegedly refusing to rein in fertilizer companies and of tolerating lower water quality. Fertilizer runoff from farms is blamed for much of the algae growth.
Mr. FitzGerald acknowledged in August that he went for about 10 years without a permanent license, from 2002 to 2012 — part of that time as mayor of Lakewood and as county executive. His spokesman said he had scheduled his license renewal several times, but things kept coming up, and he apologized through a spokesman.
Asked Monday why he failed to get his driver’s license during that time Mr. FitzGerald said, “it was an oversight and I was responsible for it,” and said he had answered the question multiple times.
In his speech to the crowd Mr. FitzGerald brought up Senate Bill 5, the 2011 effort by Republicans in the legislature and Mr. Kasich to weaken the bargaining power of public employee unions. Republicans contended it was needed to restore balance to the bargaining process with local governments, but the legislation was defeated by voters in a referendum.
“We’ve just got to reorient the whole state so we’ve got a governor and a whole statewide ticket that supports working people day in and day out. Trust me, if I win this election, every single day that I get up and go to work I’m going to know who I represent and that’s the working people of the state, that’s the working people of Toledo,” Mr. FitzGerald said.
In response to Mr. FitzGerald’s comments about the water crisis, Kasich campaign Connie Wehrkamp said, “We realize he’s been pretty distracted with some problems lately so he probably missed that Ohio made more than $200 million available to further address this issue, which is on top of the $460 million we’ve spent in the past four years.”
Also shaking hands and chatting with union members were Democrats Connie Pillich running for treasurer, David Pepper running for attorney general, and John Patrick Carney who is running for state auditor.
Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, who is running for re-election against Mr. Pepper, was a guest at the picnic thanks to his endorsement by the Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council.
Dennis Duffey, secretary-treasurer of Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, said the union broke with the typical union endorsement of Democratic candidates because Mr. DeWine supports his member unions’ issues, including the issue of misclassification of workers. That refers to when contractors intentionally identify a worker in a lower-paid category to lower what they have to pay for unemployment and workers’ compensation.
But Mr. Pepper said he’s the one who would enforce the law on misclassification of workers and cited his endorsement many of the unions that belong to the building trades council.
“They know I’ll do something about the worker misclassification, and a lot of other issues,” Mr. Pepper said, working the labor picnic just a few feet from Mr. DeWine. He claimed that Mr. DeWine dismantled a worker misclassification effort that was established by former Democratic Attorney General Richard Cordray.
Mr. DeWine denied that, saying that the way to tackle worker misclassification of workers is by encouraging contacts from labor unions, which want to expose the problem because it puts their contractor employers at a financial disadvantage.
Both men took turns talking to the same table of picnickers, Service Employees International Union members David Yarber, 53, Nikaya Jones, 38, and Barbara Nash, 66, all of Toledo. Despite the SEIU’s endorsement of Mr. Pepper, the trio seemed impressed with both men.
“Both of those guys are some awesome guys,” said Mr. Jones, “but you know I have to go with my guy.”
Ms. Nash, who works part-time for a cleaning company and full-time for the county, said she liked all three of the candidates she met, Mr. DeWine, Mr. Pepper, and Mr. FitzGerald.
Ms. Pillich, a state representative from a Cincinnati suburb, did not agree that the political problems at the head of the Democratic ticket will hurt her effort to unseat Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel.
“I have never relied on the top of the ticket to win my race,” said Ms. Pillich, adding that her House district is 56 percent Republican. “I win because I have a strong history of bipartisan support.”
Mr. Carney, who is running against Republican incumbent David Yost, picked up the endorsement of Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, who wore a Carney sticker to prove it.
“I see him as a man of integrity and believe he has a work ethic that will make him an outstanding auditor of state,” Mr. Collins said. The mayor is a political independent.
The labor fest was a new event organized by the Greater Toledo AFL-CIO to provide a social event for union members to attend after the traditional Toledo Labor Day Parade. Kate Jacob, secretary-treasure of Labor Fest, said 31 union locals participated in the inaugural picnic and 4,500 people showed up.
Attractions included food, a live rock band, and games, as well as a beer stand.
Ms. Jacob said the event was organized to bring all the unions together, community organizations, and elected officials together to support the community. The event started with the presentation of a $10,000 check to Ronald McDonald House.