COLUMBUS — The expected Democratic Party choice to wage battle with Gov. John Kasich next year has selected a soft-spoken state senator from the opposite corner of the state as his running mate.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has picked Cincinnati state Sen. Eric Kearney, minority leader in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Mr. FitzGerald is expected to present Mr. Kearney during a two-day campaign rollout tour that starts today in Cincinnati and is slated to stop in Toledo in the afternoon.
“Eric is known for being one of the most effective members of the Ohio legislature, able to reach across party lines to get things done,” Mr. FitzGerald said in a campaign fund-raising email. “He is also a fierce advocate for Ohio’s middle-class families and children and shares my commitment to restoring those values to our state’s economy.
“Eric’s values are rooted in his Ohio upbringing and extend from his career to his personal life,” he said. “He and his wife, Jan-Michele, are raising two great kids in Cincinnati, near the house in which he grew up, and together they run a small business.”
Mr. Kearney, often seen in a bow tie, is known as a thoughtful and analytical debater, often pulling out law books to cite specific sections of state law when making his arguments on the Senate floor. Through his wife, he is a friend of President Obama and attended the future first couple’s wedding in Chicago.
Both men are lawyers and have somewhat similar personalities. But Mr. Kearney could be one way for the little-known Mr. FitzGerald to broaden his appeal beyond his Cleveland-area base.
“Kearney brings a couple of things,” said John Green, director of the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. “Being African-American, he helps FitzGerald with a key Democratic voting block. It would probably vote Democratic anyway, but FitzGerald will need high turnout and enthusiasm from the African-American community. Kearney helps with that.
“He also brings geographic balance,” he said. “Cincinnati is the opposite of Cleveland in a number of ways. It’s over in the southwest and is a more conservative region of the state.”
His name previously had come up as potential contender for statewide office next year because he is barred by term limits from seeking another term in the Senate.
Others reportedly considered for the No. 2 spot on Mr. FitzGerald's ticket were House Minority Leader Tracy Heard of Columbus; state Rep. Debbie Phillips of Athens; state Sen. Lou Gentile of Steubenville, and Columbus City Councilman Zach Klein.
“At the end, it comes down to a dynamic ticket that is going to be able to take the message across the state at a time when John Kasich has irrevocably harmed the state’s economy, slashed funding for schools, and rewarded his cronies,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redern said.
Mr. Kearney is “a thoughtful leader in the state Senate who has been praised by Democrats and Republicans for his ability to bring people together,” Mr. Redfern said. “One of his legislative accomplishments was cosponsored by then-Senate President Tom Niehaus to reform the state pension systems.”
Mr. Kearney, 51, received his bachelor’s degree in English at Dartmouth College and his law degree at the University of Cincinnati. He was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate in 2005 and then won a term in his own right the following year. He won re-election in 2010.
He ascended to minority leader of the Senate Democratic caucus in early 2012, the latest in a series of leaders of a caucus that currently numbers just 10 members, to 23 Republicans.
Like state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), who biked to Columbus to bring attention to physical fitness, Mr. Kearny garnered headlines for annual walks from Cincinnati to Columbus.
“The Democratic lieutenant-governor candidate fought against $2.7 billion in tax relief and called it ‘un-American’ this year and previously voted to delay tax relief,” Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges said. “He has offered continued praise and defense of Obamacare even after its disastrous rollout.”
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.