U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) gave a warm endorsement to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Thursday in an event that touched on many of the likely Democratic lines of attack against Republican Gov. John Kasich in the 2014 gubernatorial race.
Mr. FitzGerald’s appearance with Miss Kaptur was the first of a series of higher-profile endorsements that Mr. FitzGerald hopes will boost his name recognition among voters around the state. The Cuyahoga County executive drew some editorial catcalls in Toledo when he announced his candidacy in April in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, and saved Toledo for the second day.
Miss Kaptur admitted to a certain fondness for Mr. Kasich, with whom she served for 18 years in the Congress, before tearing into what she sees as the failures of his term as governor.
“I have known John for a long time. I really can’t help myself — I like the guy to some extent. But I simply can't support someone whose priorities are so out of step with Ohio's middle-class families,” Miss Kaptur said.
Mr. Kasich served in Congress from the Columbus area from 1983 to 2001. Miss Kaptur’s career in Congress also started in 1983.
“Governor Kasich has squandered Ohio’s fragile economic recovery. We now rank 47th in job creation,” Miss Kaptur said, citing a study by Pew Charitable Trusts. She accused Mr. Kasich of opposing the “refinancing” of the automotive industry, a reference to the taxpayer-funded bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors that saved them.
Miss Kaptur criticized the governor for using the Ohio Turnpike to borrow $1.5 billion against its tolls to spend on nonturnpike highway improvements, saying the toll money paid by northern Ohioans would be spent in other parts of the state.
She praised Mr. FitzGerald’s experience as an FBI agent and his tenure as executive of Cuyahoga County, where she said he has streamlined government and directed more money into education.
The endorsement was not unexpected. Mr. FitzGerald is the only Democrat competing for the nomination. Mr. FitzGerald said this was his first official endorsement, and he chose to make it in Toledo.
“We’ve got to have an 88-county strategy, so you’re going to see a whole lot of me," Mr. FitzGerald told the audience.
Mr. FitzGerald told supporters that Mr. Kasich is vulnerable. He said former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland lost by only 77,000 votes, and said several initiatives of the Kasich administration, if voters had known about them in advance, would have wiped out that deficit.
Mr. FitzGerald mentioned the governor’s backing of the failed Senate Bill 5 in 2011, which would have undercut public employee union bargaining rights. Mr. FitzGerald said the governor’s budgets and tax cuts led to the elimination of teachers’ jobs while millionaires get tax cuts.
Mr. FitzGerald’s home city of Lakewood, in western Cuyahoga County, is in Miss Kaptur’s 9th Congressional District.
At the announcement in Lucas County Democratic Party headquarters, Miss Kaptur was backed up by about 25 local Democrats, including Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, one of two Democrats running for mayor of Toledo in the Sept. 10 primary, along with Toledo City Councilman Joe McNamara. Mr. McNamara did not attend.
Miss Kaptur refused to take sides in Toledo’s contest. “They are both eminently qualified” and “talented and hard-working Democrats,” she said.
Also on the ballot are independent Mayor Mike Bell, independent city Councilman D. Michael Collins, independent Alan Cox, Libertarian Michael Konwinski, and Democrat-turned-Republican Opal Covey.
Lucas County Democratic Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said the event was advertised widely and that Mr. McNamara was as welcome there as Ms. Lopez.
Andrew Grunwald, Mr. McNamara’s campaign manager, said Mr. McNamara had an “unavoidable scheduling conflict.” Mr. Grumwald said Mr. McNamara supports Mr. FitzGerald and Miss Kaptur and that both of them know it. Also present for the endorsement event was Democratic City Councilman Adam Martinez, who is seeking re-election.
Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Republican chairman, said Mr. Kasich has turned the state around and said the governor acted quickly to make sure highway improvements were made to help Chrysler expand the Jeep assembly plant in Toledo.
“Ed FitzGerald is the only candidate they could find to run against a sitting governor who has high approval numbers from Democrats and Republicans,” Mr. Stainbrook said.
He added that Mr. Kasich has made good on his promises, unlike Congress, where Miss Kaptur serves, which, he said, is mired in “bickering and squabbling” and unable to do the nation’s business.
The Kasich administration has said 160,000 jobs have been created under his leadership, compared to 400,000 jobs lost under Mr. Strickland.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6058, or on Twitter @TomFTroy.