The climax of the first phase in the race for governor of Ohio in 2018 fast approaches. The May 8 primary election will be here soon. Early voting has already begun. The Democratic and Republican nominations will soon be settled, and we will move into the fall campaign.
There is some evidence that the front runners, Mike DeWine for the Republicans and Richard Cordray for the Democrats, are running scared.
According to some insiders, Lt. Gov Mary Taylor is gaining strength and undecided voters are disproportionately breaking her way. There is a TV ad out, running constantly, calling Ms. Taylor a phony and fake conservative. It would not be running if she were not gaining some traction.
Dennis Kucinich, the former Cleveland mayor and congressman, was also building strength, at least until last week. He was railing against gun violence and positioning himself as a sort of liberal Donald Trump or an Ohio Bernie Sanders. He’s been crisscrossing the state and involving himself in local issues. He was the subject of a long, flattering Washington Post profile and the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer endorsed him. Both made the point that Mr. Kucinich comes by his populism honestly.
TOM TROY: Assad link bad news for Kucinich
And then it was revealed that Mr. Kucinich took a $20,000 speaking fee from a group that supports anti-American 9/11 conspiracy theories, and worse, is supportive of the Assad regime in Syria.
Mr. Kucinich was at pains to say that he merely went to speak for peace, and no one thinks he supports using nerve gas on civilians. If he had spoken for free this would be more persuasive. The check taints the crusader.
The story is potentially devastating to the Kucinch campaign. It will at least slow his momentum, and it could do much worse. It could be disastrous politically in the fall, if Mr. Kucinich becomes the nominee.
The Ohio Democratic Party, which learned nothing from the Hillary Clinton debacle, and the national party’s suicidal sabotage of Bernie Sanders, and which hates Mr. Kucinich, could not contain its glee at his self-immolation. It dispatched former Gov. Ted Strickland, a tired and cynical old war horse, to shoot the wounded — several times if possible.
Conceivably Mr. Kucinich may still get the last laugh. His supporters, like Trump supporters, already know their guy has flaws. And Mr. Cordray, who is to political theater what Dragnet was to TV drama, may not find a way to exploit Mr. Kucinich’s folly.
Meanwhile Joe Schiavoni, a state senator from Youngstown who is also running for governor on the Democratic side, is lost in the dust and the distraction. And he is the real deal in many ways — possessing the seriousness of Mr. Cordray and the passion of Mr. Kucinich, and in a much younger package. Plus he has actually been living in Ohio and and working in Ohio government for the past 10 years. Being the floor leader for your party in the state Senate, especially in the minority, is a tough job and Mr. Schiavoni has acquitted himself well. He’s a comer.
Alas, Ohio Democrats are so calcified and clueless that they do not recognize new talent, even when it falls on them. When it does, they shake it off.
That’s why Ohio Democrats have no bench, and have had none since Dick Celeste.
They throw a guy like P.G. Sittenfeld, or a young mayor like Nan Whaley of Dayton, or Mr. Schiavoni on the scrap heap in favor of retreads and geriatrics who are essentially visiting from Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile the Republicans may be preparing to nominate a guy who is 71 and has been in politics since 1976 — not quite as long as the Orrin Hatch, Jerry Brown, and Joe Biden, but a long time.
The questions are these: How angry are the voters of Ohio? How many of them are there? How many of those will actually come out to vote?
There is plenty to be angry about. Poverty and crime infest our central cities. Our great lake is perishing before our eyes. Many of the beautiful small towns of Ohio, and the gentle folkways that existed in them, have been obliterated by the so-called global economy. Our children are dying of heroin and fentanyl. And as all this unfolds, our governor, blinded by an idiotic dream of being president of the United States, has seemingly lost all interest in the people who are suffering in our state, or in governing — the job he is duty bound to perform.
None of the candidates have eloquently engaged these insults and outrages.
So maybe the Ohio voter goes to the re-set button — familiarity. Maybe the old shoe Mike DeWine and the plodding, rational Rich Cordray, both of them uninspired and uninspiring, win by a kind of default. Both will offer sobriety, calm, competence, and something else — full engagement. Half the secret of being a good governor is working at it. Not at the promotional part of it but the job itself. Think of Jim Rhodes or Frank Lausche. We could do worse. We have.
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