Ohio Gubernatorial Race Highlights Battle To Irrelevancy

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Tea PartyFour years ago, John Kasich’s run for the Ohio governorship and the rise of the Tea Party were the talk of the nation. The former GOP congressman and O’Reilly Factor guest host was one of the Tea Party movement’s more familiar faces, going up against Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland who, thanks to an ambitious statewide intercity rail plan and the “D” in front of his name, best represented what Tea Partiers saw as a spendthrift politician.

The nation watched Ohio, as per usual, to gauge just how much trouble the Obama administration was in with the American public. We now know what happened. Tea Party candidates won big in a Republican Revolution akin to Newt Gingrich’s in 1994. Leading the way in gubernatorial elections were Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio.

Fast-forward to 2013 and Ohio, not to mention the nation’s interest in Ohio, is in stark contrast to the 2010 cycle.

Simply put – nobody cares. And both parties are to blame.

Tea Who?

First we look to the Tea Partiers, loathed by Democrats for their policies, but loved for their newfound ability to lose elections.

The initial media frenzy that a Tea Party Revolution was afoot now amounts to a mere radar blip. They are the political equivalent of a one hit wonder boy band whose 15 minutes have long since passed. The electorate has given them the proverbial “Bye, Bye, Bye.”

Problem is, nobody has bothered to tell the Tea Partier politicians who continue to rail against moderate Republicans with reactionary platforms. Sure they will win a primary every now and again, but Democrats have largely been able to handle Republican challengers who fall in the “Rape Immune Vaginas” section of the political spectrum.

With Tea Party support falling faster than one of Wile E. Coyote’s Acme anvils, one would think Governor John Kasich would have an uphill battle to save his seat in Columbus. Au contraire, mon logical thinker. Here’s where typical Democratic ineptitude comes to play.

Democratus Incompetus

If the Democratic donkey were in a Road Runner cartoon, it would come with the scientific classification of Democratus Incompetus.

Considering Kasich’s history of pissing just about everyone off over the past three years, one would deduce that Ohio Democrats have been busy readying a strong candidate to regain the Governor’s Mansion. Not so, evidently.

After a months of speculation that several prominent Democrats would drop out were realized, the party was left with Ed FitzGerald, County Executive in Cuyahoga County – a politician and office many outside of the county are unfamiliar with. It is safe to say more know of Joe “That’s Not His Real Name” the Plumber (who coincidentally ran an embarrassing Congressional campaign last Fall) than the man state Democrats have put their full support behind.

To be fair, FitzGerald’s resume is actually quite impressive. After serving as a Special Agent in the FBI, FitzGerald returned to Cleveland to work in Cuyahoga County’s Prosecutor’s office. Just a year later, he was elected to Lakewood City Council – an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. Nine years later in 2007, he was elected Mayor of Lakewood.

Now here is where FitzGerald began exemplifying symptoms related to Mandelitis – a political ailment named after opportunistic Josh Mandel, who has displayed a unique unwillingness to finish elected terms before jumping to the next opportunity.

Following a county corruption scandal involving, as always, embezzlement and prostitutes, the voters of Cuyahoga County instilled a new system of government. Despite his opposition to the new system, FitzGerald left his post as Mayor of Lakewood within his first term to run for the newly created County Executive position in 2010. Running on an anti-corruption platform backed by a non-threatening, J.C. Penny catalogue smile, FitzGerald defeated a field of 10 candidates to become the county’s first Executive.

Most would agree that FitzGerald has done a tremendous job in cleaning up the county. But some supporters began to turn when rumors began to abound that he was eyeing Kasich’s gig just two years into his Executive term. Surely an ailing county, fresh off a scandal that left voters with little faith in government, warrants at the very least one full term, right?

Hah!

The ambitious Executive started making appearances in Cincinnati and Toledo – cities who hadn’t the faintest idea as to his existence prior to his showing up. FitzGerald then launched an exploratory committee to explore the possibility of exploring a run for governor – or something. Before long, and without any other serious Democratic contenders, FitzGerald announced his intention to win the state back for Democrats.

Someone Worth Voting For

There you have it, politicos. John Kasich’s Tea Party has gone cold in a state that voted twice for President Obama, and the best Ohio Democrats could muster is a candidate with the name recognition of a professional bowler. That’s not to say name recognition is everything. After all, Kasich came was unknown by three-quarters of Ohioans in 2008.

Point is, if Ohio wants to remain a powerful political force outside of its obligatory swinging spotlight once every four years, then Democrats need to rethink their strategy in politician selection. The national party itself is only able to churn out an inspiring candidate once every eight years (Obama 2004, Castro 2012), so Buckeyes can’t simply hope for one to be born and working within state borders.

Meanwhile, Republicans, need to reward the moderates such as former Congressmen LaTourette and Voinovich, though the latter did fall into the trite “Obama is a socialist” meme. The Tea Party is dead. Caput. No more. Now give Ohioans someone worth voting for. That goes for both parties.

Meantime, Ohioans and political nerds should hope for a thoughtful, serious debate on important issues of the day between FitzGerald and Kasich. Like if FitzGerald refused to sign important state and federal documents that did not properly spell his name with a capital G.

See you in 2016, America.

About Joe Baur

Joe Baur is a freelance writer, filmmaker and satirist with a diverse array of interests including travel, adventure, craft beer, health, urban issues, culture and politics. He ranks his allegiances in the order of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the Rust Belt, and enjoys a fried egg on a variety of meats. Joe has a B.A. in Mass Communication with a focus on production from Miami University. Follow him at joebaur.com and on Twitter @BaurJoe
Posted in: Election, Politics