Monday, December 30, 2013

The year in Ohio politics: 6 stories that shaped 2013 and set the stage for what happens next

Off year? What off year?

There were no statewide elections in Ohio in 2013 – not even a statewide ballot issue to whet the appetite for the even-numbered-year slugfest to come. But political reporters hoping for some recovery time after the presidential battleground theatrics of 2012 quickly learned that the permanent campaign had taken hold in the Buckeye State.

Yes, 2013 brought plenty of moving parts with big implications for 2014 and beyond.

Here is our look back at Ohio’s top political stories of 2013.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Primary challenge for FitzGerald? Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune may run for governor

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, once confident of a clear Democratic field in his bid for governor, soon could have a primary challenger.

Todd Portune, an attorney and Hamilton County commissioner, said Tuesday that he is considering a run and will make a decision in the next two weeks -- by year's end.

His interest is a fresh sign of potential trouble for FitzGerald. The former Lakewood mayor is searching for a new running mate after financial problems chased his first pick, State Sen. Eric Kearney, from the race last week amid questions of poor vetting.

In an interview with the Northeast Ohio Media Group, Portune said he had earlier ruled out a bid to unseat Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014. But Portune began having second thoughts when Kearney, a friend and fellow Cincinnatian, was dumped from the ticket.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Eric Kearney out as lieutenant governor candidate in Ed FitzGerald's campaign for Ohio governor

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald found an exit Tuesday for embattled running mate Eric Kearney, but uncertainty remains around his 2014 campaign for governor.

Who will replace Kearney, the state senator from Cincinnati, as FitzGerald's running mate on the Democratic ticket? What will be the long-term impact of nearly three weeks of scrutiny over Kearney's messy finances and FitzGerald's judgment in picking him?

The FitzGerald campaign announced Kearney's withdrawal as a candidate for lieutenant governor in an afternoon email. The statement offered no hints about FitzGerald's plans to pick a new running mate but indicated the decision to move on was mutual.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Could Ed FitzGerald find himself looking for a new running mate? It happened to Jim Petro in 2006

One was from Cleveland, the other from Cincinnati. Their political marriage was one of convenience, balancing ideology and geography.

And, with what some might call 20/20 hindsight, it was doomed from the start.

Ed FitzGerald and Eric Kearney? Try again.

This is the story of Jim Petro and Phil Heimlich.

Most of the circumstances surrounding their ill-fated partnership are different than those haunting FitzGerald and Kearney after two weeks together. The point is, should either desire a change, FitzGerald would not be the first candidate for governor to need a new running mate. He wouldn’t even be the first this century, or even in the last decade.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

FitzGerald running mate Eric Kearney on hook for more than $825,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties

Eric Kearney, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor facing scrutiny over his personal and business finances, revealed Wednesday that he, his wife and their publishing company owe more than $825,000 in late federal and state taxes.

The disclosure followed nearly two weeks of questions that have overshadowed gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald's introduction of Kearney as his running mate. And it came during a 95-minute teleconference with reporters in which Kearney repeatedly stressed that he was offering an "unprecedented" peek into a politician's money matters.

The session kept alive doubt about how thoroughly FitzGerald and his campaign vetted the Ohio Senate minority leader from Cincinnati. Kearney said FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, was fully aware of his financial difficulties before selecting him. But the campaign, until Wednesday, had been unable to pin an exact dollar amount on the debt.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Messy running mate rollout tests Ed FitzGerald's political mettle in race for Ohio governor: Analysis

Ed FitzGerald knew it would be the first major decision of his 2014 campaign for governor. But in the two weeks since he picked State Sen. Eric Kearney to be his running mate on the Democratic ticket, almost nothing has gone right.

The announcement came off as rushed and prompted speculation that the campaign was eager to drown out a story about FitzGerald's struggles in the black political community.

Those rush-job theories multiplied when Kearney's voluminous money problems began trickling out 24 hours later, while FitzGerald was still introducing his new No. 2.

What could have been a one-day story raged on because Kearney and Team FitzGerald were not forthcoming about his debts. And when reporters from across Ohio kept asking simple questions about how much Kearney owes in unpaid taxes, the campaign not only had incomplete answers, it had to seek additional documentation from outside sources.

That raised another question: Why didn't FitzGerald have that information already?

Meaty policy issues will have their day in this race. But the rollout of the FitzGerald-Kearney ticket is as instructive a signpost as any when evaluating where the Cuyahoga County executive's bid for governor stands. Once the upstart candidate in a hurry, FitzGerald now finds the mechanics of a statewide campaign – his first – moving faster than his operation can support.

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