Tea Party Beats Ohio Democrat Chairman

It was a very good night for Republicans throughout the country.  It looks like nine Senate seats will switch into the GOP’s favor, as well as at least 12 house seats.  Ohio did not have competitive races at the top of the ticket, and Gov. Kasich certainly won his re-election very handily.  There are questions about turn-out and how they related to this election, but I’m not sure clear conclusions can be drawn.  Looking only at raw votes, Kasich only gained 33K more votes while the Democrat had about 880K fewer.  That’s almost a million fewer votes in 2014 than in 2010.  Also, 88K voters made decisions on other races but left the Governor race blank, which was the recommendation of many of the Tea Parties in Ohio.

The biggest news of the night was Tea Party candidate Steve Kraus running against and beating the Democrat Chairman Chris Redfern.

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/news/politics/6185231
http://www.portclintonnewsherald.com/story/news/politics/elections/2014/11/04/kraus-redfern-face-th-district/18487687/

Ohio’s 89th district includes Erie and Ottawa counties, which Barack Obama won with about 53% and is represented in parts by both Marcy Kaptur and Jim Jordan.  The Ohio Republican Party did NOT put up a candidate during the months before the filing deadline and for much of the year never looked twice at this race.  When some polls came out showing that Redfern was vulnerable, the GOP again flinched when they saw that Kraus was solidly backed by the Tea Party.  For those who think that the job of the Republican Party is to support Republicans, that is not the case in Ohio.  The party is very much in the back pocket of John Kasich and the political gurus around him, and they have allies in the Ohio House, Senate, and the Supreme Court.  (Justice Judy French stated that her job on the Ohio Supreme Court included acting as a “backstop” for the GOP agenda – http://www.dispatch.com/content/blogs/the-daily-briefing/2014/10/10-25-14-french-remarks.html).  Kraus won this race as a Republican but without the help of the Ohio GOP.

Out of the 99 Ohio House seats, the Republican advantage grew from 60 seats to 65 after this election.  The Senate remains the same with a 23-10 GOP advantage.  The new House members, including Steve Kraus, are a bit more conservative than the previous makeup and are less likely to bow to the cronyism inside the Republican Party.  This can only be a good thing for Ohio, and may serve as a counterpoint to any progressive policies that John Kasich may promote as he considers the feasibility of a presidential run.

The Tea Party Flop

In the two months since my last post, the Tea Party faction of the Republican party rightfully decided to mount a primary challenge to John Kasich.  Ted Stevenot is a conservative grassroots leader and was willing to suffer the slings and arrows of a “hopeless” campaign against a “popular” sitting governor.  Well, maybe not.  (Kasich Catches a Break)

If given the choice between making a primary challenge versus voting a principled third-party, I would choose the primary 99 times out of 100.  Some Tea Party members (who weren’t enamored with the Republican party anyway) are willing to go third party instead of supporting John Kasich.  Former Republican Congressman Charlie Earl is running as a Libertarian and would likely take a few thousand votes away from Kasich, possibly allowing the Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald to win.  Instead I prefer a primary, and was excited about the potential Stevenot race.  He likely would have lost, but it would have forced Kasich to regularly address the concern of conservative voters.

Additionally, the elected GOP in Columbus acted unconstitutionally when they disallowed third parties to petition for the ballot.  (Libertarians Win Challenge).  So its back to Plan B for conservatives who will need to decide how they feel about their governor.  Kasich has risen in popularity with his support of Medicaid Expansion, but will this translate into votes?  Are Ted Strickland voters going to flip to Kasich?  How much abandonment can Kasich afford from those who voted for him in 2010?

I think by November, Kasich will win by maybe three points instead of two.  He will likely be asked about his national intentions for 2016, either as a candidate himself (he ran for President very briefly in 2000) or as a Vice-Presidential pick.  And if the Ohio Tea Party is smart, they’ll bring up Obamacare Expansion and how it was enacted without the approval of the legislature, and they’ll bring up the establishment mentality that tried to restrict choices on the ballot, then they’ll concede that Kasich is better than Fitzgerald, but then for 2016 they’ll point to Wisconsin and say “There is your Midwest Governor.”

Senator Rob Portman and the Mike Lee Problem

What do you call a person who pays for something he is dead set against?  Senator!

And so it is with the GOP establishment.  The House has voted to repeal Obamacare almost 40 times, which we all understand to be a fool’s errand.  Where the real damage can and SHOULD be done is with the budget process.  The Congress, if it still has power, controls the money in Washington DC.  The weak-kneed Republican leadership has never drawn a battle line from which they wouldn’t retreat.  Continuing resolutions have given the federal government uncontrolled access to whatever money they ask for, and they’ve spent it on dance lessons, conventions, and daily air travel.  Forgive us GOP if we don’t say thank you.

Sen. Mike Lee has a letter that says he will continue to fund all the stupid portions of the federal government, but he won’t fund Obamacare.  Sounds overly-generous to me, but it is the last line in the sand we can draw when it comes to Obamacare.  Next year, everybody will need to look at exchanges, private insurance at whatever cost they offer, or pay a fine by April 2015.  And what comes after 2015?  The campaigns and elections of 2016, which includes Senator Rob Portman.

Our Republican Governor John Kasich has tried to get Ohio to partake in Obamacare’s Medicaid buy-in program and this has infuriated Ohio’s Tea Parties.  It is likely that they will challenge him in a primary or (worse) run a conservative third-party candidate.  There simply aren’t enough conservatives in Ohio that can survive two candidates on the right and we’ll be setting the carpet for Democrat Ed Fitzgerald.  Kasich’s poll numbers are up right now, but I forsee some problems in the months to come.

But Kasich’s problems won’t come close to Portman’s if he continues to support the funding of Obamacare.  The farm bill, internet sales tax, and his dance around the amnesty issue have made Portman a player for the establishment when we need people on the opposition.  Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul are showing people how it’s done.  If Rob Portman isn’t being helpful, then he’s likely to be shown the door in 2016.

The Ohio GOP Leadership Choice

Being in the Tea Party is a lot like being one of the Spartans in Frank Miller’s “300.” We live, think, and breathe conservative principles while facing a massive establishment which see principles as secondary to political advantage. This lets Karl Rove throw himself on stage again with “the answer” which he can provide for a price.  This lets Reince Priebus be re-elected as National GOP chairman after leading Republicans to crushing national defeats in 2012. When the defeat was studied, the party chose the autopsy to be done by the same people who did the shooting! Nice line, huh?

I can’t take the credit – the line was said by Tom Zawistowski, Tea Party leader and candidate for the Ohio GOP Chairman. (http://www.wkyc.com/video/2316658322001/0/Between-the-Lines-April-21st).  At the risk of repeating myself, I think the Republican Party in Ohio is in trouble.  The 2010 elections were a very welcome and necessary exception to the rule.  George Voinovich was Ohio’s Governor in the 90’s, and the GOP was strong and had a very good bench.  Ohio’s next Governor, Bob Taft, was a double-A player thrust in the major leagues, and the bench grew old and ineffective.  The Democrats regained their strength in 2006 with the election of Ted Strickland, but they had a double-A player themselves as Attorney General Marc Dann treated the office like a frat house and left in disgrace.  Despite this Democrat scandal and Ohio’s crushing economy during his tenure, Strickland was a few counties short of being re-elected in the powerful GOP year of 2010.  If he had, it likely would have cost us a congressional seat or two in 2012 through redistricting.  It really is that close!

Bob Bennett was an agreeable Ohio GOP leader in the 90’s and he helped to usher in the Voinovich administration, but he couldn’t do much to keep the party’s strength.  He left in 2009 to be followed by Kevin DeWine, an insider who had battles with a more conservative John Kasich.  When DeWine left, Bennett was convinced to take the post again and now the mantle has fallen on Matt Borges.  Borges was quickly ordained as the next GOP leader with endorsements by Kasich, Portman, and other GOP leaders.

But things were unsettled in the grassroots.  There was a smell of establishment with the choice, and the stench of failed promises.  Kasich had strong conservative credentials, but then backed Medicaid expansion which takes from the empty federal Obamacare program to increase Ohio’s Medicaid rolls.  Portman is a credible Republican, but then tries to prove his compassion by leading the GOP charge to support gay marriage.  And now we’re supposed to trust them with this choice?

Many conservatives are supporting Tom Zawistowski (http://toledoteaparty.com/conservative-group-leaders-message-to-ohio-gop/), and it is up to the 66 members of the GOP Central Committee to make its decision by Friday, April 26.  Many of these members have loyalty or allegiance to the leaders like Kasich and Portman, as well as to the countless insiders who can choose which wheels get the grease.  But if we can learn from recent election failures, it is that poor handlers, inept campaign staff, and an apathetic grassroots effort can hurt an election as much as the candidate.  The elections of 2014 and 2016 will be much more important than this one, but the Ohio GOP will set that stage.  If we continue to play politics-as-usual, I’m afraid we will continue to lose.

The following are other articles I’ve gathered about Tom Z and the upcoming election.

http://www.portagecountyteaparty.com/
http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2013/04/22/ohio-republican-party-latest-update.html
http://www.examiner.com/article/borges-greased-for-ohio-gop-chief-post-despite-deters-gruttadauria-entanglement
http://www.nbc4i.com/story/22042671/gop-leaders-tax-liens-concern-ohio-officials
http://www.thebrennerbrief.com/2013/04/22/apr-22-the-brenner-brief-radio-show-latest-boston-bomber-news-ohio-medicaid-expansion-and-more/
http://cincinnati.com/blogs/politics/2013/03/21/conservatives-reject-gop-leadership/

Ohio Governor Race Takes Shape

Some high-profile Democrats have chosen not to run for Governor in 2014, leaving Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald as the most likely challenger to John Kasich.  Congressman Tim Ryan and former Congresswoman Betty Sutton announced that they will stay on the bench for the time being, maybe waiting to challenge Rob Portman in 2016.  Despite the Governor’s recent decision to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program which angered many conservatives, there will be no viable challenger from the right to John Kasich’s nomination.

Ed Fitzgerald is Cuyahoga County’s first County Executive.  The county had previously been run by three County Commissioners and the office was riddled with scandal and corruption.  (Read more about Auditor Frank Russo and Commissioner Jimmy DiMora to get the details.)  Select leaders in the county began a process to redesign the structure of power, and decided on an 11-member County Council based on 11 different regions in the county, and then a single County Executive.  The decision of this structure was not unanimous and there were detractors to the idea of a single executive, including Lakewood Mayor Ed Fitzgerald!

The voters approved this strategy, and then candidates began surfacing for the 2010 election and Fitzgerald had a few cries of hypocrisy thrown at him when, after opposing the position’s creation, he announced as a candidate for Executive.  The Democrats fielded four candidates, but Fitzgerald was the most well-known and was supported by many in the Democrat Party and won the primary with 49% of the vote.  The GOP voters selected former Ohio Representative Matt Dolan, but due to dissatisfaction with both Fitzgerald and Dolan, the November election also included a self-funded businessman Ken Lanci and another independent candidate, former Democrat Commissioner Tim McCormick.  Despite the County’s 70% support for Democrat presidential candidates, Fitzgerald only received 45% of the vote, followed by Dolan at 31%, Lanci at 11%, and McCormick at 8%.  A Green Party candidate picked up the rest of the vote.

Fitzgerald will probably tout his effectiveness with improving the County’s image.  Well, I’m not sure people or businesses are flocking to Cuyahoga County, or even trickling into the county.  I also think the Democrats might do better by choosing somebody from a region other than Cleveland.  They won the Governorship in 2006 with Ted Strickland who lived in the southeast part of the state.  Before Strickland, the governor was Republican Bob Taft, and the governor before Taft was George Voinovich, the last Republican mayor of Cleveland.  Of those previous four elections (the two with Voinovich and the two with Taft), the Democrats picked three candidates from the Cleveland area.

For example the 2002 election similarly saw an incumbent Republican Governor Bob Taft facing Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan.  In 2002, Taft was a weak governor as some stories of state government incompetence were just beginning to surface.  I believe Taft could have been defeated.  I think if Ken Blackwell chose not to “wait his turn” and challenged him in a primary, he may have defeated Taft much like Sarah Palin would later defeat an incompetent sitting GOP Governor in Alaska.  Taft also could have lost to a more moderate candidate than Tim Hagan.  Hagan is an unabashed liberal who endorsed Ted Kennedy over Jimmy Carter in 1980, and is also married to Kate Mulgrew, Capt. Janeway in Star Trek Voyager, by the way.

Anyway, I’m not sure that Fitzgerald is a terribly strong candidate and I’m not that impressed with the Democrat bench.  If he weren’t enmeshed in Washington DC overseeing the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray would likely give Kasich the strongest challenge.  The Governor’s race will be the top race in 2014 as Ohio won’t have a Senate election, giving us a well-needed break from national politics.  Kasich margin of victory was one of the smallest in Ohio’s 2010 statewide elections, so I don’t think he will win this running away.  It will likely be a single-digit race throughout the campaign, and it’ll be interesting to see how are where these two candidates decide to spend their time.

Ohio and ObamaCare

Last November, Ohio had split on two important issues on the ballot.  Most of the chatter was Issue 2 which would have allowed a law mimicking Wisconsin’s public sector union restrictions although it included police and fire unions.  It failed 38-62.  Also on the ballot was Issue 3, a health care “independence” measure which was a pre-emptive strike against ObamaCare.  It passed 66-34.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is an Ohio-based non-profit which has written a piece here and recently re-iterated some of its major points and action steps given last week’s stunning Jon Roberts ruling, which can be found at the Supreme Court website.  The pull quote for me was in the dissent:

As for the constitutional power to tax and spend for the general welfare: The Court has long since expanded that beyond (what Madison thought it meant) taxing and spending for those aspects of the general welfare that the Federal Government’s enumerated powers, see United States v. Butler, 297 U. S. 1, 65–66 (1936).  Thus, we now have sizable federal Departments devoted to subjects not mentioned among Congress’ enumerated powers, and only marginally related to commerce: the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

From the recent 1851 Center e-mail, there are three things that need to happen at this moment.

  1. Stop Ohio from implementing state-based exchanges.  Kasich seems to be leaning this direction although there is considerable pressure from the left and from progressive-thinking Republicans in the Ohio Legislature to take the money to start these exchanges.  We need to find who our State Representatives and Senators are and make sure they oppose any movement supporting Obamacare, and keep Governor Kasich true to his conservative instincts.
  2. Stop Ohio from expanding Medicaid.  In 2011, Ohio joined other states in arguing against the Medicaid mandate and that decision went in our favor 7-2.  So like Cleveland fans who expect disappointment from their sports teams, Tea Party supporters have grown to expect Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  We must explain to DeWine and Kasich that they have won and not to touch Medicaid until this storm blows over.
  3. Continue to mount a rights-based challenge.  This means that the Supreme Court decision mostly regards Congressional authority to impose such a mandate.   It has not decided on privacy rights or on freedom to associate issues, and these will surely come up as time goes on.

I hope that the Roberts decision was an aberration.  In his moderation, he seems to stretch to meet the liberals half-way.  But isn’t that the way it always is – conservatives reaching over to the left.  Which of the four liberal justices have ever reached over to the right?  It is a promising sign that Ginsberg trashed Roberts in her concurrence as much as he was trashed in the dissent.  And if conservatives weren’t galvanized enough for this 2012 election, I hope this will let us know that our battle is ongoing and never-ending.

Plain Dealer Turns Red

Cleveland’s Plain Dealer is usually in the business of endorsing Democrats.  Cuyahoga County is a heavily Democratic, and statewide Democrats usually need to win the county by 100,000 votes to balance losses in the more rural areas.  Yet even the traditional base recognizes an incompetence or failure to stop the bleeding – they have endorsed both John Kasich and Rob Portman.

Kasich (http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/10/the_plain_dealer_endorses_john_1.html) is running in the closer race, yet in some ways has the more forceful endorsement.  The PD endorsed Governor Strickland in 2006 on promises to moderate government, strengthen the “job-creating” Third Frontier plan, and reform education policies.  (On an historical note, Ohio’s education funding system was declared unconstitutional in 1979 and every governor for the last thirty years has made fixing it a top priority.)  The editorial board is more disappointed in Strickland’s performance and appears to endorse Kasich because, among other things, he’ll shake things up.  Kasich has the record of being House Budget Chairman during the balanced budgets of the Clinton administration which counts for a whole lot.  His Lehman Brothers career afterward is basically all that Strickland can lay on him.  The last four years have been tough on everybody, but Ohio has not kept up with other lower-tax, pro-growth states.

Rob Portman (http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/10/the_plain_dealer_endorses_rob.html) turns out to have the easier race.  He’s an attractive, traditional Republican candidate who should be more reliably conservative than either Voinovich or DeWine.  The Democrat Lee Fisher has run in statewide races over the last twenty years, and has given people little reason to vote for him.  He was able to beat the more progressive Jennifer Brunner last May with the money and support from the traditional “inside” Democrats, but it’s doubtful that she would have been able to run a more successful campaign – just a more entertaining one.

The PD has since endorsed Dennis Kucinich instead of Peter Corrigan (http://corriganforcongress.com/) and a slew of county and statewide Democrats, but the top of the ticket this year goes to the Republicans.