Ed FitzGerald and Sharen Neuhardt argued that they are right for women voters and Ohio’s middle class Saturday, as the Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor held their first campaign event together.
Democrats are spotlighting women’s issues — from birth control and abortion rights to health care access and equal pay — as key campaign issues. Neuhardt, a Greene County lawyer who grew up in Dayton, said their challenge against Republican incumbents John Kasich and Mary Taylor is about much more than that, but added she’s happy to be a champion for women’s rights.
“John Kasich and a lot of the Republicans say that Ed picked me, basically, because I have ovaries,” Neuhardt said to laughs from a crowd of more than 200 at the Dayton Cultural and RTA Transit Center on Edwin Moses Boulevard. “Ed Fitzgerald picked me because I have a brain. Women in this state have brains, we have memories, and we vote. Memo to John Kasich: You’re going to be really sorry that you messed with women come November.”
Neuhardt cited a study concluding that women in Ohio make 23 percent less money than men at comparable jobs, calling that a family and economic issue that holds Ohio back. She called it “just wrong” that thousands of Ohio women lack easy access to pap smears, mammograms and birth control because Republicans have constrained funding to Planned Parenthood.
FitzGerald, the executive leader of Cuyahoga County government, called Neuhardt smart, tough and capable. He said Kasich’s proposals are out of touch with average Ohioans, claiming that the Democratic candidates are more in line with the middle class on taxes, public education, the economy and women’s issues.
“Most people didn’t think there should be a big tax break for the wealthiest people in the state while everybody’s sales taxes went up,” FitzGerald said. “Most people didn’t think economic development should be done in a secretive way. Most people didn’t think that hundreds if not thousands of public school teachers should be laid off because the state cut education funding. Most people didn’t think that police and firefighters should be laid off because the state robbed them of 50 percent of their local government funds. I agree there’s a pretty even partisan divide in this state, but I don’t think most of those issues are partisan issues.”
Neuhardt was announced as FitzGerald’s running mate Friday, after State Sen. Eric Kearney dropped out of the race due to revelations that he faced more than $750,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties.
Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf called Saturday’s event the first stop on FitzGerald’s “mulligan tour.”
“The fact that he failed to recognize the problems with his first running mate shows how ill-prepared he is to run a state,” Schrimpf said. “Now he is running with his fourth or fifth choice running mate, a two-time loser of Congressional races.”
Schrimpf also challenged FitzGerald’s claims — arguing that the tax cut Kasich implemented benefits all Ohioans, and that total revenue for schools and local governments is up since 2011.
FitzGerald and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley both pointed out that the Democrats’ slate of statewide candidates features three men and three women, with FitzGerald saying this is the first time that’s happened for either major party.
Neuhardt admitted that both she and FitzGerald have some work to do to catch Kasich in name recognition, but she said Kasich’s record is catching up to him, as Ohio unemployment has climbed and job growth has slowed in the past year.
Montgomery County Democratic Party chair Mark Owens said Fitzgerald’s decision to choose Neuhardt was little surprise because of the Miami Valley’s status as a swing vote area. Warren County party chair Bethe Goldenfield said Neuhardt’s combination of being both local and a woman candidate would likely help energize the gubernatorial race locally.