The only statewide primary race on May 6 is a lopsided match up between the Ohio Democratic Party-endorsed candidate, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, and Trotwood-area resident Larry Ealy, who decided to run for governor while sitting in a Montgomery County Jail cell.
Both Democrats say they believe in civil rights and rebuilding the middle class. The similarities seem to end there.
Ealy has never held political office. He is an unemployed laborer and divorced father of 10 who collects Social Security disability benefits. He has filed so many frivolous lawsuits that the Ohio Supreme Court declared him a vexatious litigator. e When asked about his education, he said he studied law at the University of Dayton but also admits that it was “self-directed.”
His campaign has no money, no staff, no website, no official headquarters. But he did create a Facebook event for the Ealy-FitzGerald primary.
FitzGerald is a former FBI agent, assistant county prosecutor and mayor of Lakewood. He has the backing of the state party, roughly $1.44 million in his campaign account, a professional staff and a campaign website.
FitzGerald is focused on challenging incumbent Republican Gov. John Kasich in the November election, not defeating Ealy, a man he said he met once for about 30 seconds in Dayton this year.
Kasich, who has $7.9 million in campaign cash on hand, leads FitzGerald by five points, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released in February. Fifty-one percent of registered voters approve of the job Kasich is doing but just 46 percent say he deserves to be re-elected.
Still, FitzGerald said Ohio is headed in the wrong direction under Kasich.
“I think our economic development policies in this state have been pointed too much toward people who are already doing very, very well. I think there are a lot of middle class families that are struggling. A lot of family-owned, smaller businesses have gotten very little help from the state while a lot of big corporations have. I think there should be more of an emphasis on what I would call ‘Main Street’ businesses,” FitzGerald said.
Under Kasich, K-12 schools and local governments underwent large funding cuts and tax policy shifted to benefit the rich and hurt the poor, he said.
“Most people in this state, in their heart, know that the state is not being run in their best interest. They have a very strong sense, and they’re correct, that there is a small group of people that are the big beneficiaries of the Kasich administration,” FitzGerald said.
If elected governor, FitzGerald pledges that he’ll work with the GOP-controlled General Assembly to find common ground for job creation, work force development, college affordability and other issues.
“No governor gets everything he wants out of this legislature, including this governor. This governor keeps trying to increase taxes and not all his tax increase policies have gotten through the House and the Senate,” FitzGerald said.
FitzGerald has already clashed with Kasich and the General Assembly. Republicans pushed through a new law that allows only the Secretary of State to send out unsolicited absentee ballot applications and only if the Legislature provides funding. FitzGerald responded by backing a measure in Cuyahoga County that allows county government to send out applications as it sees fit.
Lawmakers then pitched the idea of withholding state funding from counties that defy the new state law — a move that prompted FitzGerald to call for a federal justice investigation. Republicans backed off tying funding to adherence to the ballot law once they heard from Republican State Auditor Dave Yost that he may hold local officials personally financially accountable for the cost of mailing out unsolicited absentee applications.
“I think this voting rights fight that we’ve had in the last 72 hours (shows) I am somebody who has the guts to stand up for what’s right against a lot of pressure,” FitzGerald said. “And I think that is an important quality in an executive.”
While FitzGerald has been battling over voting rights, Ealy said he wants to legalize marijuana, re-open local recreation centers, start employment programs for young Ohioans, eliminate homelessness and build a passenger train line through the heart of the state.
Ealy is also under the impression that the federal government hands out $16,000 stipends every 90 days to students from Saudi Arabia who are studying in the U.S. – a mythical program that he wants to expand to American students.
Compounding Ealy’s uphill battle is an investigation by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office into suspicious signatures on the voter petitions submitted to qualify for the ballot.
“I’m real and I walk the walk. I’ll walk the walk with any citizen from the outhouse to the White House. I ain’t fake, I ain’t a sell out,” Ealy said when asked why Ohio should vote for him. “We don’t need fake people. This is 2014. Those back room deal days are over with.”
Ealy is running with Ken Gray of Cincinnati. FitzGerald is running with Yellow Springs lawyer Sharen Neuhardt who previously ran twice for Congress - the last time against U.S. Rep. Mike Turner in 2012.
Compare the candidates
Job: Cuyahoga County executive
Education: Ohio State University; Cleveland State University law degree
Political experience: Congressional staff member; Indiana secretary of state staff member; FBI agent; assistant county prosecutor; mayor of Lakewood; county executive
Family: married, four children
Job: unemployed, on disability
Education: Colonel White H.S.; some college courses.
Political experience: Ran for Dayton mayor in 2009; has never held office
Family: divorced, 10 children
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