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Government and Politics

In Ohio, it's 16 months before the election and still all about the economy
Former Gov. Strickland endorses FitzGerald, talks about the future but acknowledges echoes of 2010

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland endorses Ed FitzGerald as having the middle class at heart. GOP says Strickland failed, and FitzGerald is more of the same.
Courtesy of WKSU file photo
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When he announced today that he’s endorsing Ed FitzGerald for governor, former Gov. Ted Strickland says the 2014 campaign is about the future, not the past. But its becoming clear that, at least in part, the race will be a referendum on Strickland as well. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more.

LISTEN: Strickland vs. Kasich vs. FitzGerald

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Former Gov. Ted Strickland holds up Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald as a great candidate whose bona fides as an FBI agent and the man who cleaned up corruption in Cuyahoga County blend with his passion for the middle class.

“It’s become very, very clear to me that he gets it, and he gets it done.  He’s someone I believe the middle class -- and not only the middle class but those who are struggling to become a part of the middle class -- can put their confidence and trust in.”

For evidence, Strickland cites the expansion of pre-kindergarten throughout Cuyahoga County and cites the county’s new college savings program – one of the largest in the country.

And he insists: “This election is about the future, not the past, obviously as it should be.”

Echoes of 2010
Still – given the bitterness of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign -- reporters were bound to ask Strickland about the past. And the ongoing argument about just when Ohio’s economic recovery started, and whose economic policies are responsible.

“I don’t want to overstate things here and I invite you to check the record, but I believe the recovery started in the last year of the prior administration, unemployment decreased during that last year about the same amount it decreased during the Kasich administration.”

“Prior administration” being the Strickland administration. And the numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics do bear that out. Unemployment dropped each month in 2010, from 10.6 to 9.5 percent.

In 2011, despite a spike for a few months, the numbers dropped further during Kasich’s first year in office by another 1.4 percent.

And Chris Schrimpf of the Ohio Republican Party says those are the numbers that matter.

Job growth vs. job loss
“I don’t think you can look at it from job report to job report. You have to look at where was Ohio thoughout Ted Strickland’s term, and the fact is Ohio lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and the unemployment rate was at its highest point in 10 years. Since then, Gov. Kasich has seen job creation increase by 160,000 jobs and the unemployment rate go down by almost 2 full points. So a record of job loss vs. job growth.”

Schrimpf notes that Ohio’s rainy day fund had dried up when Kasich took office, and he offers Strickland no slack for the great recession nor for other national economic factors during the two administrations.

As for the arguments being from the past,

Who's responsible?
“Voters clearly held Ted Strickland responsible for what happened. And now Ted Strickland is endorsing Ed FitzGerald, I mean he has to own the same record that Strickland had.”

While Strickland isn’t running from that record, he insists Gov. Kasich has created his own record replete with new openings for FitzGerald.

“We’re about 47th I believe nationally in job creation. And though things have been done by this current governor and this current legislative body that benefits the wealthy and the well-connected and the well-heeled, average Ohioans do not feel as though they are benefitting from what the current governor touts as the Ohio miracle.”

Not all the issues in this campaign are likely to be about the economy. Strickland is talking about the war on women. Schrimpf takes a swipe at the “scandal-plagued” Strickland administration.

But polls continue to show – as they did in 2010 – that, for voters,  no issue comes anywhere close to the economy.

Links to month-by-month Ohio unemployment numbers:

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