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Government and Politics

A political scientist discusses the limited options for Ohio's Democrats
If Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald does withdraw, former Gov. Ted Strickland would be the best replacement

Jo Ingles
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Fitzgerald's campaign took another hit yesterday when two top staffers resigned.
Courtesy of Cuyahoga County Executive's Office
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Top Democratic Party officials insist their gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is in the race to stay despite the fact that his top staffers are leaving his campaign.


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Ohio State University political science professor Paul Beck says he does not remember a situation like this in Ohio politics -- where a candidate has faced so many problems this late in the campaign.

First there was the word in early August that, two years ago, FitzGerald had been found by police in a car at 4:30 in the morning with a woman who was not his wife. Days later, the revelation came that FitzGerald has been driving without a valid Ohio driver’s license for the better part of a decade.

Then there is the campaign funding, or lack of it. 

Gov. John Kasich’s campaign war chest is at least four times the size of FitzGerald’s.  And while party leaders say they are standing behind FitzGerald, self-described Democrats are turning up on public websites and on radio call-in programs, saying they want FitzGerald to step down and want the party to put someone else on the ballot.  But Beck says the deadline for doing that passed earlier this month.

He notes that the damaging information "wass released right on the eve of those deadlines. It was like whoever released it knew those deadlines were coming up and didn’t want to give the party time to replace FitzGerald, if he was willing to be replaced.”

Still some limited options
According to the Secretary of State’s office, if FitzGerald were to resign from the ballot right now, the party would not have any slated candidate for governor this November. 

However, if FitzGerald were to resign a week from now, his name would still be on the ballot but the party could appoint someone else to run in his place -- though that new candidate would not be named on the ballot.

Beck says it would be tough for anyone to step in and win at that point but if there is one person who might have a chance, he thinks it could be former Gov. Ted Strickland, who narrowly lost to Kasich in 2010.

“And then, of course, it’s a long shot," Beck says. "To not have his name on the ballot means you would have to have a lot of money to get the message out to voters that he is the stand in. And of course the media would help because it would get more attention than the Ohio State band and Braxton Miller’s shoulder injury.”

Top staffers leaving
FitzGerald’s press secretary, Lauren Hitt, says the staff changes that are being made at the FitzGerald campaign right now are to “help maximize our resources and provide the best chance of success” for FitzGerald and the rest of the Democratic ticket. Beck says that last point is key.

“The real issue is what does this do to the people who are on the ticket," Beck says. "Are they hurt by turnout declines because the top of the ticket candidate is so discouraging to people and what about fundraising?”

Some of the down-ticket Democratic candidates have raised about as much money as their Republican opponents recently, though the incumbents have more money overall. Beck says it will be important for those other statewide candidates to use their money to insure Democratic turnout this fall.

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