LIMA — Saying he wants to be governor for everyone, in every corner of the state, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald brought his campaign to Allen County on Thursday.
FitzGerald, a Democrat, is making formal what was long-known: He will challenge Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014. He started with announcements Wednesday in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. FitzGerald continued Thursday with visits to Lima, Toledo and Dayton. He plans other stops Friday.
FitzGerald, 44, said Kasich’s policies and proposals economically hurt Ohioans — including support of Senate Bill 5 and the attempted weakening of public unions, cutting local government and school district funding to balance the state budget and a plan to create new sales taxes. Kasich has called Ohio’s economy a miracle, FitzGerald said.
“I don’t hear people calling it a miracle. There are a lot of people struggling. Property values going down, property taxes are going up,” FitzGerald said. “He’s made it tougher for middle class Ohioans.”
FitzGerald pledged to put Kasich’s JobsOhio economic development structure under the microscope. The private agency is “fatally flawed,” FitzGerald said.
“We have a large economic development fund in Cuyahoga County. I have a simple philosophy: If it’s public money, it’s the public’s business. End of story,” FitzGerald said. “It would have to be completely transparent, and I’m going to press the reset button on it entirely, and we’ll see if any of it would remain in place.
FitzGerald is a former FBI agent who was assigned to the Organized Crime Task Force in Chicago. He also was a prosecutor and mayor of Cleveland suburb Lakewood. Following a large public corruption scandal in Cuyahoga County, voters there voted for a new government structure and elected FitzGerald to serve as the first county executive. He and his wife, Shannon, have four teenage children.
According to a story in The (Toledo) Blade, a spokesman for Kasich responded by saying: “There will be a time for politics, but right now our focus remains on getting the state back on track and putting Ohioans back to work.”
Also in The Blade, spokesmen for the Ohio Republican Party characterized FitzGerald as someone who has jumped from job to job and made appointments based on politics rather than merit as county executive. They said since Kasich took office in 2011, Ohio has added 115,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate has dropped two points to 7.1 percent. Republicans also said wages in the state are up $15.3 billion compared with 2010.
FitzGerald told the group in Lima he is starting his campaign early because he believes he needs to stand up to Kasich’s policies and actions now.
“It was really important to get off the sidelines as early as possible. We needed a candidate to say there are better alternatives for this state,” FitzGerald said.
After his talk, FitzGerald said he’s not well known outside of Northeastern Ohio but is working to change that.
“People want to know who their governor is, get a sense of where he came from, his family background. They want to know that person so you can trust that person,” FitzGerald said.