Barhite: The race that never wasWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Quick! Who is running for governor?
That’s what I thought.
But I’m not judging since this is the quietest gubernatorial race in recent history. The race is so nonexistent I saw a Facebook post that summed up the nonexistent race nicely: “I really wish I did not have to Google to find out who is running against [Gov. John] Kasich.”
Most years, I would say that people aren’t paying attention. But this year, I have to agree with the Google comment.
My home phone isn’t ringing with campaign calls. I saw my first two political signs for the race a few days ago. I received only a couple of campaign mailings. And no gubernatorial debates were hosted for the first time in decades.
I tried to interview the candidates via telephone, but I got no response from Ed FitzGerald’s campaign. Kasich’s people tried to get me a few minutes with the governor … it just never worked out.
In the end, I don’t blame the incumbent. When you are up 22 points in the polls, why risk saying too much? Heck, Kasich didn’t even wear a tie to an endorsement interview with Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer and the Northeast Ohio Media Group. His body language indicated victory.
Lucas County Democratic Party Chairman Steven Steel said it comes down to money — and FitzGerald doesn’t have any. It’s too bad, he said, because FitzGerald is “right on the issues for Toledo.”
The Cuyahoga County executive has been campaigning on raising the minimum wage, including the wage of tipped earners. He also has been pushing protecting workers’ rights, while citing Kasich’s Senate Bill 5 on collective bargaining, which was rejected by Ohioans.
But alas, Steel received only 600 signs to distribute for the whole region, which is probably why I am not seeing a sea of signage. That’s not nearly enough, he said, but signs cost money — money the FitzGerald campaign does not have.
Meanwhile, I have seen a few Kasich commercials; however, I certainly haven’t been bombarded with gubernatorial messages like I have in the past.
On-air ads, the governor has been lauded for tougher penalties for human trafficking. He is given credit for transforming Ohio from its dismal condition four years ago, erasing an $8 billion budget shortfall without raising taxes and helping Ohio create nearly 250,000 private sector jobs.
“It’s only halftime, Ohio. The best is yet to come,” he said.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Kasich has 18 times the cash on hand as FitzGerald. Since 2013, Kasich’s campaign has garnered nearly $20 million, compared with $4.6 million for FitzGerald’s.
However, the money issue might be overshadowed by FitzGerald driving without a license for 10 years. That major mishap is pushing Kasich’s campaign right into the winner’s circle.
An editorial cartoon encapsulated the situation perfectly. Kasich, FitzGerald and Green Party candidate Anita Rios of Toledo are sitting at a table. FitzGerald has a thought bubble above his head that reads, “My driver’s license is newer and in better shape than theirs.” And that’s the campaign, folks.
In some circles, it seems like Democrats have given up on FitzGerald, which in turn has given Kasich more time to run the state because he doesn’t need to campaign.
In an Associated Press story, Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said, “It’s been the worst campaign in the last 20 years,” while Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern blasted FitzGerald when telling The New York Times he wouldn’t trust the company that vetted FitzGerald “to clean out my bird cage.”
Which leads us to Rios, who did return my call for comment. She won’t win and she knows it, but her motive to run for governor remains the same.
“I do not believe the Democrats or Republicans are governing us in a way that serves my community,” she said. “I don’t feel that the solutions we are getting from the Democrats or Republicans are really solutions. They play politics.”
Rios, the daughter of Mexican-American farm migrants, said she’s taking a long-term perspective. She wants to sees the Green Party become part of a grassroots movement that changes the landscape of the two-party system she believes has failed.
For many years, she cast ballots that were mostly blank because “I simply could not vote for those people,” she said.
Around 2000, she started to look for alternatives.
Rios and her running mate, Bob Fitrakis, support establishing a state-chartered bank, legalizing marijuana and industrial hemp production and lowering the cost of college tuition by putting a limit on administrative spending.
Midterm elections tend to have low voter turnout. However, Rios said people might not vote for a reason.
“I think many people vote with their feet; they don’t walk in the door. They have lost heart,” she said.
Steel said even if this election seems quieter than most, citizens need to educate themselves.
“We can’t have a democracy if people don’t go out and vote,” he said.
It’s time to figure out who is running, what they stand for and how you plan to vote, if you haven’t already. It is no excuse to be ignorant just because we aren’t receiving phone calls, getting fliers in the mail or being subjected to commercials.
Brandi Barhite has voted both Democratic and Republican in past gubernatorial races. Contact her at email@example.com.