Candidate for governor will speak in Marietta

After announcing his candidacy for Ohio governor in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Wednesday, Democrat Ed FitzGerald is coming to Marietta.

He will be the keynote speaker at Friday’s Washington County Democratic Party spring dinner, and his presence is already drawing a lot of interest.

“We have more people coming to this one than the one in October (that) was right before the presidential election,” said Louise Gwinn, a member of the county party’s executive committee.

FitzGerald has been considered a likely candidate to challenge Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014, which was one reason the county Democrats reached out to him. But he didn’t make it official until Wednesday.

“I am really thrilled,” county party Chairwoman Molly Varner said. “I had no idea about the timing.”

FitzGerald is the Cuyahoga County executive, former mayor of Lakewood and an ex-FBI agent. He’s not particularly well-known in Washington County, but the endorsement of former Gov. Ted Strickland gives him a good deal of credibility among some in the area.

“That shows he’s a good person because, you know, Ted’s one of the best,” Gwinn said.

“My expectation is that Ed FitzGerald will follow in his footsteps in terms of … character and energy and commitment,” Varner said.

Also speaking at Friday’s dinner will be state Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, state Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, and former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison of Marietta.

Spring and fall dinners usually serve as a rallying point for the local parties leading up to the primary and general elections. There are no partisan primaries in Washington County for the May 7 election, County Republicans held their Reagan Day Dinner on April 4.