Candidate for governor talks local, state issues

Democratic Candidate for Ohio Governor Ed FitzGerald addressed concerns about key issues in Ohio during the inaugural Mid-Ohio Valley Democratic Dinner Friday.

The event, sponsored by Marietta College Democrats and held at the Comfort Inn, saw 125 people turn out for a night of sharing Democratic ideals and support for each candidate.

FitzGerald spoke about Ohio’s high unemployment numbers, currently about 400,000 people. He said Gov. John Kasich’s plan is to help the very few while ignoring the middle class.

“It’s an unacceptably high number,” FitzGerald said. “I think there’s a better way to run government. Kasich promised he would do it better and he hasn’t. He doesn’t have his priorities in the right place.”

According to Kasich’s campaign, there have been 238,200 news jobs created in Ohio since he took office.

FitzGerald also came down to a local level, focusing on a few Washington County issues. He said he has been approached by different township trustees across the county who are feeling the impact of reduced funding in recent years.

“They’re devastated by budget cuts,” FitzGerald said, adding that townships are starting budgets with bigger debt now than ever before. He said it isn’t right to focus tax dollars toward Columbus and ignore the smaller communities.

FitzGerald said he has visited Marietta a total of five times over the last six to eight months. He intends to make more trips back to the area during his campaign.

“There’s seven months to go,” he said. “I’ll be down here probably every other week from here on out.”

He also spoke about education Friday, including the state’s funding formula, found unconstitutional multiple times.

“It’s never really been fixed,” he said. “There’s too much burden on the local community.”

FitzGerald said one of the biggest problems with school funding is the state funded online charter schools, which amounts to about $200 million.

“(I want to) put that back in local community schools,” he said, adding that local public schools will be supported first and failing charter schools will be supported last because they “have some of the worst graduation rates in the state.”

Marietta resident Virginia Mayle, 71, said she was very interested in what FitzGerald had to say.

“Probably anything he said, I’d vote for him,” she said, adding that she isn’t fond of Kasich.

FitzGerald added that another big issue is Kasich’s handling of the closure of Ormet in Monroe County, including the workers gathering signatures before Kasich would meet with them.

“The workers should not have had to collect 10,000 signatures,” FitzGerald said, adding Kasich should have met with workers as soon as the plant was in danger.

Kasich told the Columbus Dispatch at the time that he hadn’t taken a meeting because he didn’t want the situation to “turn into a political thing.”

“It’s mind boggling to me,” FitzGerald said Friday. “Gov. Kasich promised?.he would move heaven and earth (to help companies suffering like Ormet was). He had the chance to prove it and he completely failed?I think it’s unconscionable?I talk about Ormet everywhere I go because people need to know that story.”

Kasich told the Dispatch that he didn’t feel it was his place to tell the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio what to do, after PUCO failed to come to an agreement with Ormet over electricity-rate subsidies, and that he didn’t think reaching an agreement would have saved Ormet or the 700 jobs there.

“The problem that they have is the crashing of aluminum prices worldwide,” he said.

In regards to Kasich’s tax hikes, especially on oil and gas, FitzGerald said he thinks the resource is a chance to build an economy.

“The governor is determined to take your resource, tax it and keep 80 percent of the proceeds; it’s a local resource, let’s keep it here,” he said, adding that he’s never agreed with Kasich’s tax plan, which includes raising taxes for the middle class and giving tax breaks to the wealthy, calling it “a reverse Robin Hood situation.”

Kasich has said his tax plan would push the state income tax below 5 percent.

The tax cuts and hikes shake out to a net tax cut of $174 million in terms of total dollars. The plan includes a nearly $2.2 billion across-the-board cut in the personal income tax over three years plus an extra $453 million in tax breaks for lower-income Ohioans.

“We know what works – balanced budgets, tax cuts, better education and training, and a helping hand so everyone can benefit from a stronger Ohio,” the Republican governor told the Associated Press.

FitzGerald said he is looking forward to representing the majority instead of the minority in Ohio and is also looking to reach out to Ohio residents in the coming months.

“We represent most people in Ohio and we have to make sure we have a conversation with them in the next few months,” he said.

Jerri Dahler, 56, of Marietta, said she agreed with FitzGerald’s platform.

“I’m very supportive of him,” she said. “I like his program and the platform he’s presented. I like his idea of helping families, middle class families. It’s early in the campaign, so obviously there’s a lot to see, but I’m very supportive of the direction he’s going.”

Other candidates present for the Democratic party were Jennifer Garrison, who is running for the 6th district Congressional seat, and John Patrick Carney, who is running for state auditor.

Carney said all Democrats share a similar idea: “Regardless if you come from a rich family or poor family, you still deserve a shot at the American Dream.”

Garrison said she was excited to see lots of young people at the event, and said she is determined to get her message out to everyone, but especially those in the 6th District.

“I’m going to campaign very hard over the next seven months to get the message out to the people in the 6th District that I’m going to stand with them,” she said. “I think the person representing us now is not representing the interests of the 6th District…I’m going to work hard to reach across the aisle (to Republicans). You have to be willing to work together to achieve results.”

Garrison will face Democrat Greg Howard of Albany in May’s primary. The winner will go on the November ballot with Republican incumbent Bill Johnson.