Ed Fitzgerald, the Democratic candidate in the 2014 Ohio gubernatorial race, did not, in fact, have sexual relations with that woman. He really didn’t. However, from the moment the press discovered that he had been found in the car in a parking lot with a woman who was not his wife, he would prove the bane of the Ohio Democratic Party.
When he won the Democratic primary, it appeared that Ed Fitzgerald would cause Republican incumbent John Kasich to fight for the 2014 Ohio gubernatorial election. When word got out at the beginning of August that in 2012 police had come across Fitzgerald in a parked car with an unknown woman, his campaign began to fall apart.
Fitzgerald quickly explained that the reason for his stop was innocuous and that he hoped the incident would be a non-issue, but his woes did not end there. It came to light that at the time of the incident, he was not in possession of a valid Ohio driver’s license and had not had a license from the BMV since 2002 when his last one expired. This raised questions regarding whether he was licensed while driving government vehicles during his previous terms in public office.
All this came just a few days too late for Fitzgerald to be replaced as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, but on Aug. 22 his campaign confirmed that it would be allocating more of its funds to supporting the whole field of Democratic candidates and voter turnout initiatives. The message was clear: “We’re finished, but let’s not screw the party.”
Yet screw is just what the campaign has done.
Ohio Democrats have gone to great lengths in the past two years to vilify Governor Kasich for his support of restrictions on collective bargaining and his support of tax-cuts for wealthier Ohioans as a means of job creation. Kasich has done everything right to rally every Democrat in the Buckeye State against him. To capitalize on this weakness, the Democrats groomed the young, well-spoken Cuyahoga CountyExecutive Ed Fitzgerald. After the past month’s news, they fear that their star’s all-too-probable defeat will cause them to appear weak, and they have decided to cut and run.
There is one way for Democrats to appear weaker, however: stripping their candidate of hope so that no one bothers to pay attention to the vote count on election night. And that’s what they’ve done.
Now that Democrats have stripped their supporters of even the hope of the governor’s mansion, they have lost the attention of their less fervent advocates and have sacrificed their opportunity to utilize the anti-Kasich wind currently filling their sails. Even despite the reallocation of its funds, the Fitzgerald campaign has handed Ohio to the Republicans for another few years.
Best of all for conservatives, by allowing Kasich to go almost unchallenged the Democrats have given the GOP one more point in that ever-running tally which dictates which way Ohio will swing in the upcoming presidential election. If Democrats think their state is solidly red (and why wouldn’t they, when the gubernatorial race seemed so clearly crimson?), they risk losing steam when 2016 comes around.
Fitzgerald definitely didn’t lose Ohio for the Democrats in 2016, but he certainly didn’t help.