Saturday, May 07, 2005

Neglect....(but hope for Democrats in Ohio)

Sorry that the posting has dropped off recently. Wednesday was the last day of classes and my first final is this Monday. Lucky for me, it's in the four-hour credit class that I haven't paid a bit of attention in. Apparently, in a class of 130, I'm not alone.

So, with this being my last semester in law school, I've been busy with the usual end-of-the-year festivities and now am neck-deep in finals. The good news is that I should be done with finals after May 16, and probably won't be doing much before graduation. You can expect more posting then.

Right now, I'm excited to hear that my former boss, Rep. Ted Strickland, is likely to announce on Monday morning that he will run for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2006. I've had the honor of working for Congressman Strickland, and I've long maintained that he's the best candidate Democrats have in winning a statewide office.

Why? Strickland was first elected in 1992 where he unseated an incumbent Republican in an southeastern Ohio district, one that was traditionally Republican. Believing the seat to be Republican, he was targeted throughout the 90s- losing in 1994, but then re-elected thereafter. The elections always drew national attention as it was high on the targeted races list for partisan and pundits everywhere. Strickland defeated the then Lt. Gov., who had been a popular mayor to one of the major cities in the district.

Eventually, Strickland's campaign became so successful that Republicans lost their interest. In a district with a distinct Republican registration advantage, Strickland was adept at keeping his base unified and peeling away sizeable numbers of independants and Republicans. When Ohio Republicans redrew congressional districts, they made Strickland's district into a safe Democratic district. It's been widely believed that the GOP did so in order to give Strickland a safe seat as a means to discourage him from running as governor in 2002.

With no offense to Columbus Mayor Coleman, Strickland's entrance into the race makes this a national race to watch. Democrats have lost in Ohio largely due to the poor showing in SE Ohio, the area where Strickland has represented with large electoral majorities for over a decade now. Strickland will be able to raise more money and campaign more effectively than Coleman who's appeal is limited to mostly urban Democrats. Strickland has the ability to unite both urban and rural Democrats while peeling away Republican and independent voters. He's a former minister who served in a children's home and was also a prison psychologist. His wife, Frances, is an educational psychologist, and has written a children's book about the first female Governor of Kentucky.

Strickland is a pro-union, fiscal conservative with moderate social policies. He's also been repeatedly endorsed by the National Rifle Association. While that may make some Democrats nervous, his pragmatic, moderate views is why he's been so successful in election after election. If Democrats are going to win in Ohio, they need to appeal to rural voters. While urban Democratic officeholders (normally) have better name recognition, they have driven the Ohio Democratic Party into an almost minor party status. Indeed, the Ohio Democratic Legislative Caucus' recent successes in reducing the Republican majority in the House (which is still very large), is due to its ability to run candidates that appeal to suburban and rural voters (Democrat and Republican alike).

Strickland is a tireless campaigner who works even harder as an advocate for his district. As a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Strickland has made significant inroads with the veteran vote, another demographic Ohio Democrats have done poorly.

Over the past twelve years, the Ohio GOP has done an effective job in playing term-limited musical chairs with statewide offices, but the music is about to run out... no less than three of the GOP's statewide officeholders are running for Governor and show no signs of backing down. The GOP primary is likely to be a bruising affair for their eventual candidate.

Strickland's primary election also has some challenges of its own. Mayor Coleman is widely seen as a popular and rising star in the party, having been a former candidate of Lt. Governor in 1998. Coleman has already announced and, therefore, is currently ahead in the organization game. Strickland will also need to show he can appeal to and energize urban Democrats, particular in northern Ohio where he has less name recognization and the bulk of the Democratic primary vote is located. Having represented the surrounding Youngstown area since 2002 gives Strickland a head start. Furthermore, no candidate has been more successful in grassroots organizing in Ohio than Strickland. If his past campaigns are any guide, he'll organize a very thorough county-by-county voluntary organization to serve as his campaign.

With the exception of the last Presidential election, I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a Democratic candidate in Ohio. I'm also glad I'll be out of law school in time to volunteer again!

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