I recently went to a dinner in Clinton County to visit some old friends and got a chance to meet Ed Fitzgerald, who is running for governor of Ohio.
Fitzgerald has a somewhat unusual background for someone who is running for public office. He was the seventh of eight children, and he worked his way through Ohio State University and night law school. He entered the FBI Academy in Quantico, and became a special agent. Fitzgerald was assigned to the Organized Crime Task Force in Chicago, which investigated political corruption and Mafia influence. The task force Fitzgerald was assigned to brought the infamous Cicero crime syndicate to justice. After his FBI service, Fitzgerald returned to Ohio, where he served as assistant county prosecutor and was subsequently elected mayor of Lakewood.
Cuyahoga County experienced one of the biggest public corruption scandals in the history of Ohio, resulting in a reorganization of county government. The people of Cuyahoga County elected Fitzgerald to manage the new county government as their first county executive. He restored the public’s trust in county government by installing some of the toughest ethics laws in Ohio.
Given the record of county officials running for statewide office (they don’t usually win), Fitzgerald’s candidacy would seem to be a long shot. However, having met him and listened to him speak, I’m not so sure. He has a quick wit and sense of humor that is almost Kennedyesque. He is very much aware that the “recovery” that has rejuvenated Wall Street has not reached Main Street. He knows that many of Ohio’s young people are leaving the State because there are more opportunities elsewhere. When I spoke to him Sunday evening, he indicated that Wilmington was his eighth stop that day, which tells me he’s hard working and ambitious.
Given the unpopularity of John Kasich, it is very likely that other candidates will enter the Democratic primary. Some of them may hold higher-profile offices than Ed Fitzgerald does. I think any candidates who underestimate Ed Fitzgerald are making a mistake.
Paul Schwietering is a former Democratic state central committeeman for the 14th state senate district.