Saturday, April 03, 2010

Fisher gears up for stretch run

Lt. Governor Lee Fisher was in his best campaign mode on Saturday when he appeared at the new Lancer Restaurant, across the street from its original historic location. He had invited the Cuyahoga County Young Democrats to breakfast, though its membership was considerably outnumbered by the old political heads that comprised the majority of his audience. Fisher’s campaign struck some new tones in calling upon old friends to help carry him to victory in the next 30 days in the May 4 Democratic primary battle to win the Democratic Party nomination to run in November for the open seat to succeed the retiring George Voinovich.    
The stakes are high, as Fisher himself noted. Ohio is a pivotal state in national politics, and its current senatorial and gubernatorial races are likely to have significant effect upon the 2012 presidential playing field.    
Fisher is no stranger to tight races. In 1990 he won the race to become state Attorney General by 1,234 votes out of 3,360,162 cast, or only 0.037% of the total number of votes cast, the closest statewide election in Ohio history. Twenty years later, “Landslide Lee”, so dubbed as a result of that earlier race, certainly did not expect to be in a race that is polling about as tightly as that 1990 race. But huge advantages in fundraising and statewide political experience, together with the backing of the vast majority of the party’s establishment and apparatus, have not been sufficient to separate him from the tenacious and resourceful challenge of Jennifer Brunner, who abandoned a likely easy re-election campaign for the chance to win an open Senate seat.   
Fisher now seems reconciled to being in a tough battle, and he may be warming to it. He referred to his challenger by name at least twice, and with respect. He invoked President Obama’s name repeatedly, and cited the president’s election in 2008 as being a major factor in his desire to go to Washington and engage in the national struggle for economic justice. He also put his humble side on display as he repeatedly asked for his audience’s help.   
Fisher’s performance appeared to find resonance with his audience. Some in the black community have been piqued at Fisher’s reported aversion to citing the President by name, an apparent hangover from his fervent support of Hillary Clinton in 2008. And current Fisher campaign literature argues that “Washington is broken”, a perplexing position given that his party controls the White House and both houses of Congress. The candidate gave Obama credit for the historic health bill achievement, and noted that the president has been besieged by some on account of his race as well as his politics.   
Fisher reminded his breakfast guests that he is the only statewide candidate from northeast Ohio on the ballot this year. Democratic turnout in Cuyahoga County has always been critical to the party’s success statewide. This year the county's impact is likely to be no different, and moreover will probably determine whether Landslide Lee gets a chance to return to a November ballot.   
Fisher has put a new team in place for his stretch drive to the nomination. He brought on a new and savvy communications director in January, and is apparently finding some new African American counsel to go along with longtime political ally and adviser Arnold Pinkney. 

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Grits ain't Gravy [Miscellaneous Political Notes]
Terri Hamilton Brown has told friends that she is likely to throw her hat into the ring for county executive. Brown’s current gig is director of the Opportunity Corridor. She earned high marks as a manager in Cleveland’s community development department and as chief executive of the county’s public housing authority. With a resume that also includes stints as president of University Circle Inc and as a National City Bank vice president, she clearly possesses the executive depth to handle the job.  But doing a job and campaigning for it require different skill sets, something she is probably doing due diligence on as you read this.
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We only got to speak to her for two minutes, but District 10 county council candidate Sharon Cole was ready. She managed to tell us that she has two engineering degrees [Purdue and Case Western Reserve universities], and fell in love with public service while doing constituent service work for the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones. She currently is executive assistant to Cleveland councilman Eugene Miller. District 10 includes Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, Cleveland Wards 10 & 11, and Bratenahl.
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Lost in the primary season has been the issue of a new county chair of the Cuyahoga Democratic Party. Interim chair Pat Britt has told supporters she doesn’t want the position permanently. Party rules call for the party’s central committee to meet between May 10 and May 19 to elect the new chair. Campaigns for the position have typically been conducted over the phone or person-to-person. Some party activists are hoping to initiate a more open process this year. More on this is likely to emerge soon. 
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