Observations Who can be trusted to run Cuyahoga County?

Count me as one of the Democrat voters disgusted by the scandals uncovered by the FBI in Cuyahoga County government; I voted for the charter change about to take effect following the Nov. 2 general election. We will elect eleven district councilpersons and an executive to replace the three commissioners who administer the business of the county, with a taxpayer mandate to sweep clean the widespread corruption.

In the recent primary, Democrat voters chose Ed FitzGerald and the Republicans Matt Dolan to run for the county executive position. Independents Tim McCormack, Ken Lanci, Don Scipione and Green Party candidate David Ellison are also in the running.

Democrat FitzGerald has a record as mayor of Lakewood, as an FBI special agent and an assistant county prosecutor. But he, along with scores of others in the county Democratic Party, is named on the FBI list as Public Official Number 14, although he has not been charged with a crime. He will be the beneficiary of big funding by the Ohio Democratic Party. If elected, will he be pressured by the party machinery that he is vowing to sweep clean of corruption?

Republican Matt Dolan has been a state representative for several terms. He is a partner in a law firm, vice president of a real estate management firm, .a former Ohio assistant attorney general and a Geauga County chief assistant prosecuting attorney. He is a member of the family that owns the Cleveland Indians baseball team that may be a source of big campaign financing. His campaign so far has been a few hard hitting TV commercials tying FitzGerald to indicted Commissioner Jimmy Dimora. I’m sure that the Republican state party will be pushing his candidacy in the county where voter registration-strong Democrats are caught in the major corruption scandal.

Another promising candidate is former Democrat, now Independent Tim Mc Cormack. He was a state representative and senator, the Cuyahoga County auditor and then commissioner. Currently, he has taken unpaid leave from the County Planning Commission. He is also an attorney in private practice. In comparison to his opposing candidates, he can claim having the most experience in county government. Tim claims to have a clean record in public service. As we enter October, his campaign has yet to gain attention. I suspect that he suffers from inadequate financing. No longer a Democrat, his only financial sources would be old friends gathered in his many years of public service. He may get some votes from long time Euclid residents who remember his council stint back in 1972. Other than that he may be a spoiler for FitzGerald and draw Democrat votes from those disgusted with their party, but just can’t vote for a Republican.

Another Independent is wealthy businessman Ken Lanci. He has no elective experience but has a record of making a success of several struggling businesses. He is well known for his charitable works. He has gone to court to challenge county commissioners on spending matters. He is putting a lot of personal funds into his campaign, especially with placards on RTA buses. He has offered to accept one dollar a year for the $175,000 county executive salary. It is questionable whether his personal wealth is enough to carry him to victory. The Plain Dealer analysis of his candidacy was not flattering, linking him, perhaps unfairly, to shady characters throughout the article.

Independent Don Scipione can claim he was the volunteer treasurer and the only candidate actively working for the successful charter reform movement. He has a doctorate degree, with an early background in rocket science. He is president of a software firm. He promises to save taxpayers $200 million using state-of-the-art management initiatives. He has a passion for good and efficient government and wants to apply his many ideas to weed out unnecessary positions. Whoever wins would do well by hiring him as a technical consultant. He admits to being a long shot and suffers from inadequate financing.

The Green Party candidate is architect David Ellision. He has been a vigorous civic activist, running petition campaigns in support of various causes. He hasn’t spent much on his campaign and felt victorious getting the Green Party on the ballot. Owing no one any political favors, he feels he has the ability to clean house in the county government.

The voters will also choose eleven district council members from Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs. District 11, which includes Euclid, Richmond Heights, South Euclid, Lyndhurst, University Heights and Beachwood; will choose either Democrat Sunny Simon or Republican Kathryn Gambetese, both veteran council members, or Independent Rich Devor, Jr. Simon is part of and has the backing of the Democrat Party political machine. That was obvious in the large number of yard signs that sprung up in Euclid during the primary elections. The sign locations are used year after year by the Euclid party to promote their candidates. Gambatese, running in Euclid that has a low Republican registration and weak party machinery, is at a disadvantage and must appeal to disgusted Democrats and independent voters. Independent Devor will take votes from Gambatese. How the candidates will fare in their hometowns and other suburbs is unknown. But Simon has to be given an edge in Democrat registration rich Cuyahoga County.  

Big money will be spent by the major parties and national political action committees, formed by special interest groups like unions and environmentalists. These organizations can independently create campaign literature and radio and TV spots without permission of the candidate. They realize that Cuyahoga County and Ohio are most important to the outcome of state and national elections. If a Democrat candidate wins this county by 100,000 votes over a rival, the candidate can expect statewide victory. But the county corruption scandal may keep disgruntled Democrats away from the polls and many may switch their loyalty.

The poor job approval survey poll numbers of President Obama and the Democrat-controlled House and Senate can be another negative factor in both state and county races for the Democrats. The poor economy and an unemployment rate at 9.6 percent, rather than social issues, appear to be the foremost on voter minds. A report stated that one in five borrowers will lose their homes by foreclosure is both a reality and a possibility for many families.

The Tea Party movement has been devastating to incumbents nationwide for both Democrats and Republicans. Many longtime office holders were bumped from their seats in the primaries. As the general election day nears, polling numbers show a great number of U.S. House and Senate Democrats are in danger of losing their seats to Republicans consisting of many women supported by the Tea Party. If the pollsters are right we can expect a dramatic change of direction, not only in the nation, but within the parties. The old guard leaders will be replaced by spirited newcomers tired of the go along to get along attitudes that are so distasteful.   

The coming Plain Dealer endorsements will make a big difference in the county races. The possibility of an endorsement of a long shot Independent could have positive results. The paper has pulled out all the stops in exposing the corruption. The bottom line is you must think beyond your loyalties and choose the district council member and county executive, who will completely clean out the corruption at all levels. Who can you trust to do that?         

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Volume 1, Issue 7, Posted 3:24 PM, 10.19.2010