A political campaign’s failure to get off the ground doesn’t prevent its crashing and burning, as Ohio Democrat Ed FitzGerald is proving this month.
The RealClearPolitics average has incumbent Republican John Kasich leading by 8.2. Thus ends the good news for FitzGerald.
Did you hear about the married Cleveland politician who was caught in a parking lot with a woman other than his wife at 4:30 in the morning? Who wasn’t licensed to drive alone at the time, and hadn’t been for years because he never bothered to get a permanent license?
Well, that was Ed FitzGerald, the poor sap Democrats decided to throw in front of Kasich’s fundraising buzzsaw.
“I don’t know if they’re having sex in the parking lot or what they’re doing here,” a witness said in an October 13, 2012 call to police. “[…] all I keep seeing is like something going back and forth, and I’m like, eh, you know what, this is a little fishy.”
When endorsing FitzGerald for governor this spring, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman described FitzGerald as “Kennedyesque.” Awkward.*
After the parking lot story broke last week, FitzGerald made his case to reporters and then sent a series of fundraising emails decrying Kasich’s “shameless personal attack at me and my family,” because what else could he do?
FitzGerald maintains that there was nothing fishy about parking with a woman in the middle of the night to figure out how to get to her hotel, remaining parked long enough for a contractor working nearby to call the police, and still being there 10 minutes later when police arrived.
Keep in mind, the incident was in 2012, long after the era of stopping to dig a map out of the glove compartment. FitzGerald’s explanation is that the two were separated from the rest of their group, but his retelling of events differs considerably from a staffer’s.
Also keep in mind that this late-night Quest to Find Directions took place a few miles from FitzGerald’s home and his office.
Officers on the scene informed dispatchers that one of the people found in the vehicle was “a county guy,” and pressed no charges. Police continue to assert that the gubernatorial candidate endorsed by the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police was doing nothing untoward when they arrived.
The police report noted that FitzGerald and the woman were “just talking,” an excuse every male over the age of 14 knows better than to rely on.
With FitzGerald already facing long odds and Ohio’s media competing in a race to the top of the Kasich campaign’s tip list in preparation for 2016, the 2014 contest for Ohio governor is essentially over. Because if there’s one thing the press loves, it’s a sex scandal that dovetails with their horse-race political coverage.
“What he observed was that two people climbed over the console to get into the backseat. Time went by, the car’s still there,” an attorney for the witness told a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter.
“A man immediately got out of the backseat when the police officer got there,” and the woman “was wearing a man’s sport coat or jacket” while the police interviewed her, the attorney added.
Since when do newspapers care what happens between a Democrat and someone other than his wife in a car in the middle of the night? Fair question.
The Columbus Dispatch, whose editor just donated $12,000 to Kasich last week, was never going to give FitzGerald the dino-media’s standard Democrat benefit of a doubt. Even reporters at the Plain Dealer think Kasich is pretty neat, since Kasich shares their disdain for conservatives.
Silver lining for FitzGerald: at least coverage of the October 2012 incident will goose his name recognition. A Quinnipiac poll released July 30 found that 65% of Ohioans didn’t know enough about FitzGerald to register a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him.
Yesterday, Kasich reported $11.4 million on hand to FitzGerald’s $2.4 million.
Given Kasich’s fundraising prowess and improvements in Ohio’s economy after the disaster that was Democrat Ted Strickland’s single-term tenure, FitzGerald’s chances were slim from the start.
Then FitzGerald chose a running mate… poorly. FitzGerald dropped state senator Eric Kearney from the ticket after a press firestorm resulting from Kearney’s upwards of $1 million in personal and business tax liens.
Ever since, Fitz has been on thin ice with Ohio’s media. Speculation is now turning away from whether Fitz has a shot to whether any Democrat on the statewide ticket can escape immolation under the Fitzenburg’s wreckage.
“FitzGerald will do better than the 24.9 percent of the vote Democrat Rob Burch received against incumbent Gov. George Voinovich in 1994,” lefty Plain Dealer columnist Brent Larkin wrote yesterday. “But he might do worse than Democrat Tim Hagan’s 38.3 percent against incumbent Gov. Bob Taft in 2002.”
* The woman involved in the FitzGerald incident is still alive and well