“I was a little late coming down,” Ed FitzGerald told local Democrats at the downtown Doubletree hotel tonight, “because I couldn’t decide if I should change into my czar uniform.”
FitzGerald was joking about one of his top opponent’s attack ads, one volley in a barrage he’d withstood. Now, his czar moment was behind him. So was his PO14 moment. The Democrat had survived Republican attempts to tar him by association with Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo. He’d beaten Matt Dolan 45 percent to 31 percent to become the leader of Cuyahoga County’s new government.
“A stream of scandals were laid at our doorstep, whether it was fair or not,” FitzGerald said as 11 o’clock news cameras’ spotlights glowed white. “We had to deal with it over and over again. … We still won.”
Like Cleveland mayors on their victory nights, the county executive-elect declared that his campaign had bridged divides between the East and West sides, black and white — and urban and suburban, he added. “These divisions have held this county back. [Our campaign is] proof positive that we can shake off those old habits once and for all.”
FitzGerald acknowledged the need to shake off corruption’s damage. “Faith in county government has never been at such a low point,” he declared. “Speeches cannot fix that.” Instead, he said he’d tackle his agenda: restoring “the idea that public employment is a trust,” creating a jobs program, making higher education more affordable, caring for the poor and encouraging regional cooperation. “I want to make Cuyahoga County a national model for how to get things done,” he said.
As FitzGerald stepped down from the stage, Democratic chair Stuart Garson closed the speeches with a reminder of their party’s bad election night nationwide and a final nod to the scandals Cuyahoga Democrats had shaken off.
“Look what we do with a gale force in our face,” he said. “Imagine what we can do next year with a gentle breeze at our back.”
To read my coverage of FitzGerald in the September issue of Cleveland Magazine, click here.