It looks like Ed FitzGerald will be the first Cuyahoga County executive. He leads Matt Dolan, 43 percent to 33 percent, in the early voting results.
Independents Ken Lanci and Tim McCormack are third and fourth with 10 percent each.
The early voting results likely make up almost half of the votes cast in today’s election. So these results are likely a good indication of how things will look at the end of the night.
The last two months have battered FitzGerald, but not enough (it seems) to deny him victory. The Lakewood mayor went into the general election as the front-runner, thanks to a sharp campaign and the Democrats’ huge natural advantage in Cuyahoga County. His own poll showed him 17 points ahead of Dolan in early September.
Then came his cameo appearance as PO14 in the Jimmy Dimora indictment and Dolan’s fierce attack ads. They cut into his lead, but not by enough.
FitzGerald mounted a strong defense. He said Lakewood's lease of the Winterhurst ice rink to a now-indicted Dimora buddy had been above-board and benefited taxpayers. He couldn't compete with Dolan's $1 million-plus ad barrage, so he countered it with direct mail accusing Dolan of slinging mud.
Two viable independent candidates, Lanci and McCormack, made it hard for Dolan to win votes. Voters sick of Democrats had somewhere else to go. Dolan's 33 percent doesn't even reach Republicans' recent high-water mark in Cuyahoga County -- Debbie Sutherland's 38 percent in 2008 against Peter Lawson Jones.
If these results hold, plenty of Greater Clevelanders will complain about their fellow voters' loyalty to Democrats despite the scandals of the last three years. But FitzGerald tackled the integrity issue right away. Fighting corruption was a passion of his, he told me last December.
His experience as an FBI agent helped insulate him. So did his relative inexperience in politics. Dimora didn't try to befriend FitzGerald until he won the Lakewood mayor's race in 2007. The few ties between the two -- Dimora's phone call asking FitzGerald to return someone else's call, a few campaign contributions -- weren't enough to scare voters off.
Republicans will have a few results to console themselves with. Their candidate Michael Astrab is beating indicted judge Bridget McCafferty. Republicans Dave Greenspan, Michael Gallagher, and Jack Schron all have strong leads in the outer-ring suburbs' county council districts.
A year ago, I wrote that the Issue 6 framers had gerrymandered the council districts to elect four white Democrats, four black Democrats, and three Republicans. Looks like it worked. Democrats are headed for an 8-3 majority on council, but the three Republicans will bring two-party government back to Cuyahoga County for the first time since the mid-1990s.