Budish obliterated his hapless opponents in the Democratic primary for Cuyahoga County executive yesterday, winning 56 percent in a six-way race, continuing his ascension to Northeast Ohio's most powerful political job.
When I started reporting "The Anointed One," my May issue profile of the inevitable Budish, people tried to convince me I was making a mistake by focusing on him.
Jack Schron, Budish's Republican opponent in November, warned me I could be setting up Cleveland Magazine for a "Dewey Defeats Truman" embarrassment. Schron warned me a private poll showed state Sen. Shirley Smith and former sheriff Bob Reid just a few points behind Budish in the Democrats' primary. (You can read Reid's email about the poll on Smith's Facebook page.)
Yeah, not so much. Smith got 20 percent yesterday, Reid 7 percent.
In a way, the race was over a year ago. Budish hustled so hard for early endorsements and donations, he clinched nearly all the elite support and discouraged other potential candidates from joining the race. The result was the most ridiculously uncompetitive election in years for a major, open job in Cleveland politics.
Budish's supporters will tell you that's because the candidate's so fantastic, of course. My fear is he's ushering in an era when the race always goes to the swiftest, most moneyed Democrat, when we'll know who our next mayor, county executive, congressperson, et cetera will be long before our chance to vote.
The task of breaking that up now falls to Schron. He's the Republicans' strongest local candidate in a long while, a county councilman and corporate CEO who'll have plenty of campaign money. That, plus a national Republican surge this November, could give him a miniscule chance to end the Democrats' 22-year winning streak in Cuyahoga County-wide races.
Schron probably won't win, but he can thoughtfully challenge Budish, pierce the frontrunner's scripted talking points, get him to defend and hone his arguments, and extract specific positions and promises he can be held to later. That could position Schron as Budish's chief critic on the county council after Budish wins the executive job. In this uncompetitive era of local politics, that may be the best anyone can do.