Tuesday, November 4, 2014

FitzGerald loses even his home county in epic defeat

He could’ve run the town for as long as he wanted.

Ed FitzGerald had a job with no term limits. He could’ve run for reelection this year as the guy who restored confidence in Cuyahoga County government after the Jimmy Dimora era.

Instead, FitzGerald let hubris guide him. He thought he could pull off a leap as daring as his jump from Lakewood mayor to Cuyahoga County executive. So he ran for governor, taking the long odds any Democrat faced this year, despite the scandal he should’ve known awaited.

So FitzGerald lost, by an embarrassing, almost two-to-one margin, to Gov. John Kasich. Voters’ repudiation of him is complete: He even lost here, in the county where he’s executive.

Four years ago, as executive-elect, FitzGerald was talking about how the story of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 campaign reminded him to advocate for the poor. His ambition was obvious to everyone.

Now, if FitzGerald is remembered outside Cleveland, it’ll be as a minor character in the story of Kasich’s likely imminent presidential campaign. He’ll be sort-of known as the other guy in the infamously missing video, the one who asked Kasich about rape crisis centers and got snubbed.

I think FitzGerald could’ve saved his career, not just by spending a Saturday at the BMV getting a license, or calling a cab for the lovely Irish trade delegate, but by knowing he’d pressed his luck. When the cops handed him back his years-old learner’s permit that early morning in 2012 and told him he was free to go, wasn’t that a sign to start playing it safe?

If FitzGerald had run for executive again, he might’ve dodged his car trouble. Perhaps the Republicans’ opposition research wouldn’t have dug that deep. Or, if a local opponent had used it against him, I think he would’ve survived it, thanks to Democrats’ 20-year winning streak in countywide races and his record as executive.

Though it’s deeply unfashionable to mention this right now, FitzGerald has a compiled a pretty long list of accomplishments: a smaller payroll, an under-budget convention center project, progress on regional cooperation, a $100 million economic development fund and a $50 million blight demolition fund – and, last but not least, his signature anti-corruption idea, an inspector general so independent that she was even free to scold him for his car trouble a week before the election.

But recklessly plunging into the governor’s race? Taking the Democratic ticket down with him? That, the voters who elected him four years ago couldn’t forgive.

1 comment:

Ian Hoffman said...

Ay yi yi, that was bad. Still it's remarkable that in 1994, the Democratic candidate lost by a 3-1 margin. How bad must have been that ticket?