Here are the stories catching our attention today in the wide world of Ohio politics. Questions? Suggestions? Catch me in the comments section or on Twitter: @henryjgomez
The Kasich watch: Gov. John Kasich’s administration is withholding documents that might shed light on a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio order that could cost customers of Dayton Power Light Co tens of millions of dollars.
The PUCO’s vote means the electric utility has more time to transition from regulated rates to competitive market rates, reports Laura Bischoff of the Dayton Daily News. Kasich and the PUCO say the withheld documents contain legal advice.
Speaking of open records, there’s been much written of late about Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ed FitzGerald’s refusal to provide records detailing his comings and goings as Cuyahoga County executive.
In doing so he cites unspecified threats and security concerns. The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a dispute involving a Democratic blogger’s efforts to obtain records of threats against Kasich.
Here’s a monkey wrench in Kasich’s tax-cut agenda: Businesses in Ohio continue to pay higher federal employment taxes because of the state’s inability to pay off a loan that has kept jobless benefits intact here. Ohio owes $1.6 billion – more than any other state except California, reports Catherine Candisky of the Columbus Dispatch.
The debt “is mess we inherited,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols tells the Dispatch. “We paid down a billion of the debt and are borrowing less, but until there is a willingness for [business and labor] to come together and offer a solution, there is no real path forward.”
Read this story in The Hill by Ferdous Al-Faruque, and you get the sense that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe might want Kasich’s version of Ohio’s Controlling Board right about now. There’s talk of McAuliffe, a Democrat, using an executive order to expand Medicaid to get around Republicans in the legislature. There’s even a suggestion that some Republicans might embrace this, as they secretly support expansion but don’t want the political hot potato dumped into their lap via a vote.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Kasich surfaced in another Virginia politics story over the long weekend. I noted in my profile of the governor this month that his last presidential campaign was a bit of an incubator for future GOP stars. One of them, Ed Gillespie, is now seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia. And his work for Kasich gets a mention in this informative profile by Bill Bartel of the Virginian-Pilot.
The Fitz watch: FitzGerald hasn’t offered many detailed proposals for how he would govern, but Joe Vardon of the Dispatch runs the numbers on what’s available so far.
The tale of the tape: $2.1 billion over two years.
FitzGerald hasn’t said how he would pay for his plans, ranging from universal preschool to reinstituting a property-tax break for senior citizens. Instead he vaguely talks about how his priorities would be different than Kasich’s, how his policies would not come at the expense of the middle-class.
It’s also worth noting that Kasich, as a challenger in 2010, was equally vague about his plans, including his pledge to phase out the income tax.
“I will be more specific with you all when we get to the fall and people are not watching the WWF and might want to pay attention,” Kasich told The Plain Dealer in April 2010.
FitzGerald’s preschool plan, by the way, gets some ink from Jeremy P. Kelley of the Dayton Daily News. But Kasich’s team pushes back, noting money that has been budgeted for early learning. And a schools superintendent credits the increased funding for better academic and social results.
Keeping with the education theme, FitzGerald in his role of county executive is promising a major announcement Tuesday regarding his college savings program. He will speak at a 1:30 p.m. news conference at Campus International School, inside Cleveland State University’s Cole Center on Carnegie Avenue.
And on the issue of open-records, Northeast Ohio Media Group columnist Mark Naymik wonders if FitzGerald’s stubbornness is getting in the way.
Josh Mandel watch: How exactly does Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel fit into the federal case against North Canton businessman Ben Suarez?
Prosecutors contend that Mandel made “virtually no changes” to a letter Suarez asked him to send to the California state treasurer, reports James F. McCarty of The Plain Dealer. Days later, contributions from Suarez and his employees began flowing into the Republican’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
He lost to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.
Mandel, through a campaign spokeswoman, denied doing anything improper.
He is owning up to something else, though. Darrel Rowland of the Dispatch reports that Mandel now believes it was a mistake to air a harshly criticized ad during his 2010 campaign for treasurer. The spot falsely implied that his opponent, Democratic incumbent Kevin Boyce, was a Muslim.
Nevertheless, one of the ad’s subjects, Boyce deputy Amer Ahmad, could yet haunt Democrats – as Ahmad later pleaded guilty to corruption-related crimes.
Mike DeWine watch: Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine has plans to award state legal business to firms that have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign, reports Randy Ludlow of the Dispatch. And that’s bringing cries of “pay-to-play” from his re-election opponent, Democrat David Pepper.
2016 watch: Another Republican prospect for president is parading through Ohio. This time its former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Dan Sewell of the Associated Press reports that Bush will headline a Republican National Committee fundraiser June 16 in Cincinnati.