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Ohio, 2006
The Cheer from Ohio
My Liberal State

It’s still early, and the results are coming in. But I am beginning to wonder if I live in California. Or Madison. Or Austin.

The early returns indicate that the Democrats have an opportunity to take a number of statewide races, including, significantly, Secretary of State. The Attorney General, Betty Montgomery, appears ready to lose to Marc Dann after failing to act decisively against rampant corruption by her party. The state is going to raise the minimum wage tonight, and deny a cynical attempt to legalize slot machines at racetracks. And voters are going to shoot down a well financed constitutional amendment that would limit smoking, but only a little. The ballot initiative, financed by Phillip Morris, would have allowed smoking in bars, outmaneuvering many local ordinances against smoking with a seeming statewide limit. But voters instead backed another statewide issue, Issue 5, that banned smoking outright throughout the state. Since Issue 5 was not a constitutional amendment, passage of both would have meant 5 was a no-go. Voters had to know to vote no on 4, and yes on 5.

And they did. Overwhelmingly.  Damn, they nailed nearly the whole ballot!

Our new governor is a gun-toting moderate who campaigned on schools and economic development. But voters rejected Blackwell’s dirty tricks that would have painted him as a gay sympathizer. In the senate race, my fellow Ohioans knocked down a moderate Republican in favor of a true blue progressive who, once he was done introducing his family, issued the phrase “social and economic justice” as the first phrase out of his mouth as senator-elect. When was the last time you heard a Democratic Senator railing about economic justice? Certainly not one from Ohio.

In Bob Ney’s old district, voters picked Zach Space. Zach Space!   Does the guy even shave yet?  Does he know how to tie a tie?  They may as well have elected Markos Moulitsas.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  Hell, I’d vote for Kos!

Are we the next Seattle? You would think the Democratic Party loaded up busses full of Greenwich Villagers and imported them for the special election. Maybe there were lots of French exchange students this year... nah, they smoke.

What the hell is going on?

Actually Ohio has a great progressive history.  When I was growing up our senators were Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn. Don’t let anyone fool you, Metzenbaum was a sixties radical.   He was Ralph Nader when someone like Nader could still be in the party.  Glenn for all his military background was Harry Truman all the way. Dick Celeste was governor when I was in high school, and I got to meet him at Ohio State. He was Bill Clinton with a snarl. I remember hearing him speak at the student union when a couple of Reagan loving hecklers tried to shout him down. He made them look foolish and sent them packing with their tails between their legs.  But I tell you this much: college was cheap when he was governor.  For a few years back then, Ohio had its priorities in order.

But the man who really ran Ohio politics for years and years was Vern Riffe, speaker of the Ohio House. Long before the Noe scandal, Riffe had a veritable political machine in Ohio. Every year the guy had a birthday party for himself. Cost a couple grand to attend. If you wanted anything done in Ohio, I heard, you paid up and you showed up. Eventually, the Riffe show began to play to not so rave reviews, and when Voinovich, former mayor of Cleveland, was elected governor, the house leadership started to change also.

So the Republicans rode into Ohio with a pledge to drive out corruption and graft. And for a while it worked. But the Republicans had absolute power, and we all know what that brings.  Meanwhile the Democratic Party in Ohio simply fell asleep. It seemed that they went begging for candidates for key offices and left way too many contests uncontested.  At one time I was excited at the prospect of Jerry Springer running for governor, simply because he had some name recognition. But the Democrats have been able to run this year by focusing on economic issues that matter to Ohioans.

Ohioans have a strong sense of fairness and doing right. I think in general this is a much more solidly Democratic state than 2000 and 2004 led many to believe. Ohio showed it’s true colors tonight. We are the state of Metzenbaum and Glenn. We are the state that produced Dennis Kucinich, for crying out loud.

And now we are the state that has banned smoking in public, resisted the exploitation of gambling, threw out a Secretary of State who botched an election and embarrassed our state, elected a dyed in the wool liberal to the Senate, and ensured a decent wage for everyone, while out in Cali they’ve elected a union busting, gas guzzling, violenct movie making moron as their governor. What’s next for us, electric cars and cooperative farms? Legalized pot? Gay marriage? (Wait, we banned that in 04.) Organic tomatoes as the state fruit? Or is it a vegetable? I’ve never been prouder of my state.   San Francisco, eat your heart out!  I left my heart in Columbus.

In the suddenly poignant words of the Chrissy Hind, Way to go, Ohio!

Candide's Notebooks contributor Ohdave blogs at Into My Own.

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