In this morning’s Columbus Dispatch, Senate Majority Floor Leader Jimmy Stewart adamantly denies that the unpopularity of his SB 5 vote, which just about everyone in Columbus agrees doomed Stewart of having much of a chance to being re-elected, had anything to do with his decision:

He said he is leaving public office, probably in June (after the Senate passes the state budget), because he "didn’t want to be a career politician."

If Jimmy Stewart didn’t want to be a career politician, he sure has a funny way of avoiding it:

  • State Senator since 2009.
  • State Representative (2003-2008)
  • Athens City Auditor (1998-2002)
  • Athens City Councilman (1998)

This is a man who has spent over half of his adult life running for office.  Nobody can show any evidence before SB 5 came around that Jimmy Stewart wasn’t planning on running for re-election.  So, the suggestion that Stewart didn’t want to become a “career politician” rings rather hollow.  After all, at the beginning of this month, Stewart’s campaign announced a scheduled fundraising event at the Columbus Athletic Club to be held Tuesday of this week.  

He held another such fundraiser on February 22nd.  This is about the same fundraising pace Stewart had in Columbus last year. 

Let’s also remember that if Jimmy Stewart wasn’t intending to become a “career politician” and intending in leaving the Senate this year all along, then why did he run against State Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) for the position of Senate Majority Leader?  When most legislators are thinking about not running for re-election and getting out of politics ASAP, the last thing they do is deliberately put their name in the running to take on more political responsibilities.  Instead, they start cutting back. 

But there is at least one piece of evidence that would seem to support Stewart’s claim, his campaign finance report.  The last campaign finance report Stewart filed was the 2010 Annual Report he filed in January. Stewart’s campaign reported raising nearly $49,000, but only had $8,500.00 on hand.  Why?  Because before the election, Stewart’s campaign went on a campaign donation binge and donated to the following:

  • $25,000 to the Republican Senate Campaign Committee;
  • $500 to Gibbs for Congress;
  • $200 to Mike Hunter for State Representative;
  • $200 to Mike Gaiser for County Commissioner;
  • $200 to Bill Johnson for Congress;
  • $200 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Athens County;
  • $200 to the Kasich/Taylor campaign;
  • $200 to Andy Thompson for State Representative campaign

Stewart’s campaign also paid him THOUSANDS for “mileage reimbursements.”  In November and August, his campaign paid Stewart over $1,400 each month for “campaign mileage reimbursement,” which is pretty impressive when you consider that Stewart wasn’t even on the ballot and supposedly never intended to be again.

Just last year, Stewart’s campaign was bragging about the 500,000 miles Jimmy Stewart had put on his 1995 Geo Prizm.  So what happened?  What do you make of all this?  There’s really only one conclusion I see: Stewart got sick of playing the public servant schtick, sick of owning a 1995 Geo Prizm with over 500,000 miles on it, and sick of driving around the district pretending he cared what the people in his district thought.

He decides he’ll curry favor with his Senate colleagues by donating $25,000 to the Senate caucus, use that financial support and the potential vulnerability of his district to convince his colleagues to give him the Majority Floor Leader spot (passing over Seitz whose campaign had donated $115,000), so that Stewart would have a nice resume enhancer as he started to land a cozy position with some industry trade group or something.

That’s the strongest possibility of what occurred, and the only one that makes all of what Stewart’s done from August of last year until now make any sense.

A billboard was erected in March along Rt. 33 between Nelsonville and Athens that featured a picture of Stewart with a circle and line through his face. It accused him of betraying Ohio’s working families by voting for Senate Bill 5 and said "we will not forget in 2012."

"I could care less" about the billboard, Stewart said.

And Stewart is totally telling the truth.  Because it’s pretty obvious that Stewart made a decision to hold his cards to his chest and stop worrying about representing the people who elected him and start pleasing the Republican establishment that could help him land a sweet gig where he could ditch the 1995 Geo Prizm and stop driving to every food festival in his district pretending he cared what people thought.

This post-resignation announcement Stewart who now proudly wears his support for SB 5 is pretty different from the Stewart we publicly saw before the Senate vote.  The one who talked openly about hoping to “improve” the bill, who acted as if he were still somewhat on the fence. It was an act, a sham, a ruse.  Stewart began this year as a lame duck, except nobody, not even his own constituents knew that Stewart was planning to cash out.

If he had any respect for himself, the remains of his tattered legacy, or for the public office he presently holds, Stewart shouldn’t wait to resign in July.  He should do so now.  It’s is painfully clear that Stewart “could care less” what the people in his district think, which means he has surrendered the mandate that put him office.  It’s not Jimmy Stewart’s office, nor is it an office of the Republican Caucus.  It is the office of the people of his district.  And they are already being forced to accept a State Senator for nearly half of what should have been Stewart’s term who will be appointed with virtually no say from the voters, but they’ve apparently unknowingly been forced to have a Senator who they elected to represent them who “could care less” about representing them.

Why should we taxpayers pay a salary of a public official who refuses to do his job, but is just biding his time until he can start his next job?  Why should I pay taxes for telephones and aides when the Senator says he “could care less” what his constituents think?

Stewart should resign immediately, and not hang around giving the Republicans one vote after another… Stewart’s constituents’ wishes be damned.

Kasich, who was at the acrylics factory to promote his budget, told the crowd that Stewart "is a guy who’s got a lot of courage, and I’m very sad to see him leave."

After a separate public appearance in St. Clairsville yesterday, Kasich rejected the notion that Stewart’s departure is related to Senate Bill 5. He also said he hadn’t entertained the possibility that the bill might cause Republican political casualties.

"That’s the first time anyone’s ever said that to me. I’ll just have to think about it," Kasich said.

Rubber stamps who cut and run aren’t courageous, Governor.  Meanwhile the Dispatch all but outright confirms our story about Karen Gillmor, who is also not totally baling from running for re-election over Senate Bill 5 because nobody has ever suggested to Kasich that this bill is so popular it might cause some Republican political causalities.  If that were true (which I doubt, since the claim is coming from Kasich’s mouth), then this is yet another example of political malpractice by the Kasich Administration.

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