The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat, for Governor of Ohio Tuesday. The state’s largest police organization representing 25,000 active and retired law enforcement officers, also made endorsements for other statewide offices including the supreme court. The endorsements were made by the 313 delegates attending the 80th annual conference in Dublin, a Columbus suburb.

“The members of the Fraternal Order of Police are not experiencing ‘the era of good feeling’. The communities we serve are experiencing a heroin epidemic and rising property crime rates and our public safety forces do not have the resources they need due [to] cuts in local government funding”, FOP President Jay McDonald said, reminding everyone that FitzGerald, a former FBI agent and assistant county prosecutor who later served as Mayor of Lakewood, was one of “our strongest allies in the fight against SB 5/Issue 2.”

“Ohio’s Law Enforcement Officers believe that Ed FitzGerald respects them and understands the needs of those who have sworn an oath to protect our communities,” he said. When John Kasich was elected governor in 2010, with the help of Tea Party activists who helped push his campaign over the finish line, about 400,000 pubic service workers, including the law enforcement community, firemen, teachers, nurses, and even voters in general, had no idea that he and a brood of Republican lawmakers eager to show what they could do, would come after the collective bargaining rights of as quickly and with the firepower he did.

FitzGerald, who remains close to Kasich despite not being as well known in all parts of the state as the governor, reciprocated with sympathy and respect for their vote of confidence in him. “I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio,” he said. “On everything from local government cuts to SB 5 and the heroin epidemic, Governor Kasich has failed to stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.”

FitzGerald said putting public safety over more tax cuts for the very wealthy, a central theme of his campaign to paint Gov. Kasich as only out for Ohio’s wealthiest, will be a priority. 

Also winning the FOP’s endorsement today were these candidates: Auditor: John Patrick Carney (D); Attorney General: David Pepper (D); Secretary of State: Jon Husted (R); Treasurer: Connie Pillich (D); Supreme Court: Judith French (R) and Sharon Kennedy (R).

State Secretary Mark Drum said the endorsements were not based along party lines but on which candidate would best support FOP position. “Our members voted to endorse the candidates they feel will best support Ohio’s law enforcement officers,” he said.

Senate Bill 5, as McDonald noted today when he cited why FitzGerald has their support this year, was pushed by Kasich, the new Republican governor, who promptly signed it when his uber-friendly GOP-led legislature passed it and sent it to his desk to be signed into law, which he did on March 31, 2011. But during the weekend of April 1, SB 5 supporters collected more than enough signatures to turn in to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to start the referendum process. Ohio voters weighed-in as 2.2 million to 1.4 million rejected the law. At the time, Gov. Kasich said voters spoke clearly, concluding his all-hands-on-deck was “too much too fast.” He’s never said he won’t touch the issue again, but his post-mortum on Issue II reveals he just wants a new strategy to attack Ohio’s public union workers, not that he’s changed his mind on the basic premise of taking down worker unions.

Had SB 5 become law, it would have effected about 400,000 state public workers, restricting their ability to strike and collectively bargain. The bill would have limited public employees to collectively bargain for wages, preventing them from collectively bargaining for health insurance and pensions. It would also have prohibited all public employees from striking and could have increased employee contributions for pensions and healthcare.