For years, I looked up to Columbus TV reporter Carol Luper. She was tough, smart, fearless and a refreshing change from the twinkies too common among women broadcast journalists. Her 40-year TV career ended last year but she recently re-emerged to do a political ad for court of appeals judge Betsy Luper Schuster – her daughter – and she makes the case that Betsy learned the value of impartiality, in part, by growing up with a mom who made a living calling them as she saw them.
As they say in the news business, there are at least two sides to every story. I’d like to tell you my view of Betsy’s ,,opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy. Mary Jo is neither a relative nor a client. She is simply one of the few truly principled politicians I encountered during my 25-year newspaper career, which ended in 2006.
While on the Columbus school board, she launched an anti-bully campaign that was especially helpful to LGBT kids. This occurred before bullying was recognized as a public health crisis, marriage equality polled well or we even used the term ‘marriage equality.’ She saw that too many kids were getting hurt. She did something about it.
As a young lawyer, she represented – free of charge – the Fight Don’t Freeze coalition to fight utilities that were shutting off power to poor people in the dead of winter. Mary Jo won a common sense compromise from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio: A moratorium on those shutoffs and a plan allowing folks to stay in their homes as long as a reasonable percentage of their income was paid toward the heating bill.
She took on the local Titans by insisting that one of their sacred cows, Nationwide Arena, was properly valued, knowing that the initial low-ball estimation would result in low-ball property taxes, short changing schools funded by those taxes and leaving the rest of us to pay more to make up the difference. The courts ruled that Mary Jo was right.
Under her leadership on the Franklin County Commission, new building projects were finished on time and on budget. Think about that one: Government building projects on time and on budget.
While in Congress, she was a passionate advocate of the Affordable Care Act, swatting down sky-is-falling predictions from critics and arguing that it would insure affordability for the middle class, security for seniors and improve health outcomes by emphasizing prevention. She was right.
And she joined the fight to defeat Senate Bill 5.
When screened by the bar association for the seat on the 10th District Court of Appeals, Mary Jo was asked if she could be fair to corporate America – an odd question unless you know that the Bar Association and other central Ohio Titans like to get their way and don’t like her history of refusing to roll over.
Today, Ohio is a place where corporate America doesn’t need a special voice. American Electric Power and FirstEnergy paid no effective federal taxes for five years. The Koch Brothers brought their Big Oil fortunes to help sideline a green energy law signed by former Gov. Ted Strickland – a law that once had Ohio leading the nation in new green jobs. The Hobby Lobby case has emboldened the already-giddy anti-choice movement that worked with Gov. Kasich to close nearly half of the state’s abortion clinics and pass a law that limits what doctors can tell rape survivors.
Mary Jo Kilroy doesn’t just hear the voices of corporate Ohio. She hears them of all Ohioans.
That’s why she deserves a seat on the court of appeals.
Sandy Theis covered the Ohio Statehouse for Columbus Citizen-Journal and Dayton Daily News, and served as the Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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