There was a time last year when the possibility that a third party candidate on the ballot—especially a candidate representing the Libertarian Party of Ohio [LPO]—would throw a monkey wrench into Gov. Kasich’s reelection plans by making it a three-party clash instead of a traditional two-party contest.
Would Ohio’s first-term governor be able to waltz to an easy victory, or would he be forced to spend time and money dukeing it out with Libertarian party people who pushed him to victory in 2010 but who subsequently turned on him over many issues? The big split came with Gov. Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid to 138-percent of the federal poverty level.
Kasich took a detour around Republican lawmakers, who opposed his decision to expand Medicaid through administrative means. Based on their belief that doing so would only add to the nation’s debt, they portrayed Gov.. Kasich just like President Barack Obama, spending money he doesn’t have. Using tools at his disposal, Gov. Kasich used an administrative panel, the Ohio Controlling Board, to effect his decision to accept $2.5 billion in federal Affordable Care Act funds over objections from the LPO and others who shared their principles of smaller, more limited government.
Back Room Dirty Dealing Bad For Kasich’s ‘Ohio Story’
According to an email Wednesday from LPO, Mr. Earl’s Charlie Earl’s complaint notes that Terry Casey, a former leader of the Franklin County GOP who possessed strong fundraising skills, and who Team Kasich-appointed Chair of the Ohio State Personnel Review Board, agreed to pay the Columbus law firm of Zeiger, Tigges & Little more than $250,000 for orchestrating a procedural challenge to Earl’s signature petitions.
Because Casey worked closely with Kasich campaign staff, including campaign manager Matt Carle, to hire the firm to convince a Libertarian primary voter to sign their challenge against Earl’s candidacy, LPO says the cost of legal services should have been declared as contribution to Kasich’s campaign. Earl’s complaint asks that the OEC fine both Casey and the Kasich campaign for breaking Ohio campaign contribution limits and for failing to disclose an in-kind contribution.
“It is the height of irony and hypocrisy when the Kasich campaign or its representatives spends over a quarter million undisclosed dollars to promote the enforcement of an arcane and ambiguous law denying our ballot status. They cavalierly violated the letter and spirit of Ohio election law to serve their own purposes,” Earl in said in a statement today. “Once again, Ohioans are witnessing the arrogance of those who make the laws believing that they can ignore the law with impunity.”
Liberty Lovers Hung Out To Dry
Polls at the time showed that if Charlie Earl, the 2014 Libertarian candidate for Ohio governor, was on the ballot, Gov. Kasich would take electoral heat from his right flank, reducing his potential lead to single digits. The Democratic challenger at the time, then Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald was still a largely unknown candidate. Had FitzGerald’s campaign not cratered early and often, election watchers thought Earl might take enough votes from Kasich such that in a three-way race, FitzGerald would come out on top. The 1992 campaign for president, featuring incumbent president George H. W. Bush running against former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and a wild card billionaire candidate, Ross Perot, could make a winner out of someone who only got 40-plus percent of the vote.
For Team Kasich, Charlie Earl on the ballot was asking for trouble. Kasich’s approval ratings had dipped into the low 30s, so it became necessary for Republicans to rescue him from what could be a complicated and ultimately loosing proposition.
Meanwhile, Team Kasich was worried enough by the prospect of an ignominious loss that it called on a long-time friend of the governor to do a little skulduggery behind the scenes. What Terry Casey did to undercut the LPO is now the focal point of a complaint filed Wednesday with the Ohio Elections Commission. It alleges that John Kasich’s campaign broke campaign finance laws by conspiring with a Republican operative, Mr. Casey, to have Earl removed from last year’s ballot.
Ohio’s Secretary of State, John Husted, had examined Earl’s signatures and filing documents and placed him on the 2014 primary ballot. Then Husted reversed that decision and removed Earl from the ballot in March 2014, after the challenge filed by Zeiger, Tigges & Little on behalf of Gregory Felsoci. A federal judge described Felsoci as a “guileless dupe” who had almost no understanding of the complaint he signed.
LPO noted today that this complaint against the Kasich campaign is separate from LPO v. Husted, which constitutes the LPO’s legal challenge to SB 193, better known as the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act,” which was passed quickly with only GOP voters, then signed into law by Mr. Kasich in 2013. By signing the bill, Gov. Kasich did democracy a disservice, as it removed all political parties, excluding Republicans and Democrats, from Ohio’s election process. Those political parties were then forced to “re-qualify” by gathering tens of thousands of signatures under a complicated set of petitioning rules. A federal court blocked SB 193 from taking effect in 2014, and a ruling is still pending.