Election 2014: Some Democrats, Conservatives Unhappy With Choices on the Ballot

Photos by Nick Castele / ideastream
Photos by Nick Castele / ideastream

Recent polls haven't been good to Democratic candidate for governor Ed FitzGerald. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, he's trailing Republican incumbent John Kasich in overall likely voters.

But also 16 percent of Democrats say they have an unfavorable opinion of him, along with 44 percent of Republicans.

It's not all rosy for Kasich, though -- nine percent of Republicans and half of Democrats say they have a negative opinion of him. And nearly a quarter of likely Kasich voters in that poll, along with 18 percent of likely FitzGerald voters, say they could still change their minds. That suggests there are frustrated voters on both sides.

And likely among those voters are Tea Party activists who've been angry with Kasich over his expansion of Medicaid and the spending in his two budgets.

Tom Zawistowski is the executive director of the Portage County Tea Party. Zawistowski had once suggested Tea Party voters cast ballots for FitzGerald, but now says that's not an option because FitzGerald has been "absolutely a joke as a candidate."

"Our conservatives around the state have pretty much said that they are not going to vote for anyone for governor," Zawistowski said. "We're going to leave it blank. We just think the whole gubernatorial race has been fixed, and that Kasich is running virtually unopposed."

There are other conservatives who never considered voting for FitzGerald who say they now can't bring themselves to vote for Kasich.

Janet Folger Porter campaigned for Kasich for years, beginning in the 1990s when he was in Congress. With her group Faith2Action, Porter's been pushing the so-called heartbeat bill, which would be one of the most restrictive anti-abortion measures in the nation.

Kasich has said he's pro-life, but has never publicly advocated for the heartbeat bill, which stalled in the legislature in 2012 and was opposed by Ohio Right to Life because of constitutional concerns. Porter said she will send a message to Kasich in this election, and said she hopes other who feel as she does will as well.

"As hard as John Kasich fought to expand government healthcare in Medicaid, if he fought that hard to restore protection to human life, then the heartbeat bill would be law next week," Folger Porter said. "That's why I'm skipping that name on the ballot."

Meanwhile, Democrats are struggling too. This was expected to be a tough year -- midterm elections usually are in Ohio, because fewer Democrats turn out. And some of those who are voting admit they have a tough choice to make.

Longtime Cleveland campaign strategist Jerry Austin is no FitzGerald fan -- in fact, he helped run the campaign of the Republican who ran against FitzGerald for Cuyahoga County executive. Austin said he's sure some Democrats will figuratively "hold their noses" and vote for FitzGerald.

"Oh, sure, I mean I think there are folks who can't move themselves to vote for Republicans or a third party or write in anybody, and they'll vote for the Democrats," Austin said. "But I don't think that's enough to win an election year, this year or any year."

When asked about his vote for governor, Austin said he didn't vote for the Democrat or the Republican. But Austin said Democrats should still look at the downticket races for attorney general, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer.

That's the message also being sent by the politician who's arguably the state's top Democrat now: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, re-elected in 2012.

"I think there's real potential in all four of them, so I'm not willing to say this election is a disaster," Brown said. "I think it's a hard election for us because of our governor candidate, but I also know that people are not happy with the direction of this state."

Libertarian candidate for governor Charlie Earl was tossed from the ballot in March because of petition signatures problems, and the Libertarian Party of Ohio sued, but was unable to get him back in the race.

There is a third choice for governor -- Anita Rios of the Green Party. And frustration with the major party candidates could turn into a historic result for a minor party candidate. The most an independent or third party candidate for governor has ever gotten in Ohio was just under 4 percent in 2002.

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