George Voinovich - Mayor, Governor, Senator And Ohio Political Icon - Dies At 79
In a career that spanned more than forty years, George Voinovich was arguably the most successful politician in Ohio – of the 30 races he ran, he only lost two of them. He was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, he was Cuyahoga county auditor and county commissioner, lieutenant governor, mayor of Cleveland, Ohio governor and US senator. As governor, Voinovich faced big challenges – for instance, a deadly riot and 11 day siege at the maximum security prison in Lucasville in 1993. And the budget crunch in 1992 brought a tax increase and cuts to welfare benefits for able-bodied adults – and nearly brought Voinovich to tears when reporters asked him what he would tell protestors who were railing against him.
While in the US Senate, Voinovich railed against federal spending, in keeping with his reputation for frugality. And though he personally had no bringing in money and was considered a prolific fundraiser, he often spoke out against the money involved in running for office. Voinovich took heat for breaking from the Republican Party line several times in the Senate – for voting for gun control legislation, for speaking out on defense spending, and for advocating for an increase in the gas tax.
Voinovich was dedicated to his Catholic faith and devoted to his family, and while he could be prickly and stubborn, he’s also being remembered as kind, decent and compassionate. When he retired in 2010, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family, especially Janet, his wife of more than a half a century.
There have been many statements made in tribute to Voinovich, from President Obama to Gov. John Kasich to Donald Trump – who Voinovich never endorsed for president and some speculated never would – to Democratic Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson and former mayor and Congressman Dennis Kucinich to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But some of the most compelling statements come from people who knew Voinovich well – professionally and personally. In the former category is Tom Suddes. He was a Statehouse reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer during Voinovich’s time as governor, and is now a columnist for Cleveland.com and a professor of journalism at Ohio University in Athens.
Also sharing some of their thoughts and memories of George Voinovich are two of his closest aides and the leaders of his communications staff – Mike Dawson, who was his press secretary when he was governor and communications director when he was a senator and Curt Steiner, who was the governor’s communications director and chief of staff.