By Kate O’Gorman
Welcome to 2010: the Year of the Midterm Election. Anticipated as a great indicator of public opinion on the Obama presidency and the health care battle, we are looking at an interesting and intense fight for 2010. Perhaps one of the most intense races is in my home state – Ohio. After twelve years in the Senate, Senator George Voinovich (R) is retiring, leaving an open seat in the Buckeye State. In response, three candidates have declared their intent to run: Lee Fisher (D), Jennifer Brunner (D), and Rob Portman (R). Over the next few months, we’ll keep a close eye on the issues and candidates of this race. So, for now, let’s get to know these candidates better.
Republican Candidate: Rob Portman
Rob Portman, the only declared Republican candidate thus far, boasts and impressive history of public service. Native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Portman is a lawyer, small-business owner, and dedicated public servant. Portman served for twelve years as the Congressman from Ohio’s 2nd district. In Congress, Portman co-authored welfare reform and was a big advocate for a balanced-budget. Portman also served extensively in the first Bush Administration in a number of positions as White House Associate Counsel and later Director of Legislative Affairs. In the administrations of George W. Bush, Portman served as a U.S. Trade Representative and then Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Dick Cheney has called Portman part of the next generation of Republican leaders.
As is evident from his resume, Portman’s success may be dependent on public opinion of the Bush administration. A recent poll indicated that 44% of voters wished that Bush were still in office, perhaps a good sign for the Portman campaign. But, he’ll have to face one of two formidable opponents in either Lee Fisher or Jennifer Brunner.
Democratic Candidate: Jennifer Brunner
Jennifer Brunner began her career in the same office that she now holds: the Office of the Secretary of State. Upon graduating law school, Brunner worked for four years in the Office of the Secretary of State during Senator Sherrod Brown’s administration. She then left to establish her law firm before returning to public service as a Judge in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. In 2006, Brunner was elected Secretary of State. Her most famous accomplishment was her overhaul of the Ohio election system, a battle that took her all the way to both the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts. For her brave efforts, she received a Profile in Courage Award in 2008.
Brunner has emerged as the early underdog candidate in the Democratic Primary, although the election remains five months away. Much of the institutional support and major endorsements have gone to her opponent, Lee Fisher and she has reported low fundraising totals. She is planning to wage a full-forced grassroots campaign for the primary (care to join the Brunner Brigade?) and has stood up against the troop increase in Afghanistan, against the death penalty, for a progressive health care plan, and for marriage equality. She may be an underdog in this race, but she certainly has a lot of fight in her.
Democratic Candidate: Lee Fisher
Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher was born in Cleveland, Ohio going to public school in Shaker Heights where he now lives. Lee Fisher served for ten years in the State Legislature before running for Attorney General in 1990. As Attorney General, Fisher created Operation Crackdown, an award winning program to shut down drug houses in Ohio. After four years as Ohio’s AG, Fisher moved to the non-profit sector, starting the Center for Families and Children in Cleveland and later the Mental Health Advocacy Coalition. In 2006, Fisher joined Strickland as his Lieutenant Governor, and now serves as both Lieutenant Governor and the Director of the Ohio Department of Development.
Fisher has emerged as the early leader in the race for the democratic nomination. He has been endorsed by many Ohio politicians and by President Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. He has also demonstrated a stronger ability to fund raise so far in the race. Fisher has called for a public option in the health care plan, encouraging Senator Voinovich to break party lines and vote for the bill.
Whoever the democratic nominee will be, Portman will enter as a formidable opponent from the Republican party. Next week, we’ll take a look at how the candidates stand on the current health care debate. But for now, this election is shaping up to be a battle between the large cities of Ohio, as Fisher hails from Cleveland, Brunner from Columbus, and Portman from Cincinnati.