Rove (and Mandel) and the RPCC (and Mandel)

On Tuesday, February 24th, the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County held their Lincoln Day Dinner in downtown Cleveland in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel.  The featured speaker was Karl Rove.

The cost of an individual ticket to the dinner was $85.  In the hinterlands of Ohio, I’m accustomed to a Lincoln Day Dinner price tag of $25.  If it were $25 in Cuyahoga County, though, I imagine 3 or 4 thousand people would show up for dinner.  What facility is large enough to seat 3 or 4 thousand people for dinner all at the same time and serve them all a formal dinner?  The Grand Ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel was as big a venue as I’ve seen for such occasions, and it was packed.  I’m guessing there were 800 guests, since there were about 80 tables, with 10 persons to a table.

In one sense, Cuyahoga County Republicans may seem a bit dysfunctional.  After all, the Democrats have a virtual lock on elected offices throughout the county and especially in Cleveland.  Furthermore, the Republican base in southwest Ohio may be of the opinion that at least half of all Cleveland-area Republicans are RINO’s.  But, RPCC chair Robert Frost and featured speaker Karl Rove both underscored the importance of turning out the Republican vote in Cuyahoga County.  Which Ohio county gave more votes to John McCain for president than any other Ohio county last November?  Cuyahoga County did.

So, if you are looking to win a statewide office, and you forecast that you need a specific number of votes to win a statewide majority, where are you going to look for votes first?  Podunkville?  Heck, no!  You’re going to get as many votes out of Cuyahoga County that you can get your hands on.  From my conversation with Kevin DeWine in Sandusky last Friday, I’d say that the ORP would agree with that assessment.

Having said that, not all statewide hopefuls were in attendance in Cleveland on Tuesday night.  I hope they were doing something very meaningful, like attending a family member’s ballet recital, because if they were doing something of a political nature, and they weren’t in Cleveland, they weren’t being as productive as they could have been.

So who was there?  State Auditor Mary Taylor was there.  She led the Pledge of Allegiance.  Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell was there.  He gave a lengthy invocation after saying numerous words about Abraham Lincoln (I greatly appreciate Reverend Clyde Davis, who proceeded directly to the benediction prayer without speechifying, rather than following the example of Justice O’Donnell).  Jim Petro was there.  Sandy O’Brien was there.  State Rep Nan Baker was there, as well as a number of suburban mayors and council members.

Most of all, Josh Mandel was there.  State Rep Josh Mandel shared much the same message that he had when he appeared in Tiffin earlier this month.  But it didn’t end there.  Mr. Frost said a lot of nice things about Mr. Mandel.  But it didn’t end there, either.  Karl Rove, the keynote speaker, had some very nice things to say about Mr. Mandel, too.

They said Rob Portman had been in Cleveland to speak last year.  The U.S. Senator-wannabe had postcards distributed to every seat at every table.  Speakers urged us to fill out the form on the Portman postcards and send them in.  It seemed empty, though, because Portman wasn’t there.  He was a ghost, a shadow of the past.  He wasn’t larger than life.  Josh Mandel was there, and he was larger than life.

John Kasich was probably busy parsing President Obama’s speech so that he could appear as a pundit on Fox News with savvy commentary about the stimulus bill.  I get the sense that a lot of Cleveland Republicans are too busy in the evenings to tune in to television, let alone Fox News.  For whatever reason, John Kasich, who wants to be Ohio’s next governor, wasn’t there.  Unlike Rob Portman, Kasich wasn’t even a ghost, wasn’t even a shadow, wasn’t even a whisper, because he didn’t even have anyone plugging his candidacy and there was no Kasich literature.  Kasich wasn’t there, so he had no chance to be larger than life.  Josh Mandel was there, and he was larger than life.

Karl Rove’s most stirring moments occurred while he described the service of those in the nation’s armed forces.  He also talked about what it takes to keep the country safe.  He talked about the economic crisis, even pointed a finger at the person who stood in the way of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac reforms that would have prevented the housing bubble in the first place (the U.S. Senator from Connecticut, Christopher Dodd).  Of course, he also talked about George W. Bush.  And Josh Mandel.

Keeler with Carnival #156

Ben Keeler, of Keeler Political Report and, was this week’s editor for the Carnival of Ohio PoliticsInstallment number 156 is up and ready for your reading pleasure.  Besides posts from Keeler and from yours truly, this week’s edition included posts from Bizzy Blog, Just Blowing Smoke, Roland Hansen Commentary, Neocon Panic Attacks, Divided We Stand United We Fall, Conservative Culture, Writes Like She Talks, Buckeye Punditeers, and Free Market Politics.

If you have a blog that offers coverage of Ohio politics, wouldn’t you like to participate in the Carnival, too?  Next week’s editor is scheduled to be McKee from The Boring Made Dull.

Seneca County Treasurers

I’ve noticed a lot of digging through some prior posts at Buckeye RINO related to last fall’s election contest between Seneca County Treasurer Marguerite Bernard and challenger Damon Alt.

Perhaps those of you who are digging through are puzzled about having Marguerite Bernard’s name on your property tax bills when you thought for sure that you had elected Damon Alt.  If so, let me assure you that Damon Alt did indeed win the election in November, and is the Seneca County Treasurer-Elect.  Damon Alt’s term in office is scheduled to start at the beginning of September, so we will be getting the treasurer that was elected, but Bernard is still the treasurer at this moment.  I hope this clears up some questions.

Erie County Republicans meet Kevin DeWine

Matthew OldThis is a photo of Matthew Old, Erie County GOP Chair, taken in downtown Sandusky’s Washington Park on the day that John McCain and the Straight Talk Express made a Presidential campaign tour stop in Sandusky.

A few months later, at the Erie County Lincoln Day Dinner held last Friday, February 20th, Mr. Old remarked that local Republicans had been excited just to be able to host Senator McCain’s surrogates.  They were suprised when Senator McCain, the candidate himself, made plans to stop in Sandusky.

Are Ohio Republicans demoralized from the election losses in 2006 and 2008?  After seeing the turnout from Sandusky County, Seneca County, and Erie County at recent Lincoln Day Dinners, I’d be inclined to say that interest in participation in the party is on the INCREASE in early 2009.

2009 is an election “off-year,” when low profile local races such as city council, village council, township trustee, municipal court judge, and school board races are decided.  I’ve seen turnout for party functions in other “off-years.”  There may have been complacency on display during those other “off-years,” but this time is different.  What I’ve witnessed so far this year is hunger, and I’m not talking about hunger for food.

Tomorrow night, Tuesday, February 24th, I plan to be at the Cuyahoga County Lincoln Day Dinner, and I’ll be curious to see if the same trend manifests itself there.

At any rate, Matthew Old acknowledged that people in Erie County are seeking out the GOP in greater numbers.  One of the reasons I attended the function (held at the Sandusky Yacht Club, which, by the way, may very well have the most attentive and pampering waitstaff I’ve encountered anywhere) was that one of my mom’s friends, who lives in the city of Huron, was curious about getting involved in the Republican Party.  We thought that accompanying her to the Lincoln Day Dinner would help tremendously in introducing her to like-minded Republicans.  We weren’t disappointed.  In addition to the official Erie County GOP organization, there is also a club for Erie County Republican Women.  Apparently, my mom’s friend represented just the tip of the iceberg, because many new faces had emerged at recent party functions.

The keynote speaker for the evening was the chair of the Ohio Republican Party, Kevin DeWine.  He acknowledged that Republican officeholders in high places had made grave errors of hypocrisy leading to the election defeats of 2006 and 2008.  Our party platform includes principles of small government, balanced budgets, lower taxes, transparency, and ethics.  Yet, we witnessed the biggest expansion of government on the Republicans’ watch, with unbalanced Federal budgets, and closed-door deals that led to ethics scandals.  While Mr. DeWine acknowledged all of these errors, he said that the party must turn toward the future rather than wallow in the past.  I think everyone in attendance was there because we were concerned about the future, not because we were still focused on the past.

Regarding the future, Mr. DeWine said that we need to multiply our party’s membership rather than purge our party’s membership.  I’m inclined to agree.  After all, the name of this blog, Buckeye RINO, is partly a response to those who bandy the “RINO” appellation too freely.  Republicans are supposed to be the big tent party, not the groupthink party.  To be the big tent party, we have to be tolerant of varying opinions on a wide array of topics, though there are some bedrock principles that we all subscribe to.  The party of Lincoln is a party of liberty, not groupthink.

I think alarm over rampant socialism within our own nation is part of the motivation for the increased attendance at these functions.  Another common concern is the feeling that, when it comes to foreign affairs, we need to be every bit as relentless as our adversaries, and, frankly, it appears that our nation may be caving in on many international fronts.

Mr. DeWine said that he fully expected a solid GOP ticket for 9 statewide offices up for grabs in 2010.  While discussing some of the possible names that may appear on the 2010 ballot, he was careful to point out that only Rob Portman had made an official announcement so far.  Portman is seeking the U.S. Senate seat held by Senator George Voinovich, who has announced his retirement.

In one-on-one conversation with Mr. DeWine, I inquired about the ORP’s commitment to campaigning all over the state, not just in southwest Ohio.  Mr. DeWine gave his assurance that winning statewide races requires campaigning in northern Ohio.  What caused me to make such an inquiry?  It was the Secretary of State race in 2006, when Jim Trakas stepped aside to let Greg Hartmann carry the banner for the GOP.  Greg Hartmann was invisible in northern Ohio.  I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of that mistake in 2010.

Also in one-on-one conversation with Mr. DeWine, I asked about the GOP’s competitive disadvantage in early absentee voting.  Northern Ohio Republican candidates have fared much more poorly since absentee voting laws were changed to allow voters to vote early without having to specify a reason why they were choosing to do so.  Mr. DeWine said that many other states have made similar changes, so this is a topic of discussion that’s been brought before Michael Steele and the rest of the RNC.

Two other featured guests at the Erie County Lincoln Day Dinner on Friday night were two state senators:  Senator Karen Gillmor, and Senator Mark Wagoner.  Erie County is located within Senator Wagoner’s state senate district, so he was granted a few minutes to speak from the podium.  Senator Karen Gillmor didn’t speak from the podium, but she did work the room, meeting and greeting guests before dinner was served.

Carnival #155 is up

Jill Miller Zimon, of Writes Like She Talks, has posted this week’s installment (number #155) of the Carnival of Ohio Politics.  “Survival” is the theme she’s chosen for the week.  155 persons survived the crash landing of U.S. Airways flight #1549 that had to ditch in the Hudson River after Canadian geese took out the plane’s engines.

Speaking of survivors, I’m a huge fan of the music of Destiny’s Child.  Now that I’m thinking of the topic of survival, the Destiny’s Child song titled “Survivor” is running through my head.

So, if you’ve survived another week and lived to tell the tale, head over to the Carnival of Ohio Politics to get the best that Ohio bloggers had to offer this week.

Carnival embarrassment

This week it was my turn to edit the Carnival of Ohio Politics.  Unfortunately, my cousin, Jack Daniels Williamson, and I had a little squabble, and, in the end, I conceded and let him write the Carnival.  Big mistake.  Big, big, big mistake.  I don’t know the last time I’ve felt so insulted.  If ever there was a Carnival that I wouldn’t want you to read, it’s the foul concoction that Installment # 154 turned out to be, no thanks to my cousin.

He won’t be writing the Carnival ever again.

Next week will be Jill Miller Zimon’s week to edit the Carnival, so redemption is right around the corner.

Have you received your property tax bill for 2009?

I’ve heard complaints from homeowners in both Erie County and Lorain County that tax appraisal valuations have kept increasing recently even though the bottom has been falling out of the northern Ohio housing market since 2000.

I think it’s worth noting that County Auditors will be up for election in 2010, and it’s not too early for challengers to launch campaigns and start raising money.  Just fill out a Designation of Treasurer form for your campaign committee and submit it to the Board of Elections, as I’ve written about in this blog entry, and you’ll have the greenlight to start raising campaign funds.  You won’t have to worry about circulating petitions until the beginning of next year.  In my opinion, both Erie County Auditor Tom Paul and Lorain County Auditor Mark Stewart are tyrants that ought to be replaced by voters.

I understand that the property valuation should be a rolling average of at least the past three years, so perhaps there might be a little bit of a lag between what the market value drops to and what the tax valuation drops to, but I’m hearing complaints that tax valuations in the two counties keep creeping UP, not down.  I’ve seen tax valuations for properties that are higher than the selling price ever was and higher than the marketplace could ever sustain.  Such practices amount to nothing short of a money grab by county government, specifically, the County Auditors’ offices.  Some politicians don’t respect the citizens enough to put tax increase proposals on the ballot, and some even ignore the citizens after they have voted down tax increases, and they use these ever-upward-creeping assessed property values to artificially inflate tax revenues.  Meanwhile, it’s no secret that REAL market values for homes have been plummeting for eight or nine years now, and assessed values should have been dropping downward to reflect that dynamic.

So what should you do beyond vote out these tax-grabbing county auditors?

That Woman’s Weblog has an excellent article on this very topic.  It is possible for you to request an appeal of your home’s tax appraisal valuation.  Please check it out and follow up.  Don’t let yourself be a victim of artificially inflated tax appraisal valuations.