Labor Day 2014 finds me back in Lorain County, the home of Ohio’s largest annual festival (actually, it is always held in Lorain on the Sunday immediately preceding Labor Day) devoted to labor unions. After reading through Elyria’s Chronicle-Telegram and Lorain’s Morning Journal, I have felt the urge to respond to some of the political speechifying at Sunday’s Labor Fest (officially titled “20th annual Lorain County Organized Labor Day Family Celebration”) as reported by these two newspapers.
As I have written before, I am a Republican who has run for public office who supports organized labor. I know many other Republicans, locally, who support organized labor even though local union leaders have often been antagonistic toward said Republicans.
Thus, let me begin with a criticism of the remarks offered by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Lorain), as quoted in this Chronicle-Telegram story:
“You’re getting Republicans that have supported Mitt Romney, that are supporting John Kasich, that are supporting anti-labor, anti-women’s health, anti-voting rights agenda that national Republicans have.” Brown is supposedly talking about Republicans in elected office here, Lorain County, at the local level. Wait a minute . . . who the heck is he talking about? I can name names of anti-labor Republican office holders at the state level, but I’m scratching my head trying to think of who, possibly, Brown is talking about at the local level. For one thing, there are very few Republicans in office at the local level. The CT reporter, Evan Goodenow, indicated that Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams–the sole Republican county commissioner–shook his head at Brown’s remarks. Evidently, if Brown was referring to Williams, then Brown was lying. Williams would be the expert on where Williams stands, not Brown. It stands to reason that Williams would not even have been in attendance if what Brown had said was absolutely true. Being there, and being visible there as a public figure, is a choice Williams made. He didn’t have to be there. That he chose to be there is evidence that Williams does not consider himself to be an enemy of the labor unions. Reportedly, Williams spoke personally with Brown after the speech and assured him that he supported labor. Brown said he didn’t know who Williams was. Brown must not have been referring to Williams. It is clear, by this revelation, Brown didn’t know what he was talking about. Brown was apparently just shooting his mouth off. Such reckless remarks and a clear disregard of the truth . . . umm, wait . . . no a total lack of concern for even educating oneself about the truth . . . do not inspire me with confidence in this person who holds the lofty position of U.S. Senator.
State Rep. Dan Ramos urged voters to scrutinize candidates’ records. I wonder if Ramos supposes that such scrutiny would lead to the conclusion that every Republican is unworthy of support. Of course, those who are the most likely to avoid scrutiny are those who run unopposed. Ramos is running unopposed. Such a shame. We need to do something about that. Maybe I, myself, need to do something about that.
But in a related CT story, I don’t have to wonder where local Democrat Party boss Anthony Giardini stands on who is worthy and unworthy of support. Whoever Giardini handpicks is worthy of support and no one else. Two members of Lorain City Council ran for election as independents, and that sticks in Giardini’s craw. Tim Carrion publicly revealed that, next year, he will challenge the Giardini-supported incumbent Democrat mayor of Lorain. Carrion has not firmly decided whether he will run as a Democrat or as an independent. Giardini, who would prefer that every Lorain officeholder be his pawn, strongly expressed that Carrion should mount his mayoral challenge within the Democrat primary. While expressing this, Giardini does not have an open mind about Carrion as a candidate, for he already backs the incumbent. With the party boss already choosing sides, why would Carrion feel it’s in his best interests to run in the primary as a Democrat rather than as an independent in the general election? Giardini offered that if Carrion beat the incumbent in the primary that he would support him in the general election. If Carrion chooses to challenge in the primary, then, purely statistically–like a coin toss–without taking any other factors into consideration, Carrion only has half a chance of advancing to the general election. As an independent, Carrion guarantees that he advances to the general election. As an independent, yes, Carrion would definitely not have Giardini’s blessing, whereas he has some chance of securing Giardini’s blessing if he won a Democrat primary, but is a primary contest really worth it when Giardini is clearly not going to remain neutral in the primary? If Giardini would vow strict neutrality in the primary, and not try to tip the scales, I think, if Carrion views Giardini as trustworthy, then running in the primary would make total sense. Absent that, Carrion should go independent all the way.
I have to admit to some measure of delight that a couple of union-backed independent members of city council have ripped a page out of Giardini’s playbook of machine politics to beat a couple of Giardini’s handpicked candidates. Giardini’s Democrat political machine has always relied heavily on union members’ contributions to make it work, and those wins serve as reminders to political bosses to not take those key contributors for granted or turn them into pawns.
The MJ story by Richard Payerchin offers some hope that local union leadership will be more open to forging alliances with Republicans sympathetic to worker interests. Jim Slone’s (Lorain County CAP Council of the UAW) declaration that he is a unionist before he is a Democrat doesn’t exactly translate into a willingness to ally with Republicans, but it seems to leave the door open to that. Similarly, Harry Williamson’s (Lorain County AFL-CIO) observation that, “I’ve emphasized that specifically here in Lorain County, history’s always shown that labor has been a D-type (Democratic) organization. As workers, we have to get away from that mindset,” is even more encouraging since it was coupled by an example of an actual former Republican officeholder that was a friend to labor. Keith Hocevar’s (Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 16) assurance that, “In the building trades, we talk to both sides; we talk to Democrats and Republicans in races. For us, we look at individual races and talk to the candidates and talk to the candidates who support our issues,” is the most comforting. I hope that Dan Ramos and Sherrod Brown carefully read those statements, as they paint the GOP with such broad brushes as to suggest Republicans are monolithic in their political views. They should campaign on their own virtues vis-a-vis the candidates they face. Voters need to know that while some candidates are willing to be party pawns, others are too principled to allow themselves to be treated as pawns. It is the voters’ responsibility to determine which is which, and when they find a principled candidate, it behooves voters to demand to know just what those principles are before they cast their votes. I have always maintained that one should vote for the person, not the party. Voting for a party slate assembled by political insiders is why nations governed by parliaments are inferior to the elections conducted within America’s system of government.
In both the CT and MJ articles, John Kasich was held up as an object of scorn. In closing, let me offer this head’s up. When it comes to opposition to unions, John Kasich is nothing compared to Jon Husted. I sure hope Husted is not the “anointed” GOP candidate for Ohio Governor in 2018. If he is, I sure hope he is vigorously contested in the GOP primary. Husted is a prime example of pay-to-play politics. I would not cast a vote for Husted even if he ran unopposed, whether in a primary or in a general election.