COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Working-class Ohioans: The candidates for Ohio governor want you.
If the airwaves are any indication, scoring support among the blue-collar and union workers around the state seems to be key to the fall election that pits Republican Gov. John Kasich against Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive in Cleveland.
FitzGerald’s first television ad began airing statewide Wednesday. It opens with this line: “Who’s the promise of Ohio meant for? Just the wealthy and well-connected, or the average Ohioans who get up early and get it done every day?”
The 30-second commercial is showing on Columbus and Cleveland broadcast channels and cable stations statewide. It follows the opening question with a pledge by FitzGerald to get Ohio “working for working people.” The visuals are rich with images of blue-collar workers, farmers, firefighters, police and teachers.
Three months ago, the far better-funded Kasich campaign, which has raised $8.5 million to the FitzGerald camp’s $1.5 million, launched its TV presence with a blue-collar message as well.
The biographical spot, which went up before Kasich’s unopposed May primary, emphasized his blue-collar roots in a Pennsylvania steel town as the son of a mail carrier father and immigrant mother. It also touched on his time at Ohio State University and his work to balance the federal budget as U.S. House budget chairman in the 1990s.
While Kasich is ahead in polls, Democrats believe the 2011 battle over a law he’d signed that limited the collective bargaining powers of public employee unions still looms large in this year’s governor’s race. Kasich saw some of his lowest approval ratings during a ballot battle that ended in the law, Senate Bill 5, being overturned. His popularity has since improved.
FitzGerald and Kasich are disagreeing over whose favored economic policies can do more to help average Ohioans. FitzGerald preaches support for local governments, universal pre-school and affordable college tuitions, while Kasich touts income-tax breaks, exemptions and credits he’s backed, expanded job training programs and the streamlining of credit transfers between high school and college.