State Sen. Eric Kearney did
the right thing in stepping down as Democrat Ed FitzGerald's choice for lieutenant governor.
Kearney realized that continued questions about his finances -- he and his wife owe more than $700,000 in tax liens on their Cincinnati-based publishing firm -- would be too much of a distraction if he remained on the 2014 Democratic ticket. "The stakes are too high," he said Tuesday, in announcing his decision.
The Cincinnati legislator did himself -- and the man who chose him for the No. 2 slot -- a favor by exiting the ticket. Had he insisted on remaining, his presence would have made him a prime target for further scrutiny, and in the process, drawn attention away from FitzGerald, the presumed Democratic nominee for governor. His decision to drop out apparently will put an end to questions about the standard-bearer's choice of an apparently flawed candidate, although we wouldn't be surprised to see that issue resurface in the general election.
The questions about Kearney's finances arose shortly after FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, chose him as his running mate three weeks ago. Kearney's in-depth disclosure of his financial issues last week didn't lay the issue to rest, but spurred additional questions, including whether FitzGerald, in an apparent bid to balance the ticket, failed to vet his choice adequately.
The questions about Kearney weren't going away. While FitzGerald indicated that he would stand by his running mate, Kearney's presence on the ticket was a growing liability. To his credit, Kearney realized that, as did Fitzgerald, who said Tuesday that "the discussion of the crucial issues facing Ohio was in danger of being drowned out, making this decision difficult but necessary."
Kearney's departure leaves FitzGerald with having to find a new candidate for lieutenant governor. Ironically, whoever his second choice for the No. 2 slot turns out to be probably will face even greater scrutiny than Kearney.
Democrats, and to a lesser extent, Republicans, traditionally have opted for racial and gender balance in filling out their state ticket. Conventional wisdom calls for FitzGerald, a Cleveland area candidate, to turn to a downstate candidate to balance the ticket, most likely one from the other two "C's," -- Columbus or Cincinnati.
FitzGerald might do well to consider two women who have run statewide, one more successfully than the other, who would bring to the ticket their own strengths and presumably none of the liabilities that doomed Kearney's candidacy.
Jennifer Brunner, who served as secretary of state for a term before stepping down to make an unsuccessful bid for the Senate, would be a good choice. Another capable candidate would be former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown, like Kearney, an African-American, who was appointed to the high court and served for two years but lost her bid for election in her own right. Either would be a solid choice for the FitzGerald 2.0 version of the Democratic ticket.