Matt Carle is the campaign manager for Republican Gov. John Kasich, and before that, he was Kasich’s legislative director for three years.
Carle is what counts as a newbie on Kasich’s political team.
Keary McCarthy is the new president of liberal advocacy group Innovation Ohio, and before that, he was chief of staff for Ohio House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard.
But McCarthy helped Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ed FitzGerald win his race for Cuyahoga County executive in 2010, and he still counsels FitzGerald on occasion.
McCarthy counts as an old hand on FitzGerald’s political team.
With 107 days to go until Election Day, the campaigns for both Kasich and FitzGerald are sure to add bodies. But the core groups of people who advise the two gubernatorial candidates are set, and the counsel they seek says a lot about Kasich, FitzGerald and their very different campaigns.
Kasich, 62, keeps a kitchen cabinet of about 15 people who have spent more than 200 years combined in Ohio Republican politics. Many of them have been close to Kasich for decades, going back to his successful 1978 bid for the Ohio Senate and predating his 18 years in Congress, his brief run for president in 1999, his first campaign for governor and the 31/2 years he has run the state. But six of those friends and advisers are registered lobbyists now, which has caused some discomfort around Columbus because of their closeness to Kasich.
FitzGerald, 46, is running statewide for the first time and wasn’t a candidate for full-time elected office until 2007. Four of FitzGerald’s gubernatorial-campaign advisers are from out of state, and that doesn’t count his campaign manager or chief campaign spokeswoman, neither of who is an Ohioan. Others advising FitzGerald’s current campaign had virtually no ties to him before he announced his bid in April 2013.
“To me, it’s not at all surprising for someone who was obviously successful once to stick with the same advisers,” said University of Akron political-science professor John Green, speaking about Kasich. “Just like if you’re someone running for office for the first time, you probably have a broader set of advisers.”
Green said it’s important to consider who the candidates’ advisers are because “those individuals might bring particular values or biases to a candidate.
“The same reason I would want to know who is funding the campaigns, who is advising them is one set of facts that would be interesting to me.”
In interviews, both Kasich and FitzGerald wanted to compare how they run the governments they’re in charge of with how they run their campaigns.
Kasich, for instance, said he sent his chief policy adviser for health care, Greg Moody, to sit with three of Kasich’s friends who are physicians to consult on payment reform.
FitzGerald identified Brian Powers and Lou McMahon, two people in the private sector from the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, where FitzGerald was once mayor, as friends who are also policy and political consultants.
“I talk to lots and lots of people,” Kasich said. “Everybody sort of wants to separate politics from policy, but I’m a believer that good policy is the best politics.”
FitzGerald said, “I believe in a collaborative approach,” but he added that his advisers are “a little bit separated in terms of a campaign operation versus people who are close to me and who I rely on if I have a major decision to make.”
Kasich’s policy and political universes are largely separate, with a few key connections. Among his political advisers are administration senior adviser Jai Chabria, who has worked for Kasich for nearly 20 years, administration chief of staff Beth Hansen (his 2010 campaign manager), and communications director Scott Milburn.
Carle, as mentioned, was a Kasich administration official before leaving to run the campaign. But he’s considered a newcomer because in 2010 he was running as a candidate for the Ohio House and was not involved in any Kasich campaign deliberations. Jeff Polesovsky, the campaign’s deputy campaign manager, has a seat in Kasich’s inner circle for the first time, although he did work for the campaign in 2010 and held a role in the administration.
The other newcomer to the team is lobbyist Richard Hillis.
Lobbyists Doug Preisse (also the Franklin County GOP chairman), Don Thibaut, Bob Klaffky and Chan Cochran are some of Kasich’s closest friends and have been for decades. They also have long been active in politics.
Former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson (who is a registered lobbyist, too) has helped with every Kasich campaign since 1982.
Pollster Ed Goeas and ad maker Rex Elsass are on the team, as is Kasich’s friend Ron Hartman.
“They’re friends, they look out for me, they want me to do well,” Kasich said. “They want the state to be successful. I am not a micromanager. I am a guy who builds trust in people — as long as they deliver, they keep my trust.”
Kasich’s team meets weekly, usually on Thursdays, often (but not always) at Thibaut’s house in German Village. There were regular meetings for a time after Kasich took office in 2011, too. The governor himself is never there — although Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor occasionally is — and Kasich is usually made aware of what was said.
Kasich wants his trusted team to reach a consensus on any issue, but he said he is “the decider."
“All of us have been a part of many campaigns, not just John’s,” Davidson said. “We’re just a group of people who have been around. We have differences of opinion, we chew on things, and the governor makes the final decision. That kind of organization, there is nothing new about it.”
Among the many differences between Kasich’s advisers and FitzGerald’s advisers, perhaps the foremost is that FitzGerald’s team doesn’t meet. His advisers are communicating with either him or campaign manager Nick Buis directly.
McCarthy and Matt Carroll, FitzGerald’s administrator in Cuyahoga County who has been his friend since 1991, are the only campaign advisers with any personal history with FitzGerald. Ad maker Will Robinson, pollster Lisa Grove, consultant Bill Hyers and communications director Daniel McElhatton all came to FitzGerald from outside Ohio. Among them, only McElhatton is working in the state.
Two veterans of former Gov. Ted Strickland’s campaigns, Aaron Pickrell and Louis Capobianco, are on board, as are AFL-CIO/Ohio President Tim Burga, Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins, and AFSCME executive director Joe Rugola. Burga and Rugola are registered lobbyists, too.
Dennis Wojtanowski, a longtime Democratic political operative, former lobbyist and Ohio House member who is close to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, has a desk next to Buis at the FitzGerald campaign office.
“His political team goes a lot further back than mine, it’s certainly true,” FitzGerald said, speaking of Kasich. “If I’m running for re-election statewide in 2018, I very likely would use many of the same people.
“We had to put a team together to run a complex, statewide effort, and we’ve never done that before,” FitzGerald said. “There is always a learning curve with that, but there are some advantages to it, too. I think we have adapted quite well.”
One adviser in FitzGerald’s orbit said the candidate is “his own adviser, which presents a challenge.”
“I use the same management structure at the political level that I do at the county level,” FitzGerald said. “I delegate when I should; I express my opinion when I need to. That’s the way it should work.”
By Joe Vardon - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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