The 1998 Elections: A Symposium: No Beef in Ohio?

Jeffery D. Schultz

October 1, 1998

Like the little old ladies in the Wendy’s commercials a few years back, I would like to know, “Where’s the beef?” While political wisdom states that voters don’t pay attention to the election before Labor Day, nearly a month later voters would be hard pressed to find any campaigning. Are the major races in Ohio foregone conclusions? Is this simply an election of status quo? Well let’s take a look at a couple of races and check on the candidates and campaigns.

For Governor of the Buckeye State, we have two of the least exciting men locked in a snooze-a-thon. There is little doubt that Republican candidate and current Secretary of State Robert Taft will handily defeat Democrat Lee Fisher. But does that mean that both candidates do not have the obligation to actually campaign? Their ads have been lackluster; offering neither vision nor mud. Taft has his silly “To Do Lists” and Fisher has Walsh (America’s Most Wanted host) and his wife telling us Fisher is tough on crime. Walsh is not a Buckeye so I don’t think he speaks well on Ohio politics (even in the narrow crime fighting venue) and even Hillary backs her man. As for Taft’s Lists, they strike me like the To Do Lists I write myself when I am overwhelmed by the tasks that face me: well-meaning, but rarely executed. Perhaps both have agreed to run campaigns on the high road. But what this means for voters is that the candidates talk past each other and fail to draw distinctions for voters. What this race needs is a little negative campaigning so that I at least know more of the downside to our next Governor Bob Taft.

For United States Senator from Ohio, we have George “Sales Taxes Are Good” Voinovich and Mary “Who?” Boyle. This race is so lopsided that Voinovich spends his time reviewing decorator’s swatches to see how he will redecorate John “Ultimate Travel Perk” Glenn’s office. Glenn is so uninspired by Boyle that he hasn’t even endorsed his fellow Democrat. Poor Mary, will anybody take notice of her and her invisible campaign? Not likely. But I would like to know what our next Senator from the Great State of Ohio is likely to do once he (sorry Mary) gets to Washington. It strikes me that he has become less effective with each promotion he has been given by voters. Voinovich was a great mayor of Cleveland, but only a slightly better-than-average governor. On the bright-side, this safe Republican takeover means that the Republicans in the Senate will need only four other seats to have a filibuster-proof majority, and be nearer the two-thirds needed for conviction.

What is so sad about this election season is that Ohio has some real issues to address and no one is really talking about them. I know that talk is cheap, but you have to start somewhere. Take for example Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine of October 1998 wherein Ohio is ranked fourth worst in taxes. I was shocked to see this ranking. With each passing year our tax system begins to look like those that we used to criticize like New York, Massachusetts and California. The problem is that in two of those states (Massachusetts and California) the tax burden is less. The average Californian pays one-third less in taxes. These three states seem to be going in the right direction on taxes. Ohio and Washington (are you listening Bob? Et tu George?) could learn a few good lessons from these tax-cutting states.

At the same time, we have a state Supreme Court that is itching for increased taxes to pay for its educational goals. The voters sent a clear message when we were asked to raise taxes to pay for the change. No. What this election needs is a few Reaganesque candidates who understand that taxes and bureaucracy are the twin killers of freedom. But instead we have some really nice candidates who sound like they are running for class president, or rather governor and senator.

Jeffrey D. Schultz is the President of Jeffrey D. Schultz and Company, Inc. in Rocky River, Ohio, and an Adjunct Fellow at the Ashbrook Center.