ASHLAND -- Gov. John Kasich can blame himself for failing to gain more widespread support in the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility, the Democrat who hopes to unseat him next year said Wednesday.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald told editors from Dix Newspapers that the governor's early opposition to President Barack Obama's signature health care law and his faith-related comments pushing for more government subsidized health care for the needy shaped GOP lawmakers' opposition.
"It is surprising to me that the governor sometimes has as little influence with the legislature that he does...," FitzGerald said. "I don't think it speaks well to his ability to deal with his own caucus. I don't think many people anticipated when he was running for office in 2010 that he was going to be that unsuccessful not just with Medicaid expansion but with a whole number of initiatives."
FitzGerald made the comments during an interview at the offices of The Times-Gazette in Ashland with more than a dozen editors from Dix daily and weekly newspapers. The hour-long session covered the candidate's positions on economic development, tax policy, Medicaid and other issues.
FitzGerald supports the Medicaid expansion and said the governor "has to do what he has to do" to move the issue, though he called the Controlling Board decision "unfortunate" and an illustration of the governor's ineffectiveness in working with lawmakers.
He cited other examples -- Kasich's plans increase taxes on oil and gas produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing, revamp the state's school funding formula and expand sales tax collections to cover more services, all of which failed to gain legislative support.
FitzGerald said he would handle his public comments and introduction of such issues differently.
"I'm a person that communicates, I think, responsibly and in a mature fashion and in a measured fashion, and I don't think the governor does, and I don't think it helps him," FitzGerald said. "I think he has a tendency to lecture people, and I don't think it's been effective with the legislature at all."
But Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said FitzGerald has his own partisan issues in Cuyahoga County.
"He has failed to lead his county council," he said in a released statement. "Despite having a super majority of Democrats on his county council, he's unable to gain support for an independent inspector general despite years of rampant political corruption. "
He added, "It's like FitzGerald saying he communicates 'responsibly and maturely' as he's posting pictures of California cancer patients to attack the governor of Ohio and his party chairman calls the governor the devil. This is what we expect from a failed Cleveland politician and his cronies because they can't attack the governor for getting results...."