Bob Bennett: Thug
To say I have long been a non-fan of Bob Bennett is putting it mildly. My distaste for him goes back to 2004 when he was chairman of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections — while simultaneously serving as the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. I attended a couple of BoE meetings and saw how he ran them like he was some kind of kingpin, while the other three board members just meekly went along.
I have long believed that Bennett was largely responsible for the 2004 Cuyahoga election debacle. As chair of the BoE, he was ultimately answerable for how the machines were deployed — or not — to create long waiting periods. It was appalling to see two BoE employees take the fall for recount missteps when it was obvious to me Bennett pulled all the strings and should have been the one answering for the problems in the courtroom.
In one of her first acts after being sworn in as secretary of state in 2007, Jennifer Brunner fired all four members of the Cuyahoga Board, Republicans and Democrats alike — a brilliant move. After two decades, Bennett was replaced as chairman of the state GOP in 2009 by Kevin DeWine.
But Bennett is back, and he’s more obnoxious and thuggish than ever. He returned to the head of the state Republican Party earlier this year in a coup in which Governor John Kasich pushed DeWine out, ostensibly due to his closeness to Kasich’s hated rival secretary of state Jon Husted.
In Ohio Supreme Court races are presented as “nonpartisan.” Although candidates run in partisan primaries, they run in November without a party affiliation. They cannot take stands on partisan issues while campaigning. Most talk about being fair and impartial and open-minded, about how courts should function and how judicial campaigns should be run in order to assure that voters trust the integrity of their decisions.
That’s what newly named Democratic Supreme Court candidate Mike Skindell is doing now that he’s making the transition from state senator (where of course he weighs in on significant policy issues) to Supreme Court candidate.
Bennett has decided it’s fine to lob a partisan bomb into the race, attacking Skindell on the grounds that he’s an “extremist partisan legislator.” He’s all upset that the Ohio State Bar Association rated Skindell “recommended” while Sharon Kennedy, running against sitting justice Yvette McGee Brown, was rated “not recommended.” (Brown was rated "highly recommended.")
Even the Plain Dealer called this “a real stretch.”
Bennett also said “The OSBA’s endorsements have now become a joke and no longer carry any value whatsoever.” It will be interesting to see how he feels about the group’s bizarre opposition to Voters First Ohio and redistricting reform, since defeating it is undoubtedly one of Bennett’s chief goals for November.
Now Bennett has proved himself to be an even bigger asshole. Republicans are in completely panic about Voters First Ohio, which would take away their radical, partisan gerrymander, designed to confuse and discourage voters. They are flailing for reasons to attack it, flinging trivial, irrational charges like piles of dog poop. (It’s not perfect so let’s defeat it and keep one of the worst systems possible!)
The effort to create fair, balanced districts that represent communities not politicians was led by the nice ladies over at the League of Women Voters of Ohio. I don’t know if you know anything about the LWV but I sure do. I used to ride a clanking elevator to the top of a historic office building in downtown Chicago to help stuff envelopes when my mother was president of the Chicago Region League of Women Voters. An older woman who lived across the hall from me was very active in the Cuyahoga league. The last time I went to a LWV meeting (ironically to hear former Cuyahoga County Board of Elections executive director Michael Vu — another person who took a rap that probably should have been Bennett’s) the room was filled with nice ladies in their 70s and 80s.
The LWV is nonpartisan. Its mission is to educate voters about who and what is on the ballot. It is in favor of good government, more citizen engagement, and especially a more informed electorate. I admit I had a quibble with the group for taking what I view as a partisan stand when it endorsed Issue 6 in Cuyahoga in 2009 — the overthrowing of the county government in favor of a charter. This was a Republican-driven issue. I personally felt the group should have focused on presenting the pros and cons.
As I mentioned above, as chair of the state GOP, Bob Bennett is undoubtedly obsessed with making sure Voters First Ohio goes down to defeat. But since Republicans have no GOOD arguments against it, he’s going with name-calling and smear. According to the Toledo Blade, Bennett called the nice League ladies a “special interest snake in the grass.”
Stay classy, Bennett!
The LVW-Ohio’s Ann Henkener, who has been a key player in the Voters First Ohio campaign, maintained a sense of humor, saying,
I was reading some information about the 1981 campaign [a previous effort to reform redistricting, which failed], and there was a quote that the League of Women Voters was prostituting itself during that campaign. I guess being called 'snakes in the grass' is a step back."
Thanks to the Angela Zimmann campaign for this tip. Angela’s running for Congress in Ohio’s 5th district in Northwest Ohio (including a segment of Toledo) against Bob “Who?” Latta.
In response to Bennett’s outrageous statement, she said,
I am extremely disappointed with the GOP’s most recent attack on women’s efforts to create a fair and equal society. The Ohio Republican Party and Chairman Bennett owe Ohio women an apology for once again attacking women who actively engage in public debate.
The League of Women Voters is a coalition of both Republicans and Democrats who believe that in order for our democracy to work, elections should not be controlled by partisan redistricting. Rather than commend their advocacy, Chairman Bennett resorted to disrespectful rhetoric to defend his partisan agenda.
It’s not the first time. Alas, it won’t be the last.
If you’d like to help elect Angela, go here: http://zimmannforcongress.com/