(Cleveland)- The top Democratic official in Cuyahoga County has officially entered the campaign to challenge Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sik) in next year's election.
County Executive Ed FitzGerald kicked off his campaign Wednesday in a crowded Cleveland ballroom, describing the Kasich administration as lobbyist-directed, cutting school aid and backing tax policies that benefit the rich.
FitzGerald plans to repeat the announcement later in Columbus and Cincinnati.
The 44-year-old former FBI agent and Lakewood mayor calls himself a reformer who helped restore integrity to a scandal-ridden county government in Ohio's most populous county.
FitzGerald must fend off critics who seek to use his designation as Public Official 14 in a corruption probe to tarnish his tough-on-crime message. He was never a target and was not charged.
In fact, FitzGerald touted his role as a reformer who restored integrity to county government after scandal led to prison terms for former county commissioner Jimmy Dimora and formaer county auditor Frank Russo.
FitzGerald also says Republican Governor John Kasich is leading Ohio down "the wrong road".
When asked about having a challenger for his job, Gov. Kasich said he doesn't have time for politics right now. He says the 2014 election will be a reflection about how Ohioans feel about their current situation.
"If they don't think they're going to get their money's worth they'll look in another direction," Kasich said.
He said elections for incumbents are all about how they've been doing in office so far.
"We'll get to that in plenty of time," Kasich said.
Kasich told reporters in Columbus that he has met Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, but that he doesn't really know him.