Dems' pro-gun/anti-gun gubernatorial ticket latest in a series of 2006 surprises

By Chad D. Baus

For political junkies, the 2006 Ohio Governor's race has been providing fix after fix for well over a year now.

Among Republicans, battles between Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Attorney General Jim Petro, and Auditor of State Betty Montgomery have been a microcosm of the larger power struggle in the Grand Old Party of late between conservatives and moderates. Among Democrats, a similar struggle has broiled, with liberals like Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman and state Sen. Eric Fingerhut squaring off against front-runner Ted Strickland, who is more moderate.

Events from the past two weeks in both parties have shaken things up considerably in terms of the May 2 primary, and further shakeup can be expected in the days leading up to the Feb. 16 filing deadline.

On January 16, Republican Jim Petro's running mate Phil Heimlich, who had been selected to shore up Petro's bonafides as a conservative, left the ticket to run for reelection as a county commissioner in Cincinnati. Petro has yet to name replacement.

Nine days later, on January 25, pro-choice and anti-gun "Republican" Betty Montgomery announced she was quitting the governor's race and would instead run for Attorney General.

Conservative Republican Ken Blackwell, who for the past year has consistently polled as the GOP's front-runner, has also not yet named a running mate. And before anyone convinces themselves that running mates don't matter, consider what Democrat Ted Strickland's naming of a running mate has done to the hearts of Democrat gun owners...

By all accounts, Ted Strickland is pro-gun. In Congress, he has earned an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association. In the early days of his gubernatorial campaign in Ohio, he has spoken out against a Columbus ban on most semi-automatic rifles that cost the city $20 million in convention revenue, voiced support for Ohio's two year-old concealed carry law, and told legislators they should pass a bill which would prevent municipal gun control laws and make firearms laws uniform across the state.

For once, the prospect of having good choices on either side of the ticket seemed within reach for gun owners. And now comes Strickland's selection of a running mate - former Ohio Attorney General and Handgun Control Inc. board member Lee Fisher.

Lee Fisher lost a 1994 bid as Attorney General, having been quoted as saying "I never met a gun control bill I didn't like," and lost a 1998 race for Governor, having stood on a podium with Sarah Brady herself to announce his campaign.

Just as analysts perceived that Jim Petro had sought to "balance the ticket" with Phil Heimlich, it appears Ted Strickland has decided to chase the extreme left with his selection of Fisher. But in doing so, Strickland has dulled the hopes of hundreds of thousands of Ohio Democrats who vote first to protect their Second Amendment freedoms.

Around the Buckeye state, gun control is a sure loser in statewide elections. The Ohio General Assembly is chock full of pro-gun voters. Gun owners are among the most consistent voting blocks, and the most active grassroots activists. So while it is the Governor who sets policy and signs legislation into law, there is considerable question over whether gun-owning Ohioans will vote to put a gun hater like Lee Fisher within a heart-beat of the Governor's office, and to position him for a future run at the top spot.


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