Lee Fisher, currently the lieutenant governor of Ohio and a candidate for the US Senate to replace the retiring George Voinovich, was in San Francisco today to meet with Bay Area Democrats. For some unfathomable reason, I was invited to join the meeting, which was an informal lunch for about a dozen people.
When it came my turn to introduce myself, I said, among other things, that I was a member (and NOT a staffer or representative) of Daily Kos and that I would be posting a diary about the meeting.
So here it is.
Fisher has spelled out many of his positions in some detail on his website, so I am not going to go into them here, except to highlight a couple of items of particular interest to Kossacks:
Gay rights: He is for marriage equality, ending discrimination - including the repeal of DADT - and equal protection. (Oddly, given the venue, this issue was never raised at the meeting.)
Energy and the environment: Favors clean energy, alternate energy, not just because it is good for the planet, but because it will create jobs in Ohio. On this point, one of the people did talk about using biofuels and waste products, and Fisher took notes on his suggestions.
EFCA: Supports it.
Health care reform: The website essentially takes President Obama's stand without too many details, although he does talk about voluntary long-term coverage, something I do not believe I've heard come up before. He also wants no new taxes on the middle class to pay for it.
The issue of HCR did come up in the questioning, but Fisher did not seem too focused on it, in part, as he explained, because polling shows that Ohians' number one concern is jobs. Health care is a distant second, competing for that spot with terrorism. He did express the opinion, in response to a different question on bipartisanship, that Obama "has done the right thing in trying to find common ground," but that he did the wrong thing in waiting so long to give up on the attempt; he should have done 7 or 8 months earlier.
Continuing on that vein, Fisher said that, as a state legislator, he does have a history of reaching across the aisle, "but not to the point of being weak."
But his main focus, and the reason he thinks he can win in November, was on jobs. He pointed out his record in non-profit work, and how, as lt. governor, he held a cabinet post as Director of Economic Development, in which position he wrote Ohio's jobs point program. (He stepped down from the directorship, he said, when he decided to run for senator; he felt it would not be fair for him to continue in that post while running for another office. He is still lt. gov., of course, but that is largely ceremonial.) There is a whole section of his website focusing on jobs; it rates its own tab on the main menu.
Fisher argues that his jobs work for Ohio, and the fact that his public and private career have been spent in Ohio, make him the best candidate to face Rob Portman in the fall. Portman was a Congressman from 1993 to 2005, after which he became George Bush's US Trade Representative, in which position he engineered the transfer of many US jobs overseas - and one thing Ohioans hate above all else is the loss of jobs to overseas competition. From may 2006 to June 2007, Portman was Bush's budget director - another potential vulnerability, since Fisher intends to point to the Bush budgets and the damage they have done to Ohio and the country. And because Fisher spent that same period of time at home, in Ohio, trying to get jobs for Ohioans, he argues this puts him in an excellent position to attack Portman.
Of course, Fisher first has to win the primary against Jennifer Brunner, currently Secretary of State - and also favored by some people here. I had not stepped into this fight before, and I really know nothing about Brunner, but I will take issue with the claim, at least, that Fisher lacks charisma. It is true that he does not light up a room, but he does have charm, and humor, and a sense of being comfortable with himself, and also willing to talk about and listen to any issue we threw at him (and there were no restrictions on topics). He also called himself a progressive a number of times (perhaps because I was sitting next to him and taking notes!) and his website, now that it is up, does take a number of progressive stands. Fisher did not talk much about the primary, except to make a few points: He considers Brunner a friend and colleague; he has raised $3 million ($2 million in the bank) to her $60,000; and the DSCC, which stays out of primaries when no incumbent is involved, last November changed its mind and endorsed him. (Actually, it's "all but endorsed him" - still unusual.) Fisher then said that he had heard (or believes) that if Brunner wins the primary, the DSCC will give up on Ohio because she cannot beat Portman.
His Ohio polling shows a general disgust for Washington, not for Obama or the Democrats, an advantage to either Fisher or Brunner, since both have stayed in Ohio while Portman went to work for Bush and can easily be painted as a DC insider.
Another advantage he has, as he sees it, is that in Ohio, when there is a race for both governor and senator, they tend to get paired. He and Strickland get along well, and he thinks that will work well on the campaign trail. He also intends to ask the President to campaign for him early and often; while he does not always agree with Obama, he does not intend to run away from him, and he thinks that Obama will energize the Democratic base, which is where this election will be won.
So I think the forum should take another look at Lee Fisher and consider whether he is indeed progressive enough - and has a better chance of winning. I have suggested that he should come here, or have a staffer come here, and he agreed that it was a failing on his part not to have done so before.