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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.

Originally posted to DanK Is Back on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 04:59 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

    by DanK Is Back on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 04:59:45 PM PST

    •  Oh, where to start? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OHdog, pistolSO

      Thanks for the report, but there is a lot of background that isn't clear here. First of all, he's for "marriage equality"? He ought to come back to Ohio and tell the LGBT groups here because he's dissembled a lot of that. I don't think he opposes it, but Fisher is "Mr. Safe."

      Fisher was a state legislature so long ago, we're talking about a whole other political era. "Working across the aisle" didn't even remotely equate to what that might mean today, when you can't, either in Congress or in the Ohio lege.

      He's out of his mind and/or out of touch if he thinks health care is a remote concern for Ohioans, only equal to terrorism. It was the main topic the last time my congresswoman (Marcia Fudge) held a forum. It was the main topic of discussion today at my Dems club when we hosted a representative from Sherrod Brown's office. Fisher isn't comfortable talking about the issue, but it's pretty much equal to jobs to Ohioans.

      And jobs is not Fisher's strength but his achilles heel. He was specifically tasked with creating jobs as director of development — and Ohio bled tens of thousands of jobs. OK, not his fault, really. But then he bailed on the job ro run for Senate — apparently thinking that actually working to implement the good but not terribly original ideas in his jobs plan could wait another couple of years, while he raised money and twisted arms for endorsements. (Jennifer is campaigning while continuing to do the job she was elected to do.) But here's how Portman will spin it: You were in charge of creating jobs and in that time, Ohio lost 150,000 jobs. And don't blame Bush because you quit a month after Obama took office so obvioudsly you didn't have any faith that he could turn things round.

      Fisher has no answer. He's stumbled around weakly but hasn't come up with anything. I told him directly that I don't think he has any chance of getting elected if he doesn't come up with a CONVINCING answer - and no, "I was so ambitiuos to be in the Senate" isn't a convincing answer to someone who needs a job now. He asked ME what I think he should say. I thougt that's why he is paying David Plouffe's firm $100,000 a quarter. Fisher's chances of winning at this point look extremely remote.

      Fisher has been endorsed by Strickland, but I think he exagerates how joined at the hip they are. Since Jennifer on the ticket would probably be good for an extra 3 or 4 points for Strickland, I don't think he cares, and he hasn't been seen cozying up to Lee lately. I don't think he's terrible invested in the outcome of the primary. He can work well with Jennifer too.

      The DSCC has not "endorsed" Lee altough they have used dirty tactics to dry up Jennifer's fundraising, that is true. If he is saying they will "give up" on Ohio, he's an asshole. I hope he didn't say that and you misinterpreted. I am going to assume that.

      If you know nothiung about Brunner and nothing about Ohio, you probably shouldn't be pushing a candidate here. I guarantee that without some serious changes in his campaign, Fisher will be crushed by Portman.

      By the way, the "Washington outsider" thing won't work for someone clearly talking out of both sides of his mouth — he's the DSCC's candidate AND he's an outsider? Please. He's bankrolled by the likes of Harry Reid and Blanche Lincoln, as well as numerous bank PACS. Lee is no outsider.

      Stop Rob "The Job Outsourcer" Portman. Jennifer Brunner for Senate

      by anastasia p on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:07:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the update (0+ / 0-)

    I have an Ohio question, that may not have a definitive answer but ...

    being a crossover state, do you folks see many R's voting in the D primary this time, and if so, does that affect either candidate specifically?


    •  Not likely (0+ / 0-)

      Assuming Steve Christopher gets onto the GOP primary ballot (Brunner lost 2000 of his signatures & he's getting ready to sue to be allowed on the ballot,) there will be a fairly nasty primary in the GOP attorney general race.  Rs will probably not cross over in that case, because they truly hate Mike DeWine, the other GOP AG candidate.  

      If they do cross over, my guess is they'd vote Brunner-she's only got $60K on hand, and she's a weak candidate (see the above about losing signatures).  

      •  Brunner is a progressive candidate (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        She polls better than repub - Portman. Fisher will likely lose to Portman.

        Sick of Lieberman? Support progressives in primaries like J Brunner in Ohio

        by grrr on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:05:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Couple of things (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I don't think either Jennifer or Lee's progressive credentials are in doubt. It's just that Jennifer would likely be a Sherrod Brown type fighter and Lee would be a go-along-to-get-along D.C. guy; he's pretty risk-averse. Second, I don't trust ANY polling at all after phone banking for Jennifer and seeing the massive number of undecideds. Third, Fisher WILL lose to Portman if he doesn't come up with a more compelling justification for quitting as direcotr of development.

          Stop Rob "The Job Outsourcer" Portman. Jennifer Brunner for Senate

          by anastasia p on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:12:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, a bunch of Republican races (0+ / 0-)

        are contested. Two teabaggers are competing for auditor. Sandy O'Brien is back, this time aiming for Jon Husted at Secretary of State. And there are challenged in congressional races too. Jean Schmidt has a challenger from the right!!!!!

        BTW it's very unlikely that Brunner "lost" Steve Christopher's signatures. The charges as I read them in the paper reeked of trumped up phoniness. Acorn! Acorn! It's very unlikely he will be on the ballot.

        Stop Rob "The Job Outsourcer" Portman. Jennifer Brunner for Senate

        by anastasia p on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:10:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  If the DSCC would abandon a Progressive Democrat (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grrr, anastasia p, blueoasis, OHdog, pistolSO

    ...and throw the race to a Republican, then that DSCC (and their candidate in Lee Fisher) are not worthy of support from base Democrats.

    Fuck the gatekeepers.
    Crash the Gate: Kossack Brunner for Senate.

    More and Better Democrats

    by SJerseyIndy on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 05:37:52 PM PST

    •  NO MORE CONSERVADEMS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      SICK OF Lincoln/Conrad/Lieberman/etc? Please send money to Jennifer Brunner

      Sick of Lieberman? Support progressives in primaries like J Brunner in Ohio

      by grrr on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:02:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fisher isn't a conservadem. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OHdog, pistolSO

        But if he said this crap, it's more of the dirty tactics that have souredv a lot of Ohio Democrats on him. He needs to stop — IF he said this. And I am really bending over backward to give him the benefit of doubt on everything, even the two mysterious female candidates who suddenly materialized at filing deadline, one a former employee of Lee's who is now claiming Jennifer incorrectly invalidated her signatures to rule her off the ballot — only the secretary of state's office doesn't validate signatures — the county boards of election do. Major FAIL. I'm going to try to convince myself the Republicans did this.

        Stop Rob "The Job Outsourcer" Portman. Jennifer Brunner for Senate

        by anastasia p on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:15:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the link to my diary there. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grrr, anastasia p, OHdog, Scioto

    I also posted yesterday comparing Brunner and Fisher on jobs.

    Brunner has actual job creation solutions. Like investing in infrastructure.  And she wants better trade policies and has specific plans on that.

    Fisher talks about reducing the deficit under jobs(GOP talking point) which will help the U.S's bond rating but won't create jobs.  He also quit as Director of Development to focus on his campaign in 2009 during the worst of the job losses.  He can't attack Portman on outsourcing.  Fisher also talks about "clean coal" which just means coal with a PR spin.

    Founding Member of Peanut Butter PAC- A People-Powered PAC

    by pistolSO on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 06:06:20 PM PST

  •  Will he debate Brunner face to face? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anastasia p, pistolSO

    Will he keep pretending that he isn't freezing Brunner off from known donors and using the state party machine against her? If he truly believes he is the better candidate why not have a fair fight?  

    Politics is like playing Asteroids - You go far enough to the left and you end up on the right. Or vice-versa.

    by Jonze on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 06:12:27 PM PST

  •  Gay rights? I doubt it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As Lt. Governor, has Lee Fisher done anything to implement even basic civil protections for gays and lesbians in Ohio? NOPE

    Brunner now! Brunner November!

    •  I didn't know lt. gov. had the power (0+ / 0-)

      to implement policy.

      •  Yet, has he EVER done anything on them? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Let's see... Lee Fisher was in the Ohio Senate for 8 years. He authored Ohio's hate crime law. Did it include sexual orientation? NOPE.

        Did Lee Fisher sponsor any gay rights legislation during his 8 years in the Ohio Senate? NOPE.

        As Attorney General of Ohio, did Lee Fisher do anything to stop Cincinnati's blatant anti-gay law which specifically prohibited the City from recognize any specified rights for gays and lesbians? NOPE.

    •  And has Brunner done anything on this? (0+ / 0-)

      I understand that she probably had little power to do anything so it's not really a criticism of her. But it would be better if you could say that Fisher had a chance to do X and didn't than to blame him for not doing smth he couldn't do in the first place.

      •  Jennifer's very first national statement (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mph2005, OHdog, FG

        was a column on Huffington Post last Jine, supporting total marriage equality, something she's advocated for since the late ’80s. Fisher is a little uneasy about being that definite. Neither is against gay rights.

        Stop Rob "The Job Outsourcer" Portman. Jennifer Brunner for Senate

        by anastasia p on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:18:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  No, Fisher is pro-gay rights (0+ / 0-)

      He just doesn't like going out on a limb too much so he hedged on marriage equality, that's all.

      Stop Rob "The Job Outsourcer" Portman. Jennifer Brunner for Senate

      by anastasia p on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:17:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oddly enough.. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grrr, OHdog, Scioto, pistolSO

    "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."

    There are quite a few Ohioans (myself included) who think that if Fisher beats Brunner, Portman will clean his clock in November.  His biggest problem is that while he's been around Ohio politics for a long time, he really hasn't got much of anything accomplished.  Fisher's most recent job was was Strickland's job czar. He bailed on that to run for Senate. Ohio's unemployment rate went up again in the most recent announcement. The last (two?) time(s) he ran statewide, he lost.  He's also from Cleveland which isn't a plus for a statewide run by a Democrat.

    My money (literally) is on Brunner as the best candidate.

    •  Well, he ran for lt. gov and won (0+ / 0-)

      Of course, in Ohio, the gov and lt gov run together, so you could say Strickland won and carried Fisher along. But at least is says Fisher wasn't a drag on a statewide ticket.

      Doesn't say how he'll do on his own, of course, even though it would be once again a Strickland-Fisher ticket, after a fashion.

      It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

      by DanK Is Back on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 07:38:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're mostly right except (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      for being from Cleveland not being a plus right now. If Lee were truly a popular native son, it WOULD be a plus because Cuyahoga is steaming right now about being THE critical area Democrats need to cover and virtually the entire statewide ticket being from Columbus. This was a major topic at my Dems Club meeting tonight; you could almost feel the rage. The attitude is "Fine — get your support from Columbus." Problem is that Lee is NOT the overwhelming favourite up here. The county party declined to endorse, probably knowing it would rip the party in two. And my sense is that Jennifer has more support up here, except for a handful of wealthy east-side suburbs around Lee's home base.

      Yes, Lee lost the last two times he ran statewide, despite majorly outraising his opponents. This time, either he or Jennifer will be underfunded compared to Portman, so Lee will need a compelling campaign, which he doesn't have so far.

      Stop Rob "The Job Outsourcer" Portman. Jennifer Brunner for Senate

      by anastasia p on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 08:23:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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