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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – There can be little doubt that communication pros defending and attacking Ohio State Issue 2, which either attacks public sector union workers or helps public employers balance their budgets, already had their “we won” the Tuesday night TV debate in Columbus media releases ready before the first question was asked of the two opponents who jousted for an hour over the law and its consequences should it be upheld or rejected by Ohio voters in two weeks time.
As CGE reported yesterday, Tuesday evening’s debate, hosted by NBC 4 in Columbus and featuring NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd as head moderator, pitted former Democratic Congressman Dennis E. Eckart, a Cleveland area attorney representing Issue 2 opposition group We are Ohio, against Keith Faber, a sitting Republican State Senator from Lima who represented the pro-SB 5 group Building a Better Ohio.
In post-debate comments, Faber and Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus said that “Ohio’s in trouble” and that they need to figure out how to make the state work. “This is about Ohio taxpayers,” Niehaus said. “It’s about reasonable reform. The issues driving SB 5 haven’t changed,” he said, adding that voters and taxpayers need a plan going forward, but neither one said they’ve seen one.
Speaking to reporters following the event, Eckart said classroom size matters, a controversial aspect about teachers and students. “We will place our citizens at risk,” Eckart said when talking about how happens if SB 5 is upheld. Firefighters, another class of public sector union workers, have the highest level of safety because they “run into burning buildings,” he said. “SB 5 strikes at that delicate balance of equal people seated equally at the table to drive equally monetary goals,” Eckart noted, with the leader of Ohio’s teachers’ union standing at his side.
Eckart was rather incredulous that Faber said he had not seen a very controversial add SB 5 backers aired that used a grandmother and critic of the bill in a way that made it appear to a low-information voter that she backed the bill. Eckart also took issue with the 43 percent figure SB 5 backers use to argue public sector workers are paid more than private sector workers. Eckart said off camera what he said on camera, that a committee Faber sits on, The Ohio Retirement Study Council, believes there is virtually no difference between private and public sector workers when it comes to compensation packages. “They were not interested in research supporting legislation, they were interested in legislation and then found the research that found it justified,” Eckart said.
In a post-debate statement, Jason Mauk of Building a Better Ohio, said, “Keith Faber dominated this discussion because he made a powerful case about why the current government employment policies are broken, and they’re crippling taxpayers and local communities.” Mauk said “We can keep doing business as usual and continue to lay off good teachers, firefighters and police officers, or we can embrace some reasonable reforms that will get the cost of government under control. It’s not a value judgment about our government employees. It’s a math problem.”
Speaking of math, Mauk, Faber and Gov. Kasich were likely not heartened by a poll released today by Quinnipiac University showing that if the election were held Tuesday instead of in two weeks, a solid majority of Ohioans would vote to reject the state’s new law restricting collective bargaining by government workers.
According to Quinnipiac’s math, by a margin of 57 percent to 32 percent, registered Ohio voters questioned said they will vote “no” on Issue 2, rejecting the law. That compares to 51 percent to 38 percent seen on Sept. 27.
The poll showed a 25-point gap between opposition and support for Senate Bill 5, which appears on the Nov. 8 ballot as Issue 2. Quinnipiac said that’s nearly double the 13-point gap seen about a month ago when the poll showed momentum shifting to the side of those trying to save the law.
The poll also plumbed how much Ohio voters like Kasich. The math there wasn’t so good either. Voter opinion about the governor, it said, tracks the feelings about SB 5. The good math for Republicans is that they give Kasich a thumbs up 71 – 23 percent. The bad math is that independent voters, who Kasich carried in his election victory in 2010, now give him a negative job approval rating 54 – 30 percent. Men disapprove 50 – 41 percent, while women give him a 54 – 31 percent thumbs down, compared to 51 – 35 percent last month.
What’s the take away? Quinnipiac “suggests that Mr. Kasich and the Republican General Assembly may have fared better if they’d taken a more focused approach to dealing with what they’ve characterized as a contract negotiating table tilted too far to the side of public employee unions.”
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