Perspective: Will mud splatter FitzGerald or boomerang?

CLEVELAND -- Ohio's political world was braced for a much-heralded big story in the Governor's race Friday.

And Friday afternoon,'s stellar political writer Henry Gomez delivered a piece that will spark debates among other reporters, political pundits and voters.

Almost two years ago, before he was a candidate for Governor, Westlake police found Ed FitzGerald in a parked car with a woman not his wife at 4:30 on a Saturday morning.

Eyebrow-raising, yes.

But FitzGerald and his companion were not cited. And, according to the officer at the scene, were not observed in inappropriate behavior. No crime was alleged and no charges were filed.

WKYC EXCLUSIVE: FitzGerald discusses driver's license issues with Tom Beres

There was no mention of FitzGerald trying to bully or intimidate the officer by calling rank as the Cuyahoga County Executive. There was no evidence anyone tried to destroy tapes, documents or electronic records pertaining to the event.

So the question is, where does this story cross the line from being a purely personal moment to a legitimate public story?

FitzGerald cancelled a couple campaign events Friday to tackle the questions head-on.

He maintains all was innocent. He had been out with a party of friends and visitors from Ireland. He was a designated driver (he rarely, barely drinks) .He was taking the woman where she was staying and had gotten lost and pulled over to get their bearings.

The caller reporting the suspicious car said the car and couple had been there a half hour.

A lot of people will say "hmmmmmm."

FitzGerald's campaign was bracing for this. It had learned Republican dirt-diggers were at work . FitzGerald claims they dug up traffic tickets on his teenager son,

Their rejoinder was ready to go, claiming this is more about dirty campaigning than dirty laundry. He called it gutter politics and demanded Governor Kasich and his team denounce this.

That did not happen. The Governor's campaign spokesperson declined comment..

FitzGerald's claims this was strategically timed to throw off his momentum-building campaign on a day he was touting a police group endorsement. That may be wishful thinking.

He believes (and hopes) this will boomerang back on the Governor and his campaign.

Unless this is the first page of a full chapter, it's hard to see why Republicans would bother pushing this story out on front street.

Governor Kasich is campaigning largely at groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings and "feel good " events. And most observers think he's a lock to win.

FitzGerald's struggling to get coverage. This may have been his biggest media day in recent months on the campaign trail.

A lot of Ohioans still say they don't know much about him.

There will be a lot of debating what they learned from this, about him, and his opponents' camp.

FitzGerald will be back on the campaign trail Saturday.

He'd prefer to be talking about jobs, education and health care.

What do you think most of the questions will be about?

Follow WKYC's Senior Political Correspondent Tom Beres on Twitter: @TomBeres


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