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Ohio Democrats try to rally hopes on Labor Day; candidate says demise "greatly exaggerated"

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CINCINNATI — The Democratic lieutenant governor candidate said Monday the beleaguered top of the Ohio ticket isn't throwing in the towel, as candidates tried to rally base supporters at Labor Day events.

Sharen Neuhardt campaigned at the annual AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic at Coney Island near Cincinnati, where thousands flocked around grill pits for large arrays of hot dogs, bratwurst, chicken and more on a muggy day along the Ohio River. Gubernatorial nominee Ed FitzGerald planned to take part in events in Cleveland and Toledo, as the holiday found him trying to regain his footing after a series of political missteps in an already uphill race against Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Neuhardt paraphrased Mark Twain as she dismissed suggestions the race is too far gone with barely two months left before Election Day.

"The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated," she said. "We're going to run a great campaign, and we're going to be getting out the vote, and for that we're going to be relying on all good Democrats, all the labor folks here; the people who know what's really at stake."

Labor Day is considered the unofficial start of the stretch drive to November elections, and she said there is still time to build Democratic support. FitzGerald, after disclosures such as that he lacked a permanent driver's license for years, has seen an exodus of top campaign staffers and said he'll divert significant amounts of campaign funds to Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts.

"The voters in Ohio are going to start paying attention to this race," she said, saying the campaign will contend that Kasich "has never worked for the working people of this state" and will remind them of Kasich's push for restrictions on public union collective bargaining that were rejected by voters early in his term.

Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor issued a statement Monday recognizing "the hardworking men and women of our state and nation" on Labor Day.

A state Republican spokesman said most Ohioans want to continue the state's comeback under Kasich, and that Republicans will keep working to promote his message and voter turnout.

"With Governor Kasich leading our ticket, the Democratic ticket imploding, and (President Barack) Obama at near-record low approval ratings, the outlook is positive for Republicans," spokesman Chris Schrimpf said. "That being said, we aren't taking anything for granted."

Pete McLinden, executive secretary-treasurer of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO, said people knew FitzGerald was facing a challenge, but local activists remain enthused about two Cincinnati area statewide candidates: David Pepper, running for attorney general, and state Rep. Connie Pillich, running for state treasurer.

"It's tough trying to beat an incumbent governor," McLinden said.

University of Cincinnati professor Daniel Langmeyer, active in the American Association of University Professors, said he thought Kasich was beatable, "but not by this candidate." He said Kasich certainly had few friends among union members at Monday's picnic.

"I'm sorry that the Democratic candidate has so much baggage," Langmeyer said. "It's a pity."


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