Election 2020

Democratic Hopeful for Ohio Governor Hopes Pro-Life Stance is the Ticket

Ohio Democratic candidates for governor, from left to right, Richard Cordray, the first director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and former Ohio state attorney general and treasurer, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, William O'Neill, now an Ohio Supreme Court justice, then-Ohio state Rep. Connie Pillich and Ohio state Sen. Joe Schiavoni. (AP Photos)

Now that anti-abortion Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.) has won his March primary race against a staunch pro-choice candidate, Ohio Democrat Bob O’Neill is hoping the same magic works for him in May.

“We’re expanding my appeal into the pro-life community,” O’Neill told the Columbus Dispatch.

If this works for O’Neill and he wins the May gubernatorial primary, Ohio Democrats are afraid he’ll wreck the party’s chances in November.

O’Neill had already come out in favor of legalizing marijuana and using the new weed revenue stream to pay to help Ohio kick the opioid habit.

Those are undoubtedly party-certified, liberal stands on issues that resonate with many voters. So, fellow Democrat and candidate for governor state Sen. Joe Schiavoni is having trouble understanding O’Neill’s pro-life pitch.

“I don’t know why O’Neill is making this a position of his, but it’s his decision. We’ll see how it works out,” Schiavoni said.

This new campaign theme does put O’Neill in the position of explaining why, as a state Supreme Court justice, he argued that some of the state’s abortion laws hurt a woman’s right to the procedure.

O’Neill said he had no other choice. His judicial hands were tied because of Roe v. Wade. “I think it’s wrongly decided, there’s no question,” he said.

Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said O’Neill is the one who is wrong.

“Once a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs access to safe and legal abortion care in her community,” Copeland said in a statement. “Any candidate for governor, regardless of political affiliation, who doesn’t respect her decision is unfit to lead the state of Ohio.”

O’Neill needs help. The gubernatorial candidate described as a “truly remarkable man of God” in a fundraising letter is in danger of being lapped by the field of other Democrats who want to be governor of Ohio.

A USA Survey conducted the week of March 19 showed former Cleveland mayor and congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray each had the support of 21 percent of voters.

Schiavoni had the support of only 5 percent of voters. O’Neill’s campaign is in even worse shape, with only 4 percent support.

His position on abortion isn’t the only problem Democrats have with O’Neill, who decided to step down from the Ohio Supreme Court to run for governor.

This is the guy who responded to the “national feeding frenzy” surrounding the Al Franken sex harassment scandal by proclaiming he had bedded a woman a year over the past 50 years.

He wrote on his Facebook page that the 50 women ranged from his “first true love” and Sen. Bob Taft Sr.’s “gorgeous personal secretary” to “a drop dead gorgeous redhead who was a senior advisor to Peter Lewis at Progressive Insurance in Cleveland.”

O’Neill has apologized for that Facebook post and claimed he has been a faithful husband.

“But before that, I was a child of the ’60s and ’70s when I got back from Vietnam,” O’Neill said. “I have had consensual sex with multiple people in my youth. People who have a problem with that probably didn’t have the youth I had.”

Don’t think O’Neill is alone in the abortion rights flip-flop arena. Kucinich’s opponents say he always voted against abortion-rights measures until 2003.

Kucinich admits he changed his mind on the issue.

“I support a woman’s right to choose,” Kucinich told the Dispatch. “I looked at it and decided to address it in a non-polarizing way.”

O’Neill may be trailing the gubernatorial pack, but party leaders are still worried. And maybe they should be. That same USA Survey that showed O’Neill only had the support of four percent of Ohio voters also showed a whopping 46 percent had yet to make up their minds.

An Ohio Democratic Party committee that had the job of reviewing the campaigns of all the gubernatorial candidates didn’t have a problem with Kucinich’s new look at abortion – after all, it is in line with the party’s stand.

“With one exception, all candidates satisfied the committee that there was not an issue or pattern of issues that risked the basic viability of their candidacy or of the Democratic ticket should they emerge as the Democratic nominee,” the memo read.

Guess whose campaign that exception would be – none other than Bill O’Neill.

“Candidate O’Neill exhibited a pattern of financial and ethical challenges over a number of years, as a private citizen, a candidate and an elected official,” the memo said. “Moreover, O’Neill has, on more than one occasion, posted highly inflammatory and insensitive remarks on social media.”

O’Neill said he was disappointed the Democratic Party would “treat someone who is potentially the next governor of Ohio in such a shabby fashion.”