Capital News: Two rough weeks for Ed FitzGerald and his family

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

Columbus -- Ed FitzGerald has had a rough couple of weeks.

First, there were revelations about being found in a parking lot with a woman who was not his wife early one morning a couple of years ago.

Then reporters determined FitzGerald didn't have a driver's license and, in fact, was driving on a learner's permit for years.

Then a lawyer for the guy who made the initial police call about the parked car told The Plain Dealer his client saw two people climb into the back seat of said vehicle.

That's all on top of another poll showing more voters are backing Gov. John Kasich for reelection, and big numbers still don't know enough about his Democratic challenger to form an opinion.

And on the fund-raising front, FitzGerald was again stomped by Kasich, with the latter raking in another $2 million-plus during the most recent reporting period, versus the former's $533,000.

FitzGerald quickly addressed the car situation, saying the woman was a member of an Irish delegation and a family friend, and the two were trying to find directions to her hotel after separating from another vehicle.

He apologized for his former driver's license status, though he hasn't fully explained why he had a learner's permit all those years.

And his campaign vehemently denied he and his passenger were in the backseat of that parked car.

FitzGerald was hard to find on the public trail during the ensuing days, something political insiders noted could be an indication that his campaign was in turmoil. There were whispers that he might drop out of the race altogether.

But late in the week, FitzGerald sent a letter to his supporters explaining his absence. His oldest son had another cancer scare, and the family also had a birthday to celebrate.

"While the political world, as usual, was focused on [gutter politics], we were focused on our oldest son...," FitzGerald and his wife, Shannon, wrote.

Jack FitzGerald dealt with a bout of cancer a few years ago and was having "some symptoms that had concerned us," the couple wrote. So they went to the doctor, and "everything seems fine."

"We're not looking for sympathy," the FitzGerald's noted. "Lots of families have gone through the same or worse. But it's helped us learn a lesson … We're going to survive and just get stronger as a family unit."

Critics quickly called foul, saying it was lame for FitzGerald to try to generate sympathy using one of his kids as an explanation for not answering reporters' questions.

To recap, FitzGerald had two lousy weeks that will continue to haunt him for the remainder of the gubernatorial campaign, he took a few days off the trail to focus on his family, and now he's ready to get back to work trying to unseat Kasich.

It's going to be a rough road ahead, however, as pundits continue to question the car incident, his years without a driver's license and his campaign, which doesn't appear to be making much of an impression on Ohio voters. Yet.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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