Gov. Ted Strickland has confirmed his choice of Yvette McGee Brown as his running mate, giving the Democratic ticket gender and racial balance against the Republican ticket of John Kasich and Mary Taylor.
Strickland sent an e-mail to supporters about 12:30 p.m. announcing Brown as his choice. The two are to appear at Ohio Democratic Party headquarters at 2:30 p.m. to officially announce their political union.
Brown, 49, has been out of political office since 2002 when she resigned as a Franklin County juvenile court judge to become president of the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The center is devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and domestic violence.
She will replace as Strickland’s running mate the current lieutenant governor, Lee Fisher, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.
“I know that Yvette will make a wonderful lieutenant governor because she’s spent her entire life fighting for Ohio families,” Strickland said in the e-mail to supporters, adding in a campaign video introducing Brown that “we’re going to be a great team.”
Brown said in the video that she thinks the governor “has a great story to tell” about the state’s investment in education, alternative energy and other administration efforts during a recession that has hammered Ohio especially hard.
“I am so excited to be joining this ticket and to help the governor continue the progress we’ve made during the last three years,” Brown said.
Last week, Kasich announced state Auditor Mary Taylor of the Akron area as his running mate, a move that increased pressure on Strickland to select a woman for his ticket. Taylor gave Kasich an experienced running mate with the credentials to press the GOP case that Strickland has mismanaged the state economy and budget.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine immediately criticized the selection of Brown as “uninspiring,” saying she lacks the credentials to help deal with an Ohio economy that has shed more than 300,000 jobs during the past three years.
“He’s had nearly a year to make this selection, and the best he could come up with in the face of an unprecedented fiscal emergency is a social worker with no experience in public finance or state government,” DeWine said. “That should tell you something about the fate of this administration.”
Strickland supporters pointed out that Brown has experience in state government, having worked for the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Youth Services and the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.
Supporters describe Brown as a dynamic personality who will give Strickland a strong presence on the campaign trail. She also has deep ties to central community leaders.
If elected lieutenant governor, Brown will take a substantial pay cut, going from more than $300,000 in her current position to $75,900 as lieutenant governor. Her salary, however, could be bumped up to more than $100,000 if Strickland also appoints her to a cabinet position, as has been the practice with recent lieutenant governors.
The choice of Brown could help Strickland solidify and energize support from black voters, an important constituency for the Democratic Party. In 2006, Strickland received 81 percent of the black vote in Franklin, Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties, which account for 70 percent of the predominantly black precincts statewide, according to a Dispatch analysis.
While Strickland underperformed the black vote take typically received by a statewide Democratic candidate, the shortfall likely occurred because he was facing Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell, the first black major party gubernatorial nominee in state history.
Brown’s high standing among social service advocates also could help salve any lingering ill-feelings among party liberals angered by Strickland’s deep budget cuts to programs aiding low-income families, the mentally ill and senior citizens.
“She makes an excellent running mate because she has a real good grasp of issues that impact children and families,” said Gayle Channing Tenenbaum, spokeswoman for the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.
“She understands the fact that Gov. Strickland had to make very, very tough budget choices and she will work with him on the budget in 2012-13 in looking at how to move those areas aheadHaving someone who can work with and talk with the people who run these programs is going to be very helpful to the governor.”
Brown has a compelling personal story. A Mifflin High School graduate, she has cited three women who nurtured her toward success — her mother, grandmother and a counselor. Brown’s mother, a single parent, juggled two jobs to keep her family off welfare and her grandmother preached the importance of education.
Brown recalled in a 1994 interview with The Dispatch that her mother, Sylvia Kendrick, worked in a factory all day, came home, fixed dinner and made sure she and her brother did their homework. Her mother then headed to a second job in a hair salon, eventually adding a college education to her juggling act by earning a degree after 10 years of nigh school.
At the urging of her grandmother, Brown went to Ohio University, receiving financial aid and entering a work study program and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1982. When she expressed an interest in politics, her counselor, Sandra Haggerty, encouraged Brown to pursue law school.
In 1985, Brown graduated from the Ohio State University law school and got a job as an assistant Ohio attorney general. Two years later, at age 27, she became chief counsel to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. In 1989, she was hired as general counsel for the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
After a brief stint in private practice, Brown ran for the Franklin County Common Pleas Court and won in 1992, serving as a domestic relations and juvenile court judge for 10 years before accepting her current position.
(Courtesy: The Columbus Dispatch)