George Victor Voinovich (born July 15, 1936) is the senior United States Senator from the state of Ohio, and a member of the Republican Party. Previously, he served as the 65th Governor of Ohio from 1991 to 1998, and as the 54th mayor of Cleveland from 1980 to 1989.
Aside from Kucinich, Voinovich's other opponents included state Senator Charles Butts and city council majority leader Basil Russo. As the election drew closer, The Plain Dealer announced its endorsement of Voinovich. Voter turnout in the primary was greater than that of 1977 race among Perk, Kucinich, and Edward F. Feighan (when Voinovich had endorsed Kucinich). In the 1979 nonpartisan primary election, Voinovich led with 47,000 votes to 36,000 for Kucinich. Russo (who obtained 21,000) and Butts (with 19,000) did not qualify for the general election. The biggest surprise was Voinovich's showing in predominantly African American wards, where he was expected to finish last. He trailed only Butts, with Kucinich last.
Then, a few days after the primary, Voinovich's nine-year-old daughter, Molly was struck by a van and killed on October 8. This tragic event brought the campaign to a virtual halt and made it difficult for Kucinich to attack his opponent. Still, he challenged Voinovich to a series of debates in Cleveland neighborhoods. However, the former lieutenant governor declined these invitations saying they would be unproductive. Finally, however, a debate between Voinovich and Kucinich was held at the City Club on November 3. Following the debate, Voinovich went on to win the election with 94,541 votes to Kucinich's 73,755.
After his victory in 1979, Voinovich won re-election in 1981 against Ohio state Rep. Patrick Sweeney (107,472 to 32,940) and in 1985 against councilman Gary Kucinich, Dennis' brother (82,840 to 32,185).
By the time Voinovich was elected, Cleveland had long been the butt of late night comedians' jokes. When Boston mayor Kevin White remarked that the city's finances had gone from "Camelot to Cleveland," Voinovich protested. White responded by saying that Boston had survived facetious remarks from a wide range of jokesters, from Mark Twain to Johnny Carson. "I am sure Cleveland will also," he said.
The defensive attitude projected from the Cleveland media and Voinovich began to make inhabitants of other cities look twice at Cleveland. The Smythe-Cramer Co. especially helped restore the city's former glory by running a series of ads with photographs of downtown Cleveland captioned "Take Another Look. It's Cleveland!" In May, The Plain Dealer sent its Sunday subscribers bumper stickers saying, "New York's the Big Apple, but Cleveland's a Plum." The paper also passed out thousands of "Cleveland's a Plum" buttons and also ran a huge picture of Publisher Thomas Vail, with a smiling Voinovich beside him, throwing out the first plum at a Yankees-Indians game. Sportscaster Howard Cosell hailed the city during a baseball game and Voinovich subsequently presented him with a key to the city. A survey showed 65 percent of the residents of Greater Cleveland were very satisfied with their life in the city and even 57 percent claimed to be very satisfied, even in 1978, the year of default. Also, a national poll rated Detroit as the city with the worst image, with New York City second. Cleveland was fifth-worst.
The New Cleveland Campaign, a promotion agency formed in 1978, began sending out news releases bragging about Cleveland's virtues and proudly circulating reprints whenever it got a favorable story. Unfortunately, to show how much the "new" Cleveland had improved, it had to stress how bad the old Cleveland was. In particular, it stressed on the city's 1978 default, even though New York City defaulted on 300 times as much in 1975 (which they referred to as a "moratorium.").
The restoration campaign reached its peak in October with the society magazine Town and Country. "Cleveland's Come-Around" explained how "businessmen, lawyers and concerned citizens" rescued the city from "the petulant, pugnacious Dennis Kucinich." It called Voinovich's Operation Improvement Task Force under E. Mandell de Windt "the most significant undertaking in Cleveland since Moses Cleaveland stepped ashore on the bank of the Cuyahoga River in 1786." It also enticed its readers of Lake Erie and its "beautiful and exciting year-round sailing."
So confident was Voinovich, that during election season, he even attracted presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan to debate in Cleveland. "Cleveland is making a comeback," Time Magazine declared at the close of 1980, "During the past year, convention business has flourished, school desegregation has proceeded peacefully, and a modest construction boom has begun. . . Most impressive of all, the city dug itself out of default."
Throughout the Voinovich years, neighborhoods began to see some improvement starting with the Lexington Village housing project, $149 million in Urban Development Action Grants, and $3 billion of construction underway or completed. In particular, the neighborhoods of Hough and Fairfax, then two of Cleveland's worst east side neighborhoods, began to see new houses built and lesser amount of criminal activity. Voinovich also quietly moved to reconcile the warring groups of the 1970s. He made peace with business leaders and even posed with them in photographs that ran in New Cleveland Campaign ads in business magazines, captioned with the Voinovich slogan: "Together, we can do it." He refined the neighborhood groups, which, with the breakdown of the Democratic Party, became the most potent political force in the city. He also extended his hand to unions as well, in particular the Teamsters truck union.
As mayor, Voinovich oversaw a huge scale urban renaissance downtown. Sohio (purchased by BP America in 1987), Ohio Bell, and Eaton Corporation all built new offices downtown (most notably the BP Building). Brothers Richard and David Jacobs astonished the city by rescuing its troubled Indians franchise, ultimately turning it around for the better. The two also improved the desolate area located by the Erieview Tower and turned it into the glass-roofed Galleria at Erieview. Voinovich also attracted the Key Bank company, which eventually led to the construction of Key Tower, the largest skyscraper in Cleveland and the 15th largest in the nation. In addition, the National Civic League awarded Cleveland the All-America City Award three times, in 1982, 1984, and 1986, in addition to its first, won in 1950.
In 1984, however, Voinovich's pro-Muni attitude began to change, when his administration began negotiations for CEI. The deal would have allowed CEI to take over all of Muni's private customers in exchange for various benefits including a cash payment of $40 million. Furthermore, CEI threatened to move its more than 1,000 employees to the suburbs, instead of placing them in a major downtown development, if Voinovich did not agree to sell. CEI put additional pressure on the mayor to sell when it widely publicized its advantages in a full-page newspaper advertisement and letters to all city residents. Perhaps fearing a Kucinich comeback and after stating that he had been "leaned on by everyone in this town," Voinovich cancelled the sale once and for all. CEI itself was eventually acquired and became part of FirstEnergy.
In 1990, Voinovich was nominated by the Republicans to replace Governor Richard F. Celeste, a Democrat who was barred from running for a third consecutive term. In that race, Voinovich defeated Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr., a victory that made Voinovich the first Serb American ever to hold office as governor; no others were elected until Rod Blagojevich won the governorship of Illinois in 2002. In 1994, Voinovich was re-elected to the governorship, defeating Democrat Robert L. Burch Jr. in a massive landslide. He won 72% of the vote.
Voinovich's tenure as governor saw Ohio's unemployment rate fall to a 25-year low. The state created more than 500,000 new jobs. Under Voinovich, Ohio was ranked #1 in the nation by Site Selection Magazine for new and expanding business facilities.
Particularly in his first years in the Senate, Voinovich was opposed to lowering tax rates. He frequently joined Democrats on tax issues and in 2000 was the only Republican in Congress to vote against a bill providing for relief from the "marriage penalty." While he did vote for the tax bills of 2001 and 2003 and has voted in favor of eliminating the estate tax, Voinovich is still more hesitant to support cutting taxes than most in his party.
In November 2004, in his bid for re-election, Voinovich defeated the Democratic nominee, Ohio state senator Eric Fingerhut, whose candidacy was overshadowed by persistent speculation that TV talk show host Jerry Springer might enter the race.
Voinovich gained national attention at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's confirmation hearing of John R. Bolton, nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, when he commented "I don't feel comfortable voting today on Mr. John Bolton." As a result, the committee recessed without a vote and thus stalled the nomination. Voinovich later allowed the committee to send the nomination to the full Senate, but forced the committee to do so without a recommendation. Democrats refused to invoke cloture and end debate on the Bolton nomination the first time, Voinovich voted to end debate, the second time, he joined Democrats in voting to extend debate and urged Bush to choose another nominee. Voinovich has since amended his views and determined that Bolton did a "good job" as UN Ambassador, praising him by saying "I spend a lot of time with John on the phone. I think he is really working very constructively to move forward.
Voinovich has a reputation of being overcome by emotion in public situations and has choked up on several occasions during important speeches, the latest example being during his May 25, 2005, address in the Senate pleading with fellow Republicans to reject Bolton's nomination. Voinovich lost his composure as he explained that he ran for re-election in order to try to secure a stable future for his children and grandchildren. Voinovich also got choked up when the Cleveland Browns announced their intent to move to Baltimore as the Ravens. In 1999, Voinovich said that President Clinton's signing of the "Ed-Flex" bill had brought tears of joy to his eyes.
In an interview, Voinovich has expressed his intent on running for re-election as Senator.
With the Senate debating lobbying reform following the Jack Abramoff scandal, Voinovich has expressed opposition to the creation of an independent "public integrity" office to police members of Congress because he believes that the Senate Ethics Committee already handles that job. "Why create another entity that will do the same thing we are already doing and build up a big staff?" asked Voinovich. He stated that his committee will "get into the Abramoff situation" after the Justice Department finishes investigating the lobbyist's claims of bribing members of Congress.
Voinovich backed most of the reforms that were discussed by the Senate in the spring of 2006, and was particularly pleased with a section that would require his committee to publicly divulge its activities at the end of the year without revealing who was investigated unless they were sanctioned. Still, Voinovich worried that his committee's confidential nature makes the public wonder whether it's doing anything at all. "We do a tremendous amount of work in terms of following up on anything we feel would bring dishonor to the Senate," he said. "It bothers me that I am working my tail off in this committee, spending hours and hours, and I can't talk about what I'm doing."
On March 17, Voinovich brought issues regarding the Great Lakes to the Senate, stating that failure to promptly fix the Lakes' environmental problems could lead to a catastrophe as severe as Hurricane Katrina.
In January 2007, Senator Voinovich expressed concern to Condoleezza Rice that the President's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq would not be effective. The Senator did not share President George W. Bush's optimism. "At this stage of the game, I don't think it's going to happen." As a moderate Republican, the Senator was viewed as one of few that could potentially influence the President. Five months later, Senator Voinovich requested to Bush in a five-page letter that the US begin pulling troops from Iraq and asking that the Iraqis start taking care of their own territory, calling for a "comprehensive plan for our country's gradual military disengagement from Iraq.
In May 2007, Voinovich and fellow Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a bipartisan bill giving states the opportunity to receive grant money for hiring and training highly qualified early childhood educators.
On April 9, 2007, Voinovich broke from party lines and stated at a hearing on the war in Iraq: "We've kind of bankrupted this country [with the war spending]. We're in a recession...and God knows how long it's going to last.
When Michigan became the eighth state to accede to the Great Lakes Compact on July 9, 2008, Voinovich is expected to be one of the lead legislators in supporting the interstate compact's passage in Congress.
|1979||Mayor||Dennis J. Kucinich||?||44%||George Voinovich||?||56%|
|1981||Mayor||Patrick Sweeney||?||23%||George Voinovich||?||77%|
|1985||Mayor||Gary Kucinich||?||28%||George Voinovich||?||72%|