14 June 2008

Firearms And The Next Ohio Attorney General

Updated: Saturday, June 1, 2008, 8:01 pm -- Indeed, Mr. Yost is a signatory on an amicus brief filed by a number of prosecuting attorneys from around the nation on behalf of Dick Heller, in the D.C. v Heller case. The landmark case, which will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, will determine the meaning of the Second Amendment. I am glad to see it as actions speak louder than words. That just leaves Mr. Cordray to prove he is a 2A guy, and is not just telling voters what they want to hear to move up the ranks.

With the news this week that a number of people have taken themselves out of the race for Ohio Attorney General, speculation about two potential candidates is troubling.

Let us recap.

Marc Dann resigned in disgrace several weeks ago from the post as a result of a sexual harassment scandal, leaving a vacuum in a powerful state position. Several people in the office have been fired or resigned in the wake of the scandal.

The attorney general represents the state in all legal matters. For firearms owners and supporters of Second Amendment causes, Dann was a powerful ally. He voted for passage of a bill that resulted in the reform of Ohio's 100-year-old prohibition on concealed carry. As attorney general, he rightfully chastised those villages and cities that tried to break state law and prohibit carry in certain areas in their municipalities.

With his resignation, a number of high-profile names were bandied about: former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, who has designs on the Ohio governor's office, and would use the AG post as a stepping stone; Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, a low-key but smart prosecutor who is politically savvy; Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, a disaster-in-waiting, considering his being a board member of Handgun Control Inc., now known as the Brady Campaign, more than a decade ago; Deb Pryce, outgoing congresswoman from the 15th district in Central Ohio; and perennial candidate Richard Cordray, a former state solicitor and now state treasurer.

Some weeks ago, David Yost, Delaware County prosecutor, threw his name into the hat for the AG's post. Lesser known, before politics, Yost was a reporter for the Columbus Citizen-Journal, and later was a public information officer for Mayor Dana G. "Buck" Rinehart in Columbus.

In the past week or so, several names have disappeared from the "possibles" list. DeWine plans to spend his efforts as head of John McCain's Ohio campaign, getting McCain elected. As an incredibly anti-gun republican, its good that his name is out, but makes McCain suspect with many voters. Fisher also is out of the picture. I have always been nervous here, wanting to make sure that pro-gun Gov. Ted Strickland eats a high-fiber, low-fat diet to ensure that Fisher doesn't "inherit" the governor's office by default. That would be disastrous for self defense believers in Ohio.

Pryce is now highly unlikely and O'Brien is out of the running. Pryce voted against gun owners while in Congress and only when she realized she could not win without firearms owners support reached out to mend fences during her last re-election bid. She narrowly defeated challenger Mary Jo Kilroy in a race that was not decided for several weeks after the election. O'Brien is sticking to his day job where he does tremendous service to Franklin County residents.

Another name suggested is state Sen. Tim Grendell, a hard-charging pro-gun republican, though he has not made strong moves as of yet to pursue the post. 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Susan Brown of Columbus and Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel also have been mentioned as potential candidates for the GOP.

This leaves Cordray and Yost. And both candidates, one a high-profile democrat, the second a low-profile republican, have very troubling pasts on the gun issue.

Richard Cordray was elected in 2006 as state treasurer. He wants the job, and was just endorsed for the AG's post by Gov. Strickland. Hard working, the boyish attorney had been a perennial candidate for a number of state offices. He has lost far more races than he has won. He has not spent much time in the private sector, opting instead to run for office. To the good, he has done much to improve the state treasurer's office, particularly pushing for the state to dispose of excess and unneeded real estate. When he ran for state treasurer, he surprised many by reaching out to gun owners and to the shooting sports community. As manager of the State of Ohio's funds, such grassroots outreach is virtually unheard of. For example, he sent letters to groups saying he came from a hunting background and was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. He signed on as a co-sponsor of a statewide rally for hunters and trappers.

But there's a catch with Mr. Cordray . . . .

David Yost has been the top prosecutor in Delaware County since the 1990s. He has announced his intention to screen for the position with the Republican Party, and is making trips around the state to meet with various GOP leadership. In 2005, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ohio Rules Advisory Committee. A former newspaperman, he got into politics with an appointment to work for former Columbus Mayor Buck Rinehart, and was tied to the city safety department as a public information officer. Generally well-liked in Delaware County, this would be his first foray into statewide politics.

But there's a catch with Mr. Yost . . . .

ON CORDRAY: Before he was proudly proclaiming his credentials as a 2A supporter (during his bid in 2006 for state treasurer), he was not a friend of gun owners. During a run for the state legislature in the early 1990s, he was very vocal in his support for bans on so-called "assault weapons" and was lukewarm on his support of firearms rights. This earned him several thumbs down opinions on his candidacy from gun rights groups in Ohio in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And he lost his race.

Today, he has either changed his mind, or is keeping his real beliefs back in order to move higher into public office. It is well known that being anti-gun has hurt democrats nationally (the reason the party lost control of Congress in 1994, according to then President Bill Clinton, and why Al Gore did not even carry his home state of Tennessee when he ran for president in 2000). Ohio is a pro-gun state, and it was a democrat governor, Strickland, who endorsed the Castle Doctrine legislation that he signed into law earlier this week.

The bottom line on Richard Cordray, he bears watching and needs to be asked hard questions about his previous statements on guns and competition rifles, and how he reconciles his previous opinion with his current 2A support.

ON YOST: I need to say at the outset that I know David Yost. I won't say we are great friends, but we are friendly. He is more than an acquaintance. More than once we have bumped into each other at the Statehouse for a hearing. We were colleagues a long time ago, first in journalism school at The Lantern, Ohio State's school newspaper, and later at the Columbus Citizen-Journal, where he was a general assignment reporter and I worked on the State Desk. I knew him as "Dave-wide" back then (it is a long story). Together we covered a horrible accident in Delaware County during the running of the Little Brown Jug harness championships, which made national headlines.

I like Dave. Nevertheless, I am troubled by directives and suggestions he issued to government leaders in Delaware County regarding gun regulations about four years ago. I was notified by township trustees in two Delaware County townships at that time that Yost and his office were sending recommendations to townships on how to regulate firearm usage, when at the time (even before passage of the general law/statewide pre-emption bill taking such local powers away from big cities) such trustees had no power to do so. His directive was that township trustees adopt new "noise ordinances" as a nuisance tool to rein in gun usage.

Simply put, in the same way that a noise ordinance can be used to go after owners of barking dogs, trustees, Yost and his office said, should use gunfire and the noise it causes as a way to regulate firearms use.

I started calling township trustees around Delaware County to see who was following the new suggestion. Two townships had already voted in the new noise ordinance, but a third township wanted nothing to do with it. The other townships, at the time, had taken no action on the suggestion. One of the initial townships voting for the measure later voted to rescind the noise ordinance upon a flood of complaints by residents. I have never followed up after the fact to see what the remaining townships in Delaware County decided to do with that model "noise" legislation.

WHAT NEXT? So there you have it. Who should Ohio firearms owners support when they vote for state attorney general this fall? Its not unlike the choice for president; two candidates who say they support gun rights but both of whom have supported severe restrictions on such in the past.

Don't you just love politics? There is an old saying that there are two things you don't want to see being made: sausage and laws.

It's even more interesting when candidates are confronted with their past and need to explain to voters what they meant then and what they mean now. And that is what needs to happen with both Messrs. Codray and Yost, if they are the party nominees for Ohio Attorney General.

I hope Tim Russert, wherever he is, is watching. This was the kind of conversation he liked to have.


Anonymous said...

I signed on one of the briefs on the side of the gun owners in the Haller case, now pending before the Supreme Court.

I own and shoot guns, including handguns.

We published a model noise ordinance -- in response to dirt bikes.

Please email me at yost4ohio@gmail.com so we can communicate. I'm a proud Second Amendment guy, and have been for 30 years.

Dave Yost

Brent Greer said...

Dave, I am emailing you separately. I'm glad you are a proud 2A guy. I was not aware that you signed one of the briefs for Heller. Which one? The township trustees who communicated to me all those years ago regarding the noise ordinance said it was sold as a means to control guns. That was why they had such strong feelings about the model legislation. Thanks for the note.