He was a giant. George Voinovich, who served as mayor of Cleveland, governor of Ohio and a U.S. senator, passed away June 12. One of Ohio’s most beloved politicians, his leadership over a lifetime of public service continues today. Cuyahoga County Republican Party chairman Rob Frost lets us in on three of Voinovich’s lasting legacies.
Comeback City: After Voinovich’s mayoral win in 1979, Cleveland was on the brink of financial ruin after defaulting. But he was able to balance the budget in part by passing an income tax increase — saving Cleveland from a potentially decades-long civic gut punch. “He defined [the default] as the bottom,” Frost says. “Then that recovery defined him. He became known as someone who could lead a comeback.”
Role Plays: Although a proponent of limiting government debt, Voinovich had no qualms about challenging more conservative members of his party when it came to spending money on projects such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. “It frustrated a number of more conservative conservatives,” says Frost. “He had the belief that government had a meaningful role, not a minimalist role.”
Big Tent: Recent Republican bids for county office, such as Jack Schron’s in 2014, are more competitive, says Frost, thanks to a model established by Voinovich, who campaigned in African-American and union-friendly neighborhoods. “You build a bigger tent by welcoming new people in without kicking others out the side or the back,” says Frost. “Most of all, he was always asking, What’s most important to you?”