George Voinovich

George Voinovich
United States Senator
from Ohio
In office
January 3, 1999 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by John H. Glenn, Jr.
Succeeded by Rob Portman
65th Governor of Ohio
In office
January 14, 1991 – December 31, 1998
Lieutenant Mike DeWine
Nancy P. Hollister
Preceded by Richard Frank Celeste
Succeeded by Nancy P. Hollister
54th Mayor of Cleveland
In office
Preceded by Dennis Kucinich
Succeeded by Michael R. White
56th Lieutenant Governor of Ohio
In office
January 8, 1979 – November 1979
Governor Jim Rhodes
Preceded by Dick Celeste
Succeeded by Myrl Shoemaker
Member of the Ohio House of Representatives
from the 53rd district
In office
January 3, 1967 – December 15, 1971
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by Edward Ryder
Personal details
Born George Victor Voinovich
(1936-07-15) July 15, 1936
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Janet Voinovich
Children George Voinovich
Betsy Voinovich
Peter Voinovich
Molly Voinovich (deceased)
Residence Cleveland, Ohio
Alma mater Ohio University (B.A)
Ohio State University (J.D.)
Occupation Attorney
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]

George Victor Voinovich (born July 15, 1936) is a former United States Senator from the state of Ohio from 1999 to 2011. Voinovich, a member of the Republican Party, previously served as the 65th Governor of Ohio from 1991 to 1998 and as the 54th Mayor of Cleveland from 1980 to 1989.

George Voinovich spent more than 46 years in public service – first as assistant attorney general of Ohio in 1963, and finally as the senior United States Senator representing Ohio. He is the 15th person to serve as both governor of Ohio and U.S. senator and one of only two people to be mayor of Cleveland, governor of Ohio and United States Senator; the other was National Governors Association and president of the National League of Cities.

In his 2004 re-election to the U.S. Senate, Voinovich garnered more than 3.4 million votes, nearly 64 percent. No other candidate in Ohio’s recorded history has received as many votes as Senator Voinovich did in 2004. Also in 2004, Senator Voinovich won all 88 of Ohio’s counties, a feat accomplished only once before – more than 100 years before.


  • Personal life 1
  • Early career 2
  • Mayor of Cleveland, 1980–1989 3
    • 1979 Cleveland mayoral election 3.1
    • "The Comeback City" 3.2
    • Downtown development and other improvements 3.3
    • Voinovich and Municipal Light 3.4
    • 1988 Senate race 3.5
  • Governorship 4
    • Voinovich's second term 4.1
    • Beyond the governor's office 4.2
  • Senate career 5
    • Overview 5.1
    • Fiscal responsibility 5.2
    • National security 5.3
    • Israel and antisemitism 5.4
    • American competitiveness 5.5
    • Improving government 5.6
    • Energy independence 5.7
    • Great Lakes 5.8
    • 2010 campaign 5.9
    • Serving Ohio 5.10
    • Committee assignments 5.11
  • Post retirement 6
  • Electoral history 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Personal life

Voinovich was born in

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

External links

  • The Encyclopedia Of Cleveland History by Cleveland Bicentennial Commission (Cleveland, Ohio), David D. Van Tassel (Editor), and John J. Grabowski (Editor) ISBN 0-253-33056-4
  • Cleveland: A Concise History, 1796–1996 by Carol Poh Miller and Robert Anthony Wheeler ISBN 0-253-21147-6
  • The Crisis of Growth Politics: Cleveland, Kucinich, and the Challenge of Urban Populism by Todd Swanstrom ISBN 0-87722-366-1
  • Seven Making History: A Mayoral Retrospective by The League of Women Voters of Cleveland
  • 25 Years of Cleveland Mayors: Who Really Governs? by Roldo Bartimole
  • The New York Times, August 26, 1979. Mayor Kucinich Himself Is Issue In Upcoming Cleveland Primary by Edward Schumaker.
  • The Cleveland Press, September 21, 1979. Mayor Accuses Rival On Funding by Walt Bogdanich.
  • The Cleveland Press, November 3, 1979. City Club Debate: Candidates Go At It by Brent Larkin.
  • The Cleveland Press, November 7, 1979. Mayor-Elect Voinovich Moves To End Default by Brent Larkin.
  • The Cleveland Press, November 7, 1979. The Winner: Voinovich Is Subdued Victor by Fred McGunagle.
  • The Plain Dealer, August 7, 1999. Our Century: Muny Survives, But Kucinich Is Out of Power by Fred McGunagle.
  • The Plain Dealer, August 14, 1999. Our Century: Cleveland Climbs Out Of Default by Fred McGunagle.
  • The Plain Dealer, August 22, 1999. Our Century: Beleaguered Cleveland Prunes Its Image – 'Plum' Campaign To Rescue City From the Nation's Punch Lines by Fred McGunagle.
  • The Plain Dealer, September 5, 1999. Our Century: A Welcome Breather At City Hall While Voinovich Keeps Peace and Mends Fences, Kucinich Begins His Comeback, And Forbes Consolidates Power On City Council by Fred McGunagle.
  • The Plain Dealer, March 9, 2006. Ethics Panel Chief Voinovich Opposes Key Lobbying Reform by Sabrina Eaton.
  • The Plain Dealer, March 17, 2006. Great Lakes Need Help, Voinovich Says by Sabrina Eaton.
  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Senator Voinovich u Hrvatskoj". Voice of America. 2005-06-05. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  5. ^ "U sjeni Capitol Hilla". Hrvatski informativni centar, Dom i svijet br. 235. 1999-01-16. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Van kills daughter of mayoral candidate
  10. ^ "George V. Voinovich".  
  11. ^ a b c Nothing Rotten about the Big Plum Time Magazine, June 15, 1981 . Retrieved July 25, 2010.
  12. ^ Ralph J. Perk; Former Cleveland Mayor Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1999 . Retrieved July 25, 2010.
  13. ^ Jordan, George E. Two cities offer a blueprint in image-building The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), July 20, 1997 . Retrieved July 25, 2010.
  14. ^ "Cleveland, Ohio's Default".  
  15. ^ Zeitz, Joshua New York City on the Brink American Heritage magazine, November 26, 2005. Retrieved July 24, 2010.
  16. ^ "CPP History". Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c d Lamis, Alexandaer (2007). Ohio Politics. Kent: Kent State University Press.  
  18. ^ Lamis, Alexander (2007). Ohio Politics. Kent: Kent State University Press.  
  19. ^ "History and Overview: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  20. ^ a b Dole Adds Name and Subtracts 1 From His List of Running Mates The New York Times, August 2, 1996 . Retrieved July 23, 2010.
  21. ^ Harden, Blaine Ohio Governor Withdraws From Running-Mate List The Washington Post, August 2, 1996 . Retrieved July 23, 2010.
  22. ^ Torry, JAck (12 December 2010). "Mr. Ohio George V. Voinovich's dedication to faith, family and state set the foundation for his unprecedented 43-year run in public office, including as a mayor, governor and senator". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  23. ^ Stout, David (2005-04-19). "Senate Panel Postpones Vote on U.N. Nominee". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  24. ^ Jones, Susan. "John Bolton, Ken Timmerman Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize". CNS News. Retrieved 14 July 2012. 
  25. ^ Another GOP Senator Urges Pullout, Anne Flaherty Associated Press June 26, 2007
  26. ^ 2 GOP senators break with Bush on Iraq, Norm N. Levey Los Angeles Times June 27, 2007
  27. ^ Milligan, Susan (April 8, 2008). "Biden treads lightly at Iraq hearing". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  28. ^ All Things Considered (Michigan Radio edition). National Public Radio. WUOM, Ann Arbor-Detroit, 9 July 2008.
  29. ^ a b c Rulon, Malia (2009-01-21). "Voinovich gets plum committee assignment".  
  30. ^ Romano, Lois (August 12, 2007). "One sweet role". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  31. ^ Foley, Elise (December 18, 2010). "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Passes Senate 65-31". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  32. ^ Camia, Catalina (December 18, 2010). "Senate passes ‘don’t ask,’ sends repeal to Obama". USA Today. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  33. ^ Keyes, Bob (December 18, 2010). "'"Snowe, Collins join majority in repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Kennebec Journal. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  34. ^ Toeplitz, Shira (December 18, 2010). "Eight Republicans back ‘don’t ask’ repeal". Politico. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  35. ^ "On the Motion (Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2965 )". U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home. December 18, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  36. ^ "'"Senate Vote 281 – Repeals ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The New York Times. 
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h US Senator George V. Voinovich. Washington, D.C.: Office of US Senator George Voinovich. 2010. 
  38. ^ "Senator warns of fragile independence talks in Kosovo". The Associated Press. March 30, 2006. 
  39. ^ US Senator George V Voinovich. Washington, D.C.: The Office of Senator George V Voinovich. 2010. 
  40. ^ "Senator George Voinovich plans to bid politics farewell, integrity intact". The Plain Dealer. January 13, 2009. 
  41. ^ Hallett, Torry, and Riskind (12 December 2010). "Mr. Ohio". The Columbus Dispatch. 
  42. ^ "The Voinovich School". 
  43. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  44. ^ "Official Results 1990–1999". Ohio Secretary of State. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 


See also

*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1988, write-ins received 151 votes. In 1990, David Marshall received 82 votes and James E. Attia received 49 votes. In 1994, Keith Hatton received 48 votes and Michael Italie received 24 votes. In 1998, write-ins received 210 votes. In 2004, Helen Meyers received 296 votes.
Mayor of Cleveland: Results 1979–1985 U.S. Senate elections in Ohio: Results 1988, 1998–2004[43]
Governor of Ohio: Results 1990–1994[44]
Year Office Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1979 Mayor Dennis J. Kucinich 73,505 44% George Voinovich 94,407 56%
1981 Mayor Patrick Sweeney 32,940 23% George Voinovich 107,472 77%
1985 Mayor Gary J. Kucinich 32,185 28% George Voinovich 82,840 72%
1988 Senate Howard Metzenbaum 2,480,038 57% George Voinovich 1,872,716 43% *
1990 Governor Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr. 1,539,416 44% George Voinovich 1,938,103 56% *
1994 Governor Robert L. Burch 835,849 25% George Voinovich 2,401,572 72% Billy Inmon Independent 108,745 3% *
1998 Senate Mary Boyle 1,482,054 44% George Voinovich 1,922,087 56% *
2004 Senate Eric D. Fingerhut 1,961,249 36% George Voinovich 3,464,651 64% *

Electoral history

[42] Since retiring in January 2011, Voinovich has been named a Senior Fellow at

Post retirement

Committee assignments

After Senator Voinovich announced that he would retire from the Senate in 2010, The Columbus Dispatch wrote, "After decades in an arena that has sullied so many, Voinovich's personal integrity remains unquestioned. He has never been afraid to work across the aisle, and has never forgotten that tax money comes from the wallets of hard-working people."[40] Voinovich is the most prolific vote-getter in Ohio history and will probably be most remembered for his work as mayor to save the city from default. In 1994 he received more votes than the gubernatorial candidate and no other Senator has ever received 3.5 million votes as Voinovich did in 2004.[41]

Serving Ohio

In a press conference in January 2009, Voinovich announced he would not be seeking a third term. He stated that, “I must devote my full time, energy and focus to the job I was elected to do, the job in front of me, which seeking a third term – with the money-raising and campaigning that it would require –would not allow me to do." Voinovich also stated after 44 years in public office it was time to relax and spend time with his wife Janet and his family. Pundits indicated that he would have been successful had he decided to run against the Democratic nominee Lee Fisher.

2010 campaign

Senator Voinovich has been fighting the 'Second Battle of Lake Erie' since he was elected to the Ohio State Legislature. He sponsored legislation aimed to protect the Great Lakes from foreign species and preserve "our ultimate jewels, the five Great Lakes". ("New 'battle' for Lake Erie", The Toledo Blade, July 30, 2007) He lobbied his colleagues in the Senate as well as Great Lakes governors and administration officials to take real action. The Willoughby News Herald praised his hard work saying, "nowhere can a more reliable supporter of this watershed be found than Senator Voinovich." ("Outdoors: Hats off to these outdoors supporters", December 29, 2009) Working with Senator Carl Levin, legislation was introduced to ratify the Great Lakes Compact – a bipartisan agreement among the Great Lakes states to protect the Great Lakes through better water management, conservation, and public involvement.[37]

Great Lakes

Senator Voinovich has long championed the need for a 'Second Declaration of Independence' – referring to our nation's energy situation. He has long been a voice for clean air legislation, ("Voinovich has idea on clearing the air", The Dayton Daily News, April 30, 2002) and argued for nuclear-energy development because it "provides a dependable, continuous stream of electricity, supports thousands of jobs, and does not emit any greenhouse gases". ("Depoliticizing decisions", The Columbus Dispatch, June 12, 2010) He served as chairman and ranking member of the EPW Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, introducing legislation that helped to pave the way for applications for new nuclear power plants in the US.[37]

Energy independence

Senator Voinovich's commitment to human capital surprised some of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The Herald Star noted that "He considers the impact of his votes...choosing carefully without regard for what the political impact might be on him personally" ("Voinovich setting good example" from July 26, 2007). Government Executive praised him saying, "no matter what anyone thinks of George Voinovich or Daniel Akaka's politics in general, no one can deny that they know their federal employee issues cold." The two Senators often worked together on issues of human capital in the federal government. ("Congressional oversight and criticism" from Feb 11, 2010)[37]

Improving government

He was the main sponsor of five-year reauthorizations of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in 2002 and 2008. ARC plays a vital role in fostering economic development and improving quality of life for the 23 million people who live and work in the 13 Appalachian states and in Ohio's 29 Appalachian counties.[37]

Senator Voinovich is very proud of the Senate passage of the National Infrastructure Improvement Act, legislation he authored that gets to the heart of the nation's physical and transportation infrastructure crisis by establishing a commission that will provide concrete recommendations for current and future infrastructure needs.[37]

American competitiveness

As senator and a prominent member of its Foreign Relations Committee, Voinovich consistently supported measures to strengthen Israeli security and preserve Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist attacks while promoting Middle East peace efforts. In addition, Voinovich has devoted himself to combating anti-Semitism at home and abroad, especially through involvement in the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.[39]

Israel and antisemitism

He played a leadership role in strengthening and enlarging the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and was the only member of Congress in the room at the 2002 NATO summit in Prague where membership was formally extended to Latvia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Senator Voinovich has been an active participant in the annual Brussels Forum since its inception in 2007, and served as chairman of the US congressional delegation to the conference in 2010.[37]

Called "the Senate's leading Balkan expert"[38] and a "leader in the fight against anti-Semitism and hate crime against all groups" (Letter to Senator George Voinovich from The Anti-Defamation League, Nov 11, 2010), Senator Voinovich has been a key voice on the Foreign Relations Committee about the OSCE and the relationship between the United States and countries in Eastern Europe in particular.[37]

National security

As the Senate's leading debt-hawk, Voinovich introduced the Securing America's Future Economy (SAFE) Commission Act each Congress since 2006. It proposed the establishment of a national commission to examine the nation's tax and entitlement systems and present long-term solutions to place the United States on a fiscally sustainable course and ensure the solvency of entitlement programs for future generations. In January 2010 Senator Voinovich met with President Obama to relay the urgency of our nation's fiscal crisis. Four days later, the President publicly endorsed the Conrad-Gregg statutory debt commission, which was modeled after Voinovich's SAFE Commission. President Obama announced during his 2010 State of the Union address that he would create the debt commission by executive order because it had failed to pass the Senate.[37]

Fiscal responsibility

On December 18, 2010, Voinovich voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.[31][32][33][34][35][36]

Voinovich also voted in favor of the Matthew Shepard Act.

During part of his tenure in the Senate (June 25, 2007 through January 3, 2009), Voinovich sat at what is traditionally known as the 'candy desk'.[30]

On July 22, 2009, Voinovich opposed a measure that would have allowed people to cross state lines with concealed weapons.

On January 20, 2009, it was announced that Voinovich had been appointed to the powerful Appropriations Committee.[29] His appointment marks the first time an Ohioan has served on the coveted Senate committee since Mike DeWine lost his 2006 re-election bid.[29] In accepting the appointment, Voinovich relinquished his seat on the Foreign Relations Committee.[29]

When Michigan became the eighth state to accede to the Great Lakes Compact on July 9, 2008, Voinovich was one of the leading legislators in supporting the interstate compact's passage in Congress.[28]

On April 7, 2008, Voinovich departed from Republican party platform and stated at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the war in Iraq: "We've kind of bankrupted this country" through war spending. "We're in a recession...and God knows how long it's going to last."[27]

In January 2007, Senator Voinovich expressed concern to Secretary of State [25][26]

An earlier photo of Senator Voinovich

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.[23] 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 U.N. 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."[24]

In November 2004, in his bid for re-election, Voinovich defeated the Democratic nominee, Ohio state senator and former U.S. Representative Eric D. Fingerhut, in an unprecedented victory. With 64% Voinovich won all 88 Ohio counties and won the largest amount of votes ever in a U.S. Senate race in Ohio – 3.5 million.[22]

When Voinovich came to the Senate he was prepared as anyone having been Mayor of Cleveland, President of the National League of Cities, Governor, and Chairman of the National Governors Association. Making clear that he was not intended on becoming the orchestra leader in the Senate but rather the 1st chair in a couple of sections, Voinovich picked out several committees where he would make his mark. 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."

Voinovich introducing George W. Bush at an Ohio campaign rally, 2004


Senate career

In 1998, barred from running for a third term as governor due to term limits, Voinovich set his eyes on the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by long-time incumbent Democrat John Glenn. Voinovich avenged his loss in the 1988 Senate race with a victory this time, defeating Democrat Mary O. Boyle. Voinovich was succeeded briefly by Nancy Hollister upon his resignation as governor (December 31, 1998) and before he entered the Senate. Hollister was succeeded by the newly elected Bob Taft in January 1999. It was the first time a Republican governor in Ohio had been succeeded by a Republican governor (in this case, three consecutive governors), since 1902.[17]

In 1996, Voinovich was the first governor to endorse U.S. Senator Robert J. Dole's bid for the Republican Presidential nomination.[20] Later, Voinovich was among nine candidates asked to submit to background checks as potential vice presidential running mates with Dole.[21] However, Voinovich withdrew his name from consideration, reiterating his desire to run for the U.S. Senate in 1998.[20]

Beyond the governor's office

[19] As both mayor and governor, Voinovich fought tirelessly to showcase Cleveland as the true birthplace of rock and roll. Beginning in 1985 Voinovich, the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio began lobbying for the

When the state legislature wanted to close Central State University, Ohio's only historically black state supported college, Voinovich stepped in by appointing a new board and convincing John Garland to become president.

Voinovich's second term was quite productive and in 1995 he was named Public Official of the Year by the National Journal. He is credited with providing leadership in creating a public voucher plan to improve student achievement by using public funds to pay tuition at church affiliated schools. After significant litigation over the voucher program, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 decision that the program did not violate the constitutional prohibition against promoting religion in public schools. By the end of his second term, Ohio led the nation in percentage of eligible children participating in Head Start Program.[18]

Voinovich's second term

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, the Medicaid growth rate had been cut by more than two-thirds and enrollment in welfare had been cut in half.[17] Under Voinovich, Ohio was ranked #1 in the nation by Site Selection Magazine for new and expanding business facilities.

During his first four years he pulled Ohio out of a $1.5 billion deficit and was a national leader in welfare reform and eliminating unfunded mandates. In 1991 Voinovich served as the Chairman of the Midwestern Governors Association. In 1994, Voinovich was re-elected to the governorship, defeating Democrat Robert L. Burch Jr. in a massive landslide. Voinovich won with the largest percentage of the vote, 72%, of any governor up for election that year and it was the largest margin of victory for any Ohio governor in the 20th century. In addition Voinovich's running mate Nancy Hollister was the state's first female lieutenant governor, and he appointed as state treasurer former Cincinnati mayor Kenneth Blackwell, who became the first African-American to hold state office in Ohio.[17]

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, who learned from his defeat in the 1988 Senate race, defeated Anthony J. Celebrezze, Jr. easily in what was considered a close to faultless campaign.[17]

Voinovich as Governor


In 1988, Voinovich ran for the Senate seat of Howard Metzenbaum, in what was a hard-fought and negative campaign. Voinovich accused Metzenbaum of being soft on child pornography, charges that were roundly criticized by many, including John Glenn, Metzenbaum's Democratic party rival and then-Senate colleague, who recorded a statement for television refuting Voinovich's charges. Voinovich was also ridiculed for carrying around a cardboard cutout of Metzenbaum as he challenged him to multiple debates. Metzenbaum won the election by 57% to 43%, even as George H. W. Bush carried the state by 11 percent.

1988 Senate race

The rebuilding process began through Voinovich's administration and improvements were made throughout the company including equipment upgrades and increased wages for all employees. To properly reflect all of the positive change in the company Municipal Light officially changed its name to Cleveland Public Power (CPP) in 1983. In 1984, the company received the Scattergood Award from the American Municipal Power Association for outstanding system operation and achievement.[16]

One of the key issues surrounding the previous Kucinich administration was canceling the sale of Cleveland Municipal Light (today Cleveland Public Power). Kucinich's insistence on saving it from being absorbed into the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) led the business community to force Cleveland into default. Voinovich's successful negotiations reversed this action when he first assumed office as mayor. However, Voinovich's pro-business attitude did not change CEI's position on the issue, as they persisted in making efforts to buy out Muni Light and pressuring Voinovich into giving them the right to do so. Voinovich resisted. Early in his tenure, he arranged for capital improvements to strengthen the operation of Muni Light and by 1982, it was able to compete with CEI. He asserted that the company was making attempts to cripple Muni Light by lobbying council against much-needed legislation. "We still have a battle going on," Voinovich said, "They [CEI] are as dedicated as ever to laying away the Municipal Light system."

Voinovich and Municipal Light

As mayor, Voinovich was a member of the National League of Cities and was elected President in 1985. Voinovich also 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 enticed Society Bank to build the Society Center, the largest skyscraper in Cleveland and the 15th largest in the nation (since renamed Key Tower). In addition, the National Civic League awarded Cleveland the All-America City Award three times in five years,(1982, 1984, 1986), in addition to its first, won in 1950.

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.

In order to accomplish more, Voinovich felt that the terms for mayor and Cleveland City Council ought to be extended. He offered a referendum to voters to extend them from two to four years and additionally asked voters to approve cutting down the number of council members from 33 to 21 in order to help ease the city's strained economy. They approved both requests.

Downtown development and other improvements

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."

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 highlight how bad the old Cleveland was. In particular, it stressed the city's 1978 default of $15.5 million short-term loans from local banks,[14] even though New York City owed nearly 150 times as much when it received a $2.3 billion federal bailout to avoid bankruptcy in 1975.[15] 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."

Voinovich took an aggressive approach. He reversed a defensive attitude projected by the Cleveland media, going to " save one of this country's greatest cities."[11] Others soon jumped on board. For instance, The Smythe-Cramer Co., a local realty firm, tried to 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 1981, 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.[11] 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.

By the time Voinovich was elected, Cleveland was the butt of late night comedians' jokes, where the river and mayor's hair burned,[12] and the only major American city to go bankrupt.[13] 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.

Voinovich was considered shy[11] and a rather low-key politician, a description he adopted himself. Once elected, he met with then Ohio Governor James Rhodes, to solicit the state government's help in clearing up the city's debts. Voinovich negotiated a debt repayment schedule and in October 1980, with the state serving as guarantor, eight local banks lent Cleveland $36.2 million, allowing the city to emerge from default. Despite this, the city's economy continued to decline and federal funding was cut. Two weeks earlier, voters turned down another 0.5 percent income tax increase. The opposition was led by Kucinich, who had been keeping a low profile since his defeat in the 1979 election. Voinovich said he would resubmit the tax issue on the February ballot to avoid facing a deficit in 1981. This time the voters approved the tax increase.

"The Comeback City"

Voinovich went on to be re-elected twice by landslides. In 1981 he defeated former State Representative Patrick Sweeney, 107,472 to 32,940, to win Cleveland's first four-year mayoral term. In 1985 he defeated former councilman Gary Kucinich (brother of Dennis Kucinich), 82,840 to 32,185.

On October 8, 1979, a few days after the primary, Voinovich's nine-year-old daughter Molly was struck by a van and killed. The event brought the Voinovich campaign to a virtual halt and made it difficult for Kucinich to attack his opponent. Still, he challenged Voinovich to a series of debates to be held in various Cleveland neighborhoods. Voinovich declined the invitations, saying they would be unproductive, although they eventually did meet in a debate on November 3 at the City Club. Voinovich went on to win the election with 94,541 votes to Kucinich's 73,755.

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 the 1977 race among Perk, Kucinich and Edward F. Feighan. 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.

By 1979, elections in Cleveland had become nonpartisan, and with then-Mayor Dennis J. Kucinich (D) about to enter a tough re-election campaign, Voinovich began to consider running for mayor again. Finally, on July 26, he made "one of the most difficult decisions in [his] life." He held his office as lieutenant governor until he won the election.[10]

1979 Cleveland mayoral election

Mayor of Cleveland, 1980–1989

Voinovich began his political career in 1963 as an Assistant Attorney General of Ohio. He then served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971. From 1971 to 1976, he served as County Auditor of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In 1971, he made an unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination for Mayor of Cleveland against Ralph J. Perk, who went on to win the general election. From 1977 to 1978, Voinovich served as a member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners. In 1978, Voinovich was elected lieutenant governor on the ticket with James A. Rhodes (the first Ohio lieutenant governor not to be elected separately from the governor).

Early career


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