Background on George Voinovich:Excerpted from articles by DDN writer Tim Miller
As a child growing up in Cleveland, George Voinovich was force to have three major operations before the age of 7 to fight Osteomyelitis, a sometimes-fatal bone marrow disease. At times he had to wear corrective shoes. Unable to fully participate in youth athletics, he became a team manager and played in the band.
That success, he decided early in life, would come in politics and government service.
After graduating from Ohio University, where he was elected student councilpresident, he received his law degree from Ohio State University, where he waschosen class president.
While operating a small law office on Cleveland's east side, he dabbled in local politics as a volunteer before deciding to challenge a two-term Democratic incumbent for a seat in the Ohio House in 1966.
After twice winning re-election, he was appointed Cuyahoga County auditor, a position he won on his own in 1972. Four years later, he was elected county commissioner and in 1978 Gov. James A. Rhodes picked him as his running mate.
Mayor VoinovichWith little to do as Rhodes' lieutenant governor, Voinovich quickly accepted a plea from his hometown Republicans to come back and run against Democratic Mayor Dennis Kucinich, who was being blamed for Cleveland's impending collapse into bankruptcy.
That fall he was to realize a long-time dream - easily winning election as mayor of his hometown - as well as experiencing his greatest personal tragedy,the death of his 9-year-old daughter, Molly.
The following decade sharply defined Voinovich the politician.
To his detractors, Voinovich virtually turned the city over tothe vested financial interests, who in turn financed his political campaigns.
To his supporters, Voinovich did what he does best - brought diverse intereststogether to work for the common good and make Cleveland the "comeback city" ofthe '80s.
The voters overwhelmingly decided in Voinovich's favor. He easily won re-election despite the city's 8-to-1 Democratic registration. He rode that popularity to his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1988, but turned that into the one blemish on his public career. Not only was he soundly defeated by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, but his last-minute attacks on Metzenbaum's character so badly backfired that his own reputation was damaged.
GovernorGiven his later high standings in the polls - favorability figures few politicians ever achieve in a strong two-party state - it's easy to forget that Voinovich was the long shot when the 1990 gubernatorial campaign began.
"He apologized for '88 and he went on," GOP political consultant Curt Steiner said. "People saw a guy who was willing to admit mistakes, but then look forward."
Voinovich's mayoral mantra - make government work "harder and smarter" and "do more with less" - not only became his campaign theme, but attracted national attention as voters demanded that government be more accountable.
Following his defeat of Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr. in 1990, it quickly became clear that Voinovich's managerial method was to appoint people he trusted in key positions and stay out of their way.
Ohioans also soon discovered that they had a governor who shunned the spotlight, was deeply religious, would take periodic vacations to "recharge the batteries," and didn't pay much attention to his press clippings.
During the greatest crisis of his administration, the Lucasville prison riot, Voinovich took advice from the hostage experts, stood in the shadows, prayed daily for guidance, and when it was over thanked the Lord for its peaceful resolution.
In his 1994 re-election, Voinovich garnered 72% of the vote against Democratic challenger, Robert L. Burch. Jr.
In 1996 he was considered a strong contender to become GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole's running mate, but took himself out of consideration before the selection was made.