George Voinovich, a household name in Ohio, peacefully passed away last night in his sleep. Voinovich was from Cleveland and started his political career as mayor and managed to serve three terms. Voinovich’s popularity in as a Republican in the typically Democratic-leaning Cleveland area was rare.
When Voinovich was running for the mayor of Cleveland in 1979, his family experienced sudden heartbreak. Their youngest of four, Molly, was hit by a van running a red light while she was returning to school after lunch.
This put the campaign on a virtual halt due to Voinovich turning down debate invitations against his opponent, incumbent Mayor Dennis Kucinich. Voinovich went on to win the election that year with over 20,000 votes.
It was well-known that former Ohio Gov. and Senator Voinovich was a frugal man. Even though he was a millionaire, he once was known to reach into a urinal to retrieve some change -- a penny.
In fact, he and his wife, Janet, still lived in the Cleveland home that they bought in 1972, according to Cleveland.com.
Years in office
Voinovich spent nearly 43 years in the public eye serving his city and his state both at home and in the District of Columbia. He started out becoming the mayor of Cleveland in 1979 and served for three terms. While he was mayor he ran for the U.S. Senate but was beaten by Democrat Howard Metzenbaum by over 500,000 votes.
He then went on to serve as Governor for Ohio in 1990 through 1998. While in office he was able to cut $720 million from the state budget in just two years. His mantra while governor was “working harder and smarter, doing more with less.”
In 1999, Voinovich began his time in the Senate, and served until 2011. While in office he always had the people of Ohio in mind, which showed when he advocated for a proposed federal bailout of the auto industry. In Ohio, the auto industry employs thousands of people.
In 1993, a prisoner riot broke out at the state prison in Lucasville, Ohio, which led to press coverage from across the state and nation.
Much of the coverage of the 11-day riot and siege was highly speculative and turned out to be incorrect. One evening a few days after the riot had been cleaned up and the press was gone from Lucasville, a copy editor on the nightside desk at the Dayton Daily News picked up the phone and found – much to his surprise – none other than Gov. Voinovich on the line.
He had called the newsroom number to talk to whoever picked up the phone, to compliment the newspaper on its coverage of the riot, which he said he thought was the best in the state.
Rickety Old Boat
Our staff reminisced about Voinovich with words such as extremely warm, charming, smart and focused. An anecdote that came to mind to several of our staff was Voinovich’s small rickety boat, which he enjoyed so much that he’d often navigate alone across Lake Erie from East Cleveland to the western end of the lake. His staff was so worried that the boat would not hold up that they had a person drive along the coast parallel to Voinovich, to keep an eye on him out on the water.