Survey slams lawmakers

By Patricia Ann Speelman -




SIDNEY — A recent survey by Columbus Monthly magazine has slammed local legislators, Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, 12th District, and Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, 85th District.

Respondents to the admittedly unscientific poll labeled Faber the most ambitious, most humorless, least compassionate, most arrogant and most aggressive campaign fundraiser among all Ohio legislators. Vitale was named the least effective and least savvy lawmaker. In addition, Faber tied for second place in the “least principled” category. Vitale tied for third place as “least engaged.”

The anonymous survey was conducted during the summer and results were published in the September issue of the magazine in an article titled “Rating the Legislators: The Good, the Bad, the Poorly Dressed.” According to Senior Editor David Ghose, who authored the piece, a similar survey was made nine years ago and editors of the publication thought it would be a good idea to do it again.

“Ideally, this should be done every four or five years,” he told the Sidney Daily News, Thursday. “The reason we do this is that we’re trying to get an unvarnished view of what people in the know think of the legislature. It’s a popularity contest. But you can’t be an effective legislator if your colleagues don’t respect you or you’re not liked by your colleagues.”

When contacted by the Daily News, both Faber and Vitale indicated that the survey responses don’t necessarily paint a true picture.

“I’ve been elected Senate president, not once, but twice, unanimously both times. That’s an indication of what my colleagues think,” Faber said, Thursday.

Vitale cited his voting record, which he said belies a comment quoted in the magazine’s profile of him that “he is a guy who’s come here to vote no and be against everything.”

“I have voted ‘yes’ (on) 89 percent (of bills). They’re making a quote from someone not looking at the facts. Isn’t it fair to think that 11 percent of the time, bills come to the floor that don’t reflect the values of the district I represent?” Vitale said, Wednesday.

The survey was sent as an email link to SurveyMonkey to all 132 state legislators (99 representatives and 33 senators) and to an aide in each lawmaker’s office. It was also sent to more than 1,000 registered state lobbyists and members of Gov. John Kasich’s administration.

The legislature was not in session at the time, and neither Faber nor Vitale thought he had received the email.

The magazine’s editors framed the survey questions, asking respondents to name the legislator who was the hardest working, the laziest, the funniest, the best and worst dressed, the most knowledgeable, the biggest publicity hound and more.

“We got about 100 responses,” Ghose said, “(from) people in the know.” They were completely anonymous, but “generally, legislators are reluctant to respond to a survey like this,” so Ghose thought most of them came from lobbyists.

“My tendency is to work with people in my district more and less with the lobbying community, so maybe that’s what has them a little bit upset,” Vitale said. “Sometimes my district asks me to push for things that are not necessarily popular in Columbus. Ultimately, my job is to do what my district wants and what I said I would do when I ran for office.”

Faber noted that doing good things for Ohio is not always so good for special interests.

“Each time you do something, there are people who are not happy. When you’re an effective leader, there are people who are not happy that you’re effecting change,” he said.

The magazine published profiles of the “winner” of each category.

“There are diferent types of ineffective Ohio legislators,” Ghose wrote of Vitale. “… Perhaps the most ineffective are the ones who ‘aggressively make themselves nonentities,’ as one longtime lobbyist puts it. They’re ideological purists who seem to have no interest in compromise and governing. Nino Vitale is their poster child.” Ghose called him a champion of conservative causes and a supporter of gun rights who fights against unions, aboriton and gay marriage. Vitale disputes the union reference.

Ghose wrote of Faber that, as his term in the Senate ends this year, “plenty of people are happy to see him go … You’d be hard-pressed to find a more polarizing figure at the Statehouse. Political insiders use terms like ‘prickly,’ ‘difficult to work with,’ ‘dictatorial’ and ‘bully’ to describe (him).”

However, Ghose went on to write that “one longtime lobbyist defends Faber, saying many of the complaints — especially from other lobbyists — are sour grapes because Faber doesn’t play their game.”

“If it’s lobbyists who don’t like me, and it’s political insiders and people fighting for special interests who think I’m a strong adversary, that’s not a bad thing,” Faber told the Daily News.

Neither local legislator felt the survey or the Columbus Monthly story would affect their work on behalf of their districts’ constituents.

They questioned the value of the poll with its less-than-10-percent response rate, saying it encouraged anonymous vendettas. And they questioned the magazine’s aims and values.

For his part, Ghose defended the survey.

“It’s not a window into the soul of each legislator, but I do think it’s important,” he said.

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By Patricia Ann Speelman

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.