Jennifer Brunner

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Jennifer Brunner
Jennifer Brunner 1.jpg
Ohio Secretary of State
Former officeholder
In office
2006 - 2010
PartyDemocratic
Education
High schoolWhetstone High School
Bachelor'sMiami University (1978)
J.D.Capital University Law School (1982)
Websites
Office website
Jennifer Lee Brunner (born February 5, 1957) was a Democratic Secretary of State of Ohio from 2006 to 2010.

Brunner announced in February 2009 that she was officially entering the race for the United States Senate seat occupied by retiring Republican Senator George Voinovich[1]. Brunner challenged Lieutenant Governor of Ohio Lee Fisher for the Democratic nomination, but lost in the primary election on May 4, 2010.[2][3]

Biography

Education

  • Graduated from Whetstone High School in Clintonville, Ohio
  • Bachelor's degree, Miami University (1978) in sociology-gerontology (cum laude)
  • Juris Doctorate degree, Capital University Law School (1982) with honors

Professional experience

Shortly after graduation, Brunner worked in the office of Ohio Secretary of State under Sherrod Brown as a deputy director and legislative counsel to the Ohio General Assembly from 1983 to 1987. Within this role, she was responsible for working with state legislators on finance-reporting laws for campaign committees and laws for election procedures.

She started her own private practice, specializing in election law and campaign finance, operating it from 1988 to 2000.

Ballot Issues

  • In 1988, she represented Pamela L. Yako who filed a complaint fearing "her husband, Richard, maintenance director of Blossom Music Center, and other Blossom employees might lose their jobs if neighbors opposing liquor sales at Blossom are successful."[4]
  • In 1989, Brunner represented Daniel Slane who bought property converted from residential to commercial zoning. He was fighting neighborhood residents, outraged at the city council's action, who organized a referendum drive and collected enough valid signatures to put the issue to a citywide vote that November.[5]
  • In 1990, she represented a group called Ohioans Against Casino Gambling who disputed the wording of a ballot measure on 'games of chances'.

Officials and organizations

Brunner's law firm did not cater to ballot issues exclusively, however. During her tenure as an attorney, she represented a variety of governmental officials and political organizations throughout the state of Ohio, including:

  • The Ohio Pesticide Applicators for Responsible Regulation when in 1988 the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency [OEPA] held hearings about testing state water supplies for pesticides that were not against federal regulations. On the behalf of the defense, Brunner argued “they [the OEPA] support water testing, but oppose enforcement until more is known about the health hazards.”[6]
  • Bar owners in both Hamilton and Franklin counties who took on legislation that infringed on the rights of bars to serve alcohol in glass containers. The case in Franklin County, which challenged petition signatures, was dismissed, but the defendants in the Hamilton County case were granted a stay that allowed their case to be heard before the certified results were received by the state’s liquor control commission.
  • Ohio House of Representatives member C.J. Prentiss whose position on the ballot in the May 1994 primary was challenged due to what some claimed to be fraudulent nominating petitions.[7]
  • House Rep. Charleta Tavares when her petition signatures were challenged during her candidacy to replace J. Kenneth Blackwell as Ohio Secretary of State.[8]
  • Representatives of the United Auto Workers, Ohio AFL-CIO and Ohio Education Association who argued that "some of the 42 proposed rules" in Senate Bill 8, championed and implemented under Secretary of State Bob Taft, "overstep the intent of the legislation while others leave huge loopholes."[9]
  • Franklin County Democratic Party Chairman Dennis White who in 1996 was accused by former party treasurer Henry J. Schutte of issuing a false statement during Schutte's unsuccessful campaign for re-election to the Reynoldsburg Ward 4 central committee seat.[10]
  • The Save the Doves Committee, an animal rights group that attempted to ban the hunting of mourning doves in Ohio via a ballot initiative. They were fighting a challenge mounted by the pro-hunting group Ohioans for Wildlife Conservation that claimed the petition was not valid because signers were not provided with the proper information before adding their names to the list.[11] Even though the issue was allowed to appear on the ballot, it was roundly defeated by a ratio of 3:2 on election night.
  • Pro-gambling interests in an off-track betting ballot issue who appealed to the Stark County Board of Elections to allow the voters the chance to decide whether or not to allow a county-wide referendum against off-track betting.[12]
  • Two judges, Deborah P. O’Neill and Elizabeth Burick, who were charged with misconduct during the 1998 elections.

Political career

Portal:Elections
Congress
State executive officials
State legislatures
Elections

In 2000, Brunner was elected to an unexpired term on the Franklin County Common Pleas Court and was re-elected to the position two years later.

She resigned from the Court in September 2005 in order to run for Secretary of State of Ohio. The race between Brunner and her Republican opponent, Greg Hartmann, involved a lot of frivolous mudslinging. An anonymous packet of documents was sent out to all of the Ohio state media outlets alleging ‘misconduct’ on the part of Hartmann, citing that while attending Washington and Lee University he received tickets for speeding and for carrying an open container of alcohol in addition to a noise violation in 1987 for blaring music on his record player. Later, Brunner’s attorney and husband, Rick Brunner, alleged that Hartmann's campaign commissioned a poll that asked how voters felt if should it be revealed that while Brunner was working in the Secretary of State's office in the 1980s, LSD was being sold out of the office. Hartmann disputed the claim and Jennifer Brunner denied the story.[13] In the end, it didn’t affect the race, as Brunner was able to beat Hartmann by fifteen percent. She officially took office in January 2007.

During both the 2000 and 2004 presidential election cycles, the state of Ohio was marred in Election Day problems. In an effort to bolster public confidence, Brunner ordered a $1.8 million study to be conducted by SysTest Labs of Denver, in conjunction with professors and graduate students from Cleveland State; Pennsylvania State; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of Pennsylvania, to focus on short-term corrections and safeguards during the March 2008 primaries.[14] Brunner reported that study discovered major flaws in all five voting systems used throughout the state. As a result, she called for replacing all of the state’s voting machines, including the controversial touch-screen ones used in more than fifty of Ohio’s eighty-eight counties, with optical scan machines that would read and electronically record paper ballots filled out manually by voters.[15]

In January, Brunner proposed a plan that would allow counties to recruit poll workers by mail, who would then undertake two paid training days, and work a paid eight-hour shift at the polls on election day.[16]

Brunner explained the plan in an interview:
"In terms of Ohio and what happened in the 2004 presidential election, there has been a crisis in confidence in our election system in Ohio, both nationally and in our state. One of the quickest ways to repair that is to make sure that we have adequate numbers of poll workers. ... We suggested this as one tool that the boards of elections would have available to them for recruiting poll workers. We would be looking to do this similar to how we recruit jurors, only jurors are recruited for two weeks of service whereas we'd only be asking for three days. It would also allow us to offer split shifts to poll workers. In Ohio the polling places are open for thirteen hours, so essentially a poll worker works at least fourteen hours; with the average age of our poll workers at 72, that's a tough day for anyone, no matter what their age is. ... It's an option, and we can even include a trigger, so that a county has to be deficient by a certain percentage of poll workers to even be able to use this."[17]
In the initial proposal it was not yet decided what wages would be paid, and whether refusing recruitment would result in penalties. The proposal will be decided by the Ohio General Assembly.[16]

2010 U.S. Senate election

United States Senate
U.S. Senate Seal.png
Elections, 2010
Primary election dates, 2010
See also: U.S. Senate election, Ohio, 2010

With polls suggesting he was likely to face a tough contest for a third term in office, Republican Senator George Voinovich announced on January 11, 2009, that he would retire at the end of his current term and not seek re-election.[18][19]

Two weeks later, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner met with Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher to discuss whether either of them would seek to fill Voinovich's senate seat in 2010. Specific details of the meeting, however, were kept confidential. Brunner declared herself a candidate for the United States Senate on February 17, 2009.[1] Hours later, Fisher made his candidacy official as well.

Jennifer Brunner for U.S. Senate Campaign logo

All polls conducted since their entries into the senatorial campaign have suggested that Fisher will likely win the Democratic primary election on May 4, 2010, and face off against Republican challenger Rob Portman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, in the general election contest. At the same time, however, those surveys have shown that, despite Fisher maintaining the lead, Brunner has gained substantial ground on her Democratic opponent. Between September and November 2009, the Ohio Secretary of State cut Fisher's margin of victory from 9 percentage points down to within the margin of error.[20][21] Other polling data has demonstrated that of the two Democratic candidates, a head-to-head matchup between Portman and Brunner would produce a tighter contest, though the former would still come out on top.[22]

In the end, however, Lieutenant Governor of Ohio Lee Fisher prevailed, easily defeating Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner by nearly eleven percentage points on May 4, 2010.[3]

Controversies

ACORN

See also: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Karyn Gillette, development director for Project Vote, the voter registration arm of ACORN, was listed on Jennifer Brunner's 2006 campaign website as a consultant and "was paid $21,250" for her services.[23] Anita MonCrief, a former of employee of ACORN who testified in a Pennsylvania courtroom in October 2008, said that "in November 2007 Project Vote development director Karyn Gillette told her she had direct contact with the Obama campaign and had obtained their donor lists" and was later "given a spreadsheet to use in cultivating Obama donors who had maxed out on donations to the candidate, but who could contribute to voter registration efforts."[24]

Jennifer Brunner, who received $167,000 from the Secretary of State Project in 2006

Court of Common Pleas

Two controversies occurred during Brunner’s tenure on the Court of Common Pleas:

  • The first came after Brunner approved a $22 million settlement between Georgia-Pacific LLC and the six thousand residents of the county who suffered health problems or property damage resulting from the Sept. 10, 1997, explosion of an 8,500-gallon resin kettle at the company's Watkins Road plant. One thousand five hundred residents remained uncompensated a little over a year after the agreement was approved.[25]
  • The other stemmed from Brunner’s order to jail a lawyer named John W. Vogel, Jr., who was hired to represent a nineteen-year-old client charged with robbery and kidnapping, for contempt of court. Brunner said she removed Vogel from the case because the defendant’s family could no longer afford to pay him and “he was not on the list of court-appointed attorneys paid by the state to represent poor clients.”[26]

Dead registered voters

See also: Dead people voting

WEWS - News Channel 5 out of Cleveland, Ohio conducted an investigation of the voter registration rolls in Cuyahoga County and found nearly 13,000 dead voters. Despite reassurances by election officials in the county that the problem would be corrected, their second investigation two years later revealed that "thousands of dead voters [were] still on the rolls." The precise number of dead individuals registered as Ohio voters can not be placed due to a directive issued on behalf of Brunner's office to all state Boards of Elections ordering them to "withhold dates of births in public records requests."[27]

FEC disclosure violation

In the midst of her campaign to claim the Democratic nomination in the race for the United States Senate, Brunner has been accused of violating federal campaign financial disclosure laws. Rather then "list the identities and itemize the salaries of all her campaign staffers," her campaign committee has, instead, chosen to file "quarterly FEC campaign finance reports that itemize every stipend to each of her interns."[28] The issue with this, critics argue, is that it lumps the salaries of top staffers, including campaign manager David Dettman, operations manager Mary Woods and scheduler Mallory Mitchell, with those of her interns. While Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher called the claim "troubling," neither he nor Rob Portman, the likely Republican nominee in the race for the United States Senate, have filed a formal complaint with the FEC over the issue.

HAVA violation

See also: Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002

In addition to Gillette, Brunner was given regular election strategy advice from members of Project Vote, including guidance on 'voter caging'. In regards to this issue, she published a directive saying "that Ohio voters must be afforded notice and due process before their right to vote is challenged, and that returned mail alone can not be used as a partisan tool to suppress the vote in this presidential election year."[29] At the same time, however, she admitted that "there are ‘discrepancies’ on about 200,000 of the new registrations" in the state. Brunner's direct refusal to give state election officials the tools to combat voter registration fraud, Matthew Vadum wrote on the Capital Research Center Web site, stood in violation of "provisions of the Help America Vote Act."[30]

On October 2, 2008, the Ohio Supreme Court decided, unanimously, to order "Brunner to tell county boards of elections not to reject applications for absentee ballots because of an unmarked box next to a statement that the applicant is a qualified elector."[31] Seven days later, U.S. District Court Judge George C. Smith found that "Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner violated federal election laws by not taking adequate steps to validate the identity of newly registered voters."[32] The Supreme Court of the United States, however, threw out the case on a technicality, ruling "that Congress had likely not authorized private individuals or political parties to bring suit under the section of HAVA requiring voter registration verification through data-matching," choosing to flatly ignore the issue at hand.[33]

Secretary of State Project

Jennifer Brunner speaks at the Curtis Hotel in Denver, CO during the 2008 Democratic National Convention
See also: Secretary of State Project

The Center for Public Integrity reported in September 2008 that Brunner received a substantial donation of $167,000 from the Secretary of State Project, a below-the-radar 527 political organization whose purpose is to "wrestling control of the country from the Republican Party" through the process of "removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count," namely the office of Secretary of State in many cases.[34][35]

SmokeFree Workplace Act

In November 2009, the political activist group, Opponents of Ohio Bans (OoOB), published a list of multiple violations of elections laws related to the SmokeFree Ohio Petition Initiative of 2006. The report included such allegations as inconsistent application of the laws by Board of Elections (BoE), improper validation of signatures by BoE, and part-petitions that should have been invalidated. Perhaps the most damning claim, however, was that 47 convicted felons, some of whom "had been convicted of rape or who were listed on the Ohio Sexual Offender website," were hired as petition circulators and supervisors, collection as many as 1,235 signatures, all of which should have been invalidated.

The OoOB has accused Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner of using political ideology to base her decisions regarding the petition, rather then state or federal law. Citing as an example, the OoOB has produced a memo sent from the Board of Elections to the Secretary of State office requesting a decision in relation to a petition with the sole signature dated days prior to its issuance. The Secretary of State office replied that "if this [was] for the Smoke Free petition-this does not invalidate an otherwise valid signature."[36]

Political issues

Healthcare reform

Brunner, along with her Democratic opponent in the United States Senate election, Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, made an appearance at a "Healthcare for America Now" rally sponsored by Progress Ohio and hosted by SEIU District 1199 at their local headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.[37] In spite of state voter approval in support of the current health care reform measure being pushed by both President Barack Obama and the Congressional Democratic leadership down to a paltry thirty-three percent[38], Brunner came out not just in support of Obamacare, but also advocated in favor of the public option, which was dumped prior to the legislation's initial passage in both the House and the Senate. She argued that a public option would be the only true single-payer health insurance system and that, if included in the final health care reform measure, would create more jobs then one that sided with private insurance companies.[39][40]

Ohio

War in Afghanistan

After kicking off her senatorial campaign in February 2009, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner stated publicly her position on a number of prominent national issues, including the war in Afghanistan. She argued at that time that the "resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the greatest threat to our national security" and were she to be elected to the United States Senate she "would support a troop increase in Afghanistan and work with the White House and Congressional leaders to expand our NATO allies’ troop presence in Afghanistan."[41]

Several months later, however, she was faced with an increasingly competitive Democratic primary race against Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher. So, as a means of establishing herself as the true far-left candidate, she appealed to the anti-war constituents within her state's Democratic Party with an editorial piece for The Huffington Post. In the article, she declared that "the costs are too great -- in human lives and economic resources -- to continue along the current path"[42] in Afghanistan and stated that she would opposed any-at-all troop surge in the Middle East nation. This came barely two days prior to President Barack Obama's announcement of an escalation plan for the war in Afghanistan after months of dithering on the decision.

Campaign contributions

2006

2006 Race for Secretary of State - Campaign Contributions
Total Raised $2,266,079
Total Raised by Primary Opponent N/A
Total Raised by Gen. Election Opponent $2,040,640
Top 5 Contributors Jennifer L. Brunner $331,370 (14.6% of Total)
Ohio DNC $323,564 (14.28%)
Ohio AFSCME $40,000 (1.77%)
Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council $20,000 (0.88%)
Rick Brunner $19,000 (0.84%)
Other Notable Contributors Ohio AFL-CIO $15,000 (0.66% of Total)
EMILY's List $10,983 (0.48%)
Individuals v. Institutions $1,027,442 (45.3%)
$445,625 (19.7%)
In v. Outside State $1,786,442 (79.1%)
$471,614 (20.9%)

Elections

2010

See also: U.S. Senate election, Ohio, 2010
2010 Race for United States Senate - Democratic Primary[3]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Lee Fisher 55.6%
     Democratic Party Jennifer Brunner 44.4%
Total Votes 673,597

2006

  • 2006 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[43]
    • Jennifer Brunner ran unopposed in this contest

On November 7, 2006, Jennifer L. Brunner won election to the office of Ohio Secretary of State. She defeated Greg Hartmann (R), John A. Eastman (NP) and Timothy J. Kettler (NP) in the general election.

Ohio Secretary of State, 2006
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngJennifer L. Brunner 55% 2,104,114
     Republican Greg Hartmann 40.4% 1,546,454
     Nonpartisan John A. Eastman 2.5% 94,706
     Nonpartisan Timothy J. Kettler 2% 78,080
Total Votes 3,823,354
Election Results Via: Ohio Secretary of State

Personal

Brunner currently resides in Columbus, Ohio with her husband of twenty-eight years, Rick. They have three adult children together.

Awards

  • Profile in Courage Award (1998) from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum[44]
  • Recognition in Strengthening Equality (RISE) Award (2009) from Lights For Equality[45]

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Cleveland.com, "Jennifer Brunner announces candidacy for U.S. Senate" 17 Feb. 2009
  2. Ohio Politics, "Senate 2010: Brunner & Fisher Eye DC" 17 Feb. 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Ohio Secretary of State - 2010 Democratic Primary Election Results
  4. Akron Beacon Journal, "Blossom petitions protested" 8 Sept. 1988
  5. Columbus Dispatch, "Petition's validity questioned" 13 Sept. 1989
  6. Columbus Dispatch, "Expanded tests for pesticides in drinking water supported" 15 Jan. 1988
  7. Plain Dealer, "Prentiss to stay on ballot, board rules" 6 April, 1994
  8. Columbus Dispatch, "Tavares’ petition upheld by Taft – Democratic rival contested candidacy" 19 March, 1998
  9. Columbus Dispatch, "Union groups rip Taft’s plan to implement campaign reform law" 23 Sept. 1995
  10. Columbus Dispatch, "Elections commission drops Democrat's complaint" 17 May, 1996
  11. Akron Beacon Journal, "Mourning dove issue may land on Nov. ballot petition drive faced one more legal hurdle" 21 July, 1998
  12. Plain Dealer, The, "Track looks to harness ballot issue" 19 Sept. 1998
  13. Business First of Columbus, "Secretary of State race turns acidic with anonymous dirty tricksters" 29 Sept. 2006
  14. New York Times, "Ohio to Test Vote Systems Before March" 27 Sept. 2007
  15. New York Times, "Ohio Elections Official Calls Machines Flawed" 15 Dec. 2007
  16. 16.0 16.1 Associated Press, "Ohio considers poll worker draft" 28 Jan. 2007
  17. National Public Radio, "Ohio Considers a Draft System for Poll Workers" 30 Jan. 2007
  18. Quinnipiac University, "Ohio Gov. In Strong Re-Elect Position At Half-Way Point, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Sen. Voinovich Faces Tough Challenge In 2010" 10 Dec. 2008
  19. CNN "Sources: Voinovich to retire from Senate" 11 Jan. 2009
  20. Quinnipiac University, "Obama Back Over 50% In Ohio, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; All Dems Doing Better, But Voters Split On Healthcare" 16 Sept. 2009
  21. Quinnipiac University, "Dems Fade In Ohio Senate Race, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Obama Gets Negative Score In Key Swing State" 12 Nov. 2009
  22. Rasmussen Reports, "2010 Ohio Senate: Portman Still Ahead of Top Democratic Contenders" 14 Jan. 2010
  23. Thurber's Thoughts, "Brunner's ties to ACORN run long and deep" 30 Oct. 2008
  24. Wall Street Journal, "An Acorn Whistleblower Testifies in Court" 30 Oct. 2008
  25. Columbus Dispatch, "South Side residents still await payment" 24 Sept. 2002
  26. Columbus Dispatch, "Attorney jailed for refusing to stop representing client" 7 April, 2005
  27. WEWS - News Channel 5 "Dead voters submit ballots from beyond" 31 Oct. 2008 (dead link)
  28. The Plain Dealer, "Jennifer Brunner, the top Ohio elections official, isn't following federal election disclosure rules" 21 April, 2010
  29. Reuters, "New Directive to Increase Protection for Ohio Voters From Partisan Voter Caging" 8 Sept. 2008 (dead link)
  30. News Max, "Senate Candidate Brunner is ACORN Loyalist" 19 Feb. 2009 (dead link)
  31. Michelle Malkin, "GOP wins court round against voter fraud-friendly Ohio Sec. of State" 2 Oct. 2008
  32. Michelle Malkin, "Judge rules Ohio Secretary of State violated federal election law; plus ACORN victim on tape" 9 Oct. 2008
  33. Red County, "SCOTUS Sides with Brunner -- Registration Verification Off Again" 21 Oct. 2008
  34. Center for Public Integrity: Paper Trial Blog, "Election '08: Scoring Secretary of State Seats for Dems" 8 Sept. 2008
  35. American Spectator, "SOS in Minnesota" 7 Nov. 2008
  36. U.S. Politics Today, "Group Uncovers Massive Ohio Election Fraud" 18 Nov. 2009
  37. Unions.org, "Finish Reform Right: Columbus, OH Healthcare Rally" 22 Feb. 2010 (timed out)
  38. Quinnipiac University, "Strickland Re-Takes Lead In Ohio Governor's Race, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Obama Approval Drops To Big Negative In Swing State" 23 Feb. 2010
  39. YouTube, "Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner: Healthcare Finish Reform Right Rally" 20 Feb. 2010
  40. Red State, "OH-Sen: Dem Candidates Crawl in Bed with Unions, Advocate For Single-Payer Healthcare" 23 Feb. 2010
  41. Buckeye State Blog, "Why I am Running for United States Senate" 24 Feb. 2009
  42. Huffington Post, "Time To Bring Home The Troops" 29 Nov. 2009
  43. Ohio Secretary of State - 2006 Primary Election Results
  44. NECN.com, ""Jennifer Brunner receives Profile in Courage Award (acceptance speech video)" 12 May, 1998
  45. Vodpod, "SoS Jennifer Brunner Presented With RISE (Recognition in Strengthening Equality) Award" 6 Sept. 2009


Political offices
Preceded by
J. Kenneth Blackwell
Ohio Secretary of State
2006–2010
Succeeded by
Jon Husted