Ohio Democratic governor candidate disappointed by "cheap" attack

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Democratic candidate for Ohio governor and his wife said Friday they're disappointed by personal attacks following a news report that police two years ago responded to a call about the candidate and another woman in a car.

Ed FitzGerald and his wife, Shannon, also said they're upset that friends in Ireland are being dragged into a negative campaign.

The couple's announcement came just hours after a northeastern Ohio news organization published details of 2012 police records about FitzGerald and an Irish woman in a vacant suburban Cleveland parking lot at about 4:30 a.m.

According to the police report, an electrician working nearby called the police because he thought the car looked suspicious.

"I don't know if they're having sex in the parking lot or what they're doing here," the witness said in his call to the police. "I don't know if they don't notice all my lights inside and they're just [inaudible] something, but all I keep seeing is like something going back and forth, and I'm like, eh, you know what, this is a little fishy."

Fitzgerald told the Northeast Ohio Media Group Friday that nothing inappropriate happened with the woman, a friend. He called the report an "unwarranted and cheap" attack by the team of incumbent Republican Gov. John Kasich, FitzGerald's opponent in the fall. A message was left with Kasich's campaign.

FitzGerald's campaign also released a statement from members of an Irish delegation, who called the 2012 encounter an "innocuous incident." The statement says FitzGerald was driving Joanne Grehan back to her hotel in 2012 at the Irish delegation's request when they got separated from others and stopped to map the route.

A police officer approached the car, checked that everything was OK and left, according to a statement by Grehan and another delegate, Peter Hynes, who said FitzGerald proceeded to the hotel and dropped off Grehan.

"We are outraged and disgusted to find our names being drawn into what is clearly a controversy fabricated with political motivation and we confirm that there is absolutely no basis for the unfounded speculation and nasty innuendo which surrounds reporting of this incident," the delegates said.

FitzGerald, who has been married to Shannon for 23 years and has four children, told the Northeast Ohio Media Group that he was unsure if the woman in the car would be willing to speak on the record.

"There was absolutely nothing - nothing - inappropriate going on," he said. "Absolutely nothing. Was it late? Yes, it was late. That's it. The people that we were with are friends of my family. They were at my house before this and after. They were at breakfast. They came over for breakfast the next day. There's nothing salacious going on about this at all."

The news comes in the same week as new poll numbers showing that FitzGerald has gained little ground against Kasich. The Quinnipiac University poll shows Kasich ahead of FitzGerald 48 percent to 36 percent. The July 24-28 survey notes that many Ohioans still don't know much about FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive. The survey said 65 percent of voters don't know enough about FitzGerald to form an opinion of him. The survey of 1,366 Ohiovoters had a margin-of-error of just under 3 percentage points.

FitzGerald, a former FBI agent, has called himself a reformer who helped restore integrity to a scandal-ridden county government in Ohio's most populous county.

FitzGerald canceled planned events Friday associated with his endorsement by Ohio's Fraternal Order of Police.