|U.S. Senator from Ohio|
From: January 6, 1999 – January 5, 2011
|Predecessor||John H. Glenn, Jr.|
|65th Governor of Ohio|
From: January 14, 1991 – January 1, 1999
|Predecessor||Richard Frank Celeste|
|54th Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio|
George Victor Voinovich (born July 15, 1936) is the former United States Senator from Ohio and a member of the Republican Party. Voinovich announced he would retire from the Senate when his term expired in January 2011. Previously he served as Mayor of Cleveland from 1980-1989 and Governor of Ohio from 1991–1999. Voinovich was widely credited for sparking an economic revival in Cleveland when he was mayor. In the Senate he had a reputation as a moderate Republican.
George Voinovich was born in Cleveland, Ohio to a Serbian father and Slovene mother. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in government from Ohio University in 1958 and a law degree from Ohio State University in 1961. After serving as Ohio Assistant Attorney General, Voinovich served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971. He introduced 85 bills which became law. Voinovich unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of Cleveland in 1975. However, was elected in a second attempt in 1979, defeating Democrat Dennis Kucinich.
When taking office, Cleveland was the first major city to declare bankruptcy since the Great Depression and the city was on the edge of financial ruin. Despite the city having eight times as many registered democrats as republicans. The election was a difficult one for Voinovich as his daughter was hit by a car and killed shortly before the election. Voinovich overcame this personal tragedy to win the election by a comfortable margin over Dennis Kucinich. As Mayor, Voinovich approved a referendum to extend the terms for Mayor and City Council from two years to four, and reduced the number of council members from 33 to 21. He managed the revival the city's economy and became the longest serving Mayor of Cleveland in history. One major success of his tenure was the restoration of the Playhouse Square theaters, three of which, the State, the Ohio, and the Palace, reopened while he was mayor. He was instrumental in getting the project to completion, and today the theaters are one of the biggest economic engines in the city. He also spurred new construction in the city, most notably when Standard Oil of Ohio (now BP America) built their 45-floor headquarters building on Public Square (the building is the headquarters of Huntington Bank). Cleveland was also selected as the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while Voinovich was mayor, although the museum on the Cleveland lakefront did not open until the 1990s, after he left the mayorship. The National Journal called Voinovich "one of five local and state officials who make a difference in Washington." Today, Voinovich remains a fondly remembered figure in the Cleveland area.
In 1988 Voinovich ran for the United States Senate and was defeated 57% to 43%, despite Republican George H.W. Bush winning Ohio by eleven percentage points in the national presidential election. However, in 1990 Voinovich was elected Governor of Ohio with a record 72 percent of the vote. During his two terms unemployment hit a 25-year low, and curved state spending which balanced the budget. A popular Governor, he was reelected by the largest margin of victory in over a century in Ohio. His skills as a budget hawk led Bob Dole to consider him as a potential vice presidential nominee in 1996. Voinovich declined any interest in the job, and Dole instead selected Jack Kemp. He was unable to run for a third term in 1998, and he set his sites on a Senate seat. Famed astronaut John Glenn, a popular incumbent Democrat, was retiring and Voinovich decided to run for the job. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1998 and reelected in 2004 by a landslide, winning all 88 counties. Voinovich gained a reputation as a party maverick in the Senate. He opposed John Bolton's nomination and sided with Democrats. However, he was against No Child Left Behind, arguing that it was a big government program that took away the rights of state and local governments to set educational policy. As Voinovich said, "the federal government is not a school board."
In March 2009, Voinovich was ranked number four on Human Events' top ten liberal Senate Republicans. He supports gun control, has voted against reducing the marriage penalty and against repealing the death tax. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, George Voinovich strongly opposed John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador, saying "I just did not feel comfortable." In May 2005, he cried on the Senate floor, urging the Senate to vote against the confirmation of John Bolton. Voinovich later changed his position and said Bolton has done a "good job" as UN Ambassador.
In July 2009, Voinovich attacked southern conservatives, saying to The Columbus Dispatch "we got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns. It's the southerners, They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr. People hear them and say, 'These people, they're southerners. The party's being taken over by southerners. What they hell they got to do with Ohio?'" Conservative Louisiana Senator David Vitter responded, "He's a moderate, really wishy-washy. I'm on the side of conservatives getting back to core conservative values." Also in July, Voinovich voted against gun owners carrying firearms between states.
Some of Voinovich's stances are conservative, he voted with his Republican colleagues 66.5% of the time. Voinovich voted against the $827 billion stimulus package, "I voted against this bill because it is weighed down by too much spending that is not stimulative and will not provide the jump-start our economy so desperately needs." During the 2008 Presidential Election, Voinovich said of Barack Obama "He is left of Ted Kennedy. With all due respect, the man is a socialist."