Zack Space, former congressman and principal of Vorys Advisors, sits down with Chuck Conconi to discuss the outreach of Vorys Advisor, as well as the political climate in Ohio.
Chuck Conconi: Welcome to Focus Washington. I’m Chuck Conconi. My guest today is an old friend of mine, former Congressman Zack Space from Ohio, who is a principal with Vorys Advisors. That is a wholly-owned affiliate of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. That’s an Ohio-based firm right?
Zack Space: That’s right.
Chuck Conconi: I guess the opening question is what made you join Vorys Advisors?
Zack Space: Well, first of all its resources. It’s a great firm. They are based in Columbus, Ohio, which is not far from my home, and that is another reason I was interested.
Chuck Conconi: We’re both from New Philadelphia, Ohio.
Zack Space: Yes, T-County. That’s Tuscarawas County.
Chuck Conconi: Tuscarawas, that’s right.
Zack Space: Vorys has a presence throughout Ohio as well as Houston, and here in Washington. Former Republican Congressman Dave Hobson is with Vorys Advisors and has been for a couple of years. I served with Dave. His last term was my first in Congress. I developed a real friendship with him. I have a lot of respect for him.
Chuck Conconi: He’s a Republican?
Zack Space: He is. And I’m a Democrat. But we are both pretty moderate in our philosophies but, more important, we get along real well and I looked at it as an opportunity to learn from a guy who really knows the ropes. I think he is going to be a great mentor.
Chuck Conconi: Is there an advantage to being bipartisan in that way?
Zack Space: I think clearly there is. In this climate, it is becoming a very unpredictable and volatile period politically. And there are many who are projecting that we are going to see this rapid fluctuation back and forth between Democratic and Republican leadership and control of either the House or the Senate or perhaps even the White House. And having a representative of both parties within the same shop I think gives clients a certain degree of confidence and stability knowing that if there is a change or a transition in leadership the firm still has access and relationships.
Chuck Conconi: Well it seems to me that you are going to be in Washington as much as you are in Columbus. What are some of the issues that you are going to be covering, as you see right now?
Zack Space: Sure. I served on the Energy and Commerce Committee in Congress and really took a strong interest in the subject matter of that committee. John Dingell used to have a picture of the world behind him and when asked what was the subject matter of his committee he would point to the globe. I worked particularly hard on energy, health care and telecom-related issues in Congress and I certainly want to bring that extra piece and institutional knowledge and relationships to clients at Vorys, to work on those issues but I’m not confining it to those. The firm itself has a very vibrant tax practice. Vorys has very strong energy practice, general litigation, commercial and real estate practices. So we’re not confining ourselves to any specific areas. But to answer your question, the issues I find most enjoyable and am most passionate about are the energy, health care, and telecom issues.
Chuck Conconi: So you have big contract clients I guess is the word in those areas with the firm. So we will see you a lot more in Washington. Now, this is an election year. And I think it’s a fascinating time for someone like you, who is an astute observer of the political scene. What does it look like to you, what do you think is going to happen this coming year, particularly in Ohio now?
Zack Space: Well, you know and because, you mentioned it earlier, politics have become very volatile and unpredictable. I think a lot of the president’s fate, for example, will depend on the level of confidence people have in the economy come October. That’s dependent upon variables such as the unemployment rate. And it’s difficult to predict what they are going to be. I think a lot of it depends on who gets the [Republican] nomination. Assuming [Mitt] Romney gets the nomination, I think it has the potential to be a very close fight. It will hinge on turnout, and it will hinge on what the so-called independents and moderates decide to do with their votes. I think the president can win Ohio, but it’s not going to be easy.
Chuck Conconi: He pretty much has to win Ohio, doesn’t he? I mean enthusiasm for him is down considerably.
Zack Space: It is. And Ohio, if you look at the maps and the strategy to get to the designated delegation and the number of delegates you need to win, it’s very difficult to get there without getting Ohio. Is it possible? Yes, but I anticipate that both the president and his opponent will spend a lot of resources and a lot of time in Ohio this fall.
Chuck Conconi: So what’s going to happen to the governor in Ohio and the Senate and maybe even the congressional delegations, as you see it?
Zack Space: You know the gubernatorial race won’t happen until 2014. So we are kind of mid-term now in Governor Kasich’s first term. His approval ratings have come down considerably. He went through this long and drawn out process on public employee unions and was unsuccessful.
Chuck Conconi: Like what they did in Wisconsin.
Zack Space: It’s very much like what happened Wisconsin. But again, it’s awfully early to tell about his chances – especially with the election, which is going to happen in 2014. It could hinge on things like who gets elected president or do we have a Democratic or Republican-controlled house. Those things affect the elections. Senator Brown, Sherrod Brown, has a race this year and he is facing a touch election. I think Sherrod will win because of his experience and his opponent is not a bad guy, just very young, 34 years old. I think that is a problem in Ohio. I think there is a certain level of maturity that is expected and I’m not sure any 34-year-old has it.
Chuck Conconi: And what about the House? Do you think the Democrats have a chance of taking the House back?
Zack Space: They don’t have a chance of re-taking the majority of the Ohio delegation, but there is a chance that we, the Democrats, could take it back nationwide. They need to pick up 25 seats and you have seen the recent polling, suggesting that 87 percent of the American public strongly disapproves with the work of Congress. Those are alarming numbers and I’m not sure that any incumbent would feel real comfortable with that right now. So, it’s certainly possible.
Chuck Conconi: But that affects both sides.
Zack Space: It does, but there are more Republicans right now than there are Democrats serving. So it’s going to be disproportionately difficult, I think, on Republicans. The point is, I think there is a chance for a turnover. If it does turn over we are not going to see the kind of election we saw in 2010, when the Republicans just came in and dominated. I think either way you are going to see a House that is very closely divided.
Chuck Conconi: One last question — because I see we are running out of time. How much involvement are you going to have in politics ever again? Are you going to campaign for Democrats around the state?
Zack Space: Well you know, I’ve got it in my blood Chuck. And you know my family. We have it in our blood and once it’s there you can try to cure yourself of it but it’s almost like a fatal disease or an incurable one. I’m attracted to the process. I like policy, I like politics. And I will stay involved, but only to the extent that it doesn’t compromise what I’m doing with the firm. I’m with Vorys Advisors now. I enjoy it. They are good people, they are smart people and have great resources. I hope that my political involvement can be used to complement what I’m doing there but never to sacrifice it.
Chuck Conconi: Zach, thank you so much for being here and I hope as you come back and forth this year we can get together again and do this . . .
Zack Space: I look forward to it.
Chuck Conconi: … on kind of a regular basis.
Zack Space: Anytime.
Chuck Conconi: Zack Space, who’s a former congressman and a principal with Vorys Advisors. I’m Chuck Conconi, and this has been Focus Washington.