There are many reasons why a Larry Ealy victory in the May 6 Democratic gubernatorial primary would make history. But one stands out: If Ealy were to defeat Ed FitzGerald in the primary, he would almost certainly become the first nominee from either major party who is a former stripper.
There are many reasons why a Larry Ealy victory in the May 6 Democratic gubernatorial primary would make history.
But one stands out: If Ealy were to defeat Ed FitzGerald in the primary, he would almost certainly become the first nominee from either major party who is a former stripper.
Ealy, 51, of suburban Dayton, also would become the Democrats’ first African-American gubernatorial nominee. And a win over Republican Gov. John Kasich in November would make Ealy the state’s first black governor.
But none of those scenarios is probable. Ealy has raised no campaign money, he has no campaign website and there is no one helping him (although he does have a running mate, Ken Gray of Cincinnati, and a friend or two he travels with).
Ealy has challenges to overcome from his past, but he still made it onto the primary-election ballot with 1,321 valid signatures of Ohio voters. The move made him a surprise candidate at a time when political observers were focused on whether Democratic Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune or tea party challengers would gain a ballot spot.
Ealy, who said he is divorced and has 10 children, has not worked in 14 years. One of his sons is facing federal charges for allegedly filing fraudulent tax returns.
Ealy has his own lengthy history in the courts, including at least 37 guilty verdicts. Many are for misdemeanor traffic violations, and he has done some jail time, including a stint of about 85 days in 2013. He has had a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation and mental-health counseling and restraining orders barring him from Dayton city hall and from contacting that city’s mayor and other officials.
Before starting to collect Social Security disability funds in 2000, Ealy told The Dispatch, he was a professional bodybuilder and the front man in a male dance group called Luscious Larry and the Raw Deal.
“I was the No. 1 bodybuilder in Ohio for a while,” Ealy told The Dispatch. The newspaper was unable to verify that.
As for Luscious Larry and the Raw Deal, Ealy said, he called it “bodybuilder performance dancing, but some people called it male stripping.” He said the group performed at nightclubs and private parties.
“I did it for the exposure; really, it was more of a promotional thing,” he said.
Ealy spoke to The Dispatch at length on the phone while he was shopping and campaigning at a Kroger Marketplace in the Dayton area. He could be heard telling people at the store that he was “running against Kasich and FitzGerald” and “we’re going to legalize marijuana, first thing.”
He told the paper he would seek to place “marijuana manufacturing plants” in Dayton and other cities.
On another subject, he told a different Kroger patron, “I am overruling the 1920 U.S. maritime law putting brothers in the projects.”
Ealy told The Dispatch he is running for governor for civil rights.
“Let’s be real: African-Americans have no constitutional rights in America today,” he said. And he blamed his own criminal record on a lawsuit he filed in 1990 against Dayton, accusing its police of using excessive force.
“I was clinically dead for 40 minutes,” he said last week.
Ealy’s 1990 lawsuit, in which he sought a $10 million settlement, was rejected by a jury. Numerous appeals were denied, the last in 2011. He has filed so many lawsuits in the past two decades that he is considered a “vexatious litigator” by the courts.
Although Ealy had enough valid signatures to get on the ballot, he also submitted some that the Montgomery County Board of Elections thought were forgeries, and those are under investigation by the county sheriff. Ealy denies the accusation.
The FitzGerald campaign has had nothing to say about Ealy. FitzGerald’s name will appear on Democratic candidate slate cards and on mail pieces in large counties, and the campaign will elevate its social-media presence specifically for the primary.
The campaign did note that in 2006, little-known Bryan Flannery garnered 21 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary against eventual Gov. Ted Strickland.
FitzGerald also is planning to begin rolling out policy initiatives for the fall campaign as early as next week.
Dispatch News Researcher Susan Stonick and Information Specialist Mollie McConnell contributed to this story.