COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An election fight is nothing compared with what Jerry Springer sees in his day job.
The former Cincinnati mayor now makes his money as the ringmaster of a pugilistic talk show circus, but he says it’s the exchange of political ideas that excites him most.
Springer — who was once named “Democrat of the Year” in Ohio — remains politically active in the swing state where he previously aspired to be governor.
In recent years Springer has headlined a county Democratic Party’s annual dinner and appeared at a fish fry on behalf of a local candidate. On Thursday, he is slated to appear at an early vote event in Warren for state Sen. Nina Turner, the Democratic candidate for Ohio’s secretary of state.
“It’s just something I believe in,” he said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. “It sounds like a corny answer. But that’s honestly — there’s no hidden motive. It’s not like, you know, someone’s going to get me a job.”
At age 70, Springer said he doesn’t plan to seek elected office, either. But he weighed it several times after serving as Cincinnati mayor in the late 1970s.
The former campaign aide to Robert F. Kennedy served on Cincinnati’s city council — once winning back a seat after a prostitution scandal — and spent a year as mayor before a failed campaign for governor in 1982. He flirted with U.S. Senate bids before the 2000 and 2004 elections and toyed with another gubernatorial run in 2006.
“There’s stuff I can do without personally running for office and that is to back causes and candidates,” he said.
Springer has given at least $12,000 to gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, $10,000 to attorney general candidate David Pepper, and $5,000 to treasurer candidate Connie Pillich, according to state campaign finance reports this year. He also gave the state Democratic party at least $28,000.
The host of “The Jerry Springer Show” now lives in Sarasota, Florida, though he spent half his life in Ohio. He travels to Connecticut where he tapes episodes that feature bleeped-out obscenities, guests in fisticuffs and a studio audience chanting his name. (Recent titles include “I Slept With Your Twin & Your Mom” and “Stay With Me Or Else.”)
Springer said he attracts potential voters who don’t typically attend political events. “Certainly not the blue bloods,” he said, but more of a “working-class kind of audience.”
Springer once worked a crowd at a Cincinnati bus stop during an effort in 2011 to repeal contentious election-related legislation, said Tim Burke, the chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Springer’s former legislative assistant when he was on Cincinnati city council.
“He draws people,” Burke said. “He’d sign an autograph as long as they would sign a petition.”
Ohio Democrats such as Turner could use the buzz. She and others face potential down-ticket fallout from their party’s faltering gubernatorial candidate.
FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, suffered a series of political blows this summer. They include dismal fundraising, the departure of two top staffers and revelations that he lacked a permanent driver’s license for more than a decade.
A spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party said Springer’s appearance illustrates the size of FitzGerald’s problems and hurts the Democratic ticket.
“Now voters associate the Democratic Party with two people: Ed FitzGerald & Jerry Springer,” said GOP spokesman Chris Schrimpf in an email. “Maybe Ed can go on Jerry’s show after the election and explain how not to run a campaign.”