Politics Extra
Enquirer reporters give the scoop on what your politicians are doing

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Common Cause Ohio seeks audit of Blackwell spending

Common Cause/Ohio today called for an audit of federal money spent by Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell under the Help America Vote Act.

Here is the non-profit citizen action group's news statement:

Common Cause/Ohio, a state affiliate of one of the nation's oldest and most respected nonpartisan government watchdogs, today called on the Federal Election Assistance Commission ("EAC") and the Acting Inspector General, U.S. EAC to conduct a full financial audit of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's expenditure of Help American Vote Act ("HAVA") federal funds, charging the partisan expenditure of funds in violation of the stated purpose of the Act to improve elections in Ohio in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election. It also notified United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez of its request.

The federal government has recently taken action against election officials in two states --Alabama and California -- based on election administration concerns. Common Cause/Ohio noted that, in those two cases, the election officials were Democrats. Common Cause/Ohio urged the EAC to disprove recent allegations, including those by the New York Times, of a partisan enforcement agenda.

Common Cause/Ohio cited Blackwell's use of "more than $2 million in federal dollars to advertise himself on television" during the 2004 election, stating that the media had already noted that "Blackwell had 'tapp[ed] into federal money to pitch himself . . . '".

The letter also notes that Blackwell has ignored public calls from a wide range of sources, including the New York Times, to recuse himself from matters relating to his own election. Blackwell's recent decision, in the face of public pressure, to informally "delegate" certain of his core job responsibilities to subordinates, does not address the issue, stating that "a 'half recusal' is worse than no recusal at all because it merely removes Secretary Blackwell from public accountability for his actions."

Among other actions that support an audit, Common Cause/Ohio noted, "Blackwell has disbursed a significant amount of HAVA funds to a number of large Republican contributors as he has simultaneously campaigned for governor" including:

-- Smart Solutions, a Columbus company

-- Excel Management of Columbus

-- Professor Robert Destro, a Washington, D.C. law professor who publicly supports Blackwell and is actively engaged in partisan politics, and whom has already come under public scrutiny for receiving such funds

Calling his actions "brazen," Common Cause/Ohio noted that Blackwell's ownership of Diebold stock while negotiating with Diebold for purchase of equipment and setting up Diebold as the standard for awarding funds to counties is "self dealing." HAVA is the federal law passed by Congress to address voting problems in the 2000 Florida Presidential election. Congress through HAVA and its administering agency, the Election Assistance Commission, made millions of dollars in federal funds available to the States to help them update their voting systems and properly train and educate voters and election officials for improved election processes in the U.S.

A copy of the letter seeking the audit, as signed by Samuel Gresham, acting executive director of Common Cause/Ohio, can be found here:

St. X grad new spokesman for Ohio Dems

Randy Borntrager of Glendale, who graduated from St. Xavier High School in 1994, started in Columbus this week as the new spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.

Borntrager, 30, replaces Brian Rothenberg, who left to start ProgressOhio.org, a nonprofit public relations firm.

“This is the first time in a long time that Democrats have the chance to turn this state around,” Borntrager said. “It’s a fantastic time to come home and help get this state back on track.”

Borntrager got into politics while studying – and cheering for the Buckeyes – at Ohio State University. He worked for former state Sen. Greg DiDonato, D-Dennison, then ran former state Rep. Marc Guthrie’s unsuccessful campaign against Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, in 2000.

In Washington, Borntrager worked for Bannon Communications Research, a Democratic polling firm, and as a communications specialist for Special Olympics.

Brown to give Democratic radio address

Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who's challenging Republican Sen. Mike DeWine for the U.S. Senate, will give the Democratic national radio address tomorrow.

Each week, President Bush gives a national radio address on Saturday morning. The Democrats choose someone different each week to give the Democratic response. Tomorrow at 11:06 a.m. EDT, Brown will discuss the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The text and audio file of the address will be available on Brown's campaign Web site immediately following his address, which will be carried on major radio networks, including ABC, AP, AURN, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, NPR, American Forces Radio, Voice of America, BBC, CBC, and Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

DeWine bets candy on OSU

Sen. Mike DeWine is wagering his wife Fran's homemade buckeye candy that No. 1-ranked Ohio State University, his alma mater, will beat No. 2-ranked University of Texas.

If he wins, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a Texas Republican and UT grad, will owe him a tub of her state's Blue Bell ice cream.

Last year, in Columbus, the two teams went head-to-head and the Longhorns pinned the Buckeyes 25-22. This year, the game will be played in Austin, but the Associated Press poll ranks OSU higher.

"I believe in Ohio State and I know that, with Coach Tressel at the helm and backed by the greatest fans in the nation, the Bucks will come out on top," DeWine said in a news release. "My kids and grandkids have been anticipating the game for weeks and Buckeye fever is sweeping my office. I look forward to enjoying Texas' finest ice cream and an Ohio State victory. Go Bucks!"

Hutchison shot back: "Our victory over the Buckeyes on their home turf last year made Ohio State a mere statistic in our record-setting, national championship season. I commend Senator DeWine for his brave wager against a strong Texas football force, but we can't wait to celebrate another victory on Saturday in a sea of burnt orange. Hook 'em!"

Wulsin reacts to Elections dismissal

The Ohio Elections Commission ruled in favor of U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt Thursday, unanimously dismissing a false statement complaint filed by write-in congressional candidate Nathan J. Noy.

Dr. Victoria Wulsin, the Democratic candidate for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District, offered this reaction:

"Regardless of this frivolous claim, Jean Schmidt has a long track
record of dishonesty. Americans have had enough of her lies and enough
of the corruption. It’s time to put people ahead of politics and Ohio’s
families first. It’s time for a change."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Freedom Center starts the shmoozing

The Rev. Jesse Jackson will be the star attraction Sept. 18 when the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus hosts a reception at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. TaKeysha Sheppard Cheney, executive director of the caucus, said the lawmakers want to draw public attention to the Freedom Center.

"We have been wanting to have an event there for some time," she said.

She said the event is not related to the center's quest for public funding to cover its deficits. State Rep. Tyrone Yates, D/Evanston/East Walnut Hills, who is also an officer of the caucus, recently asked for nearly $3 million out of this year's state building budget for the center. He also called for the state to come up with $10 million over five years for operating expenses.

Noy admits he made a mistake, but plans other complaints

After today's Ohio Elections Commission hearing, Nathan Noy admitted he made a mistake pursuing a false statement complaint against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt.

Before this morning, however, Noy said he was not convinced Schmidt ran the 1993 Columbus Marathon until he saw a new, original photograph of the finish-line. It shows a grimacing Schmidt trailing two other runners -- one of whom agreed to send his own original photo from Montana via overnight mail. "Now that I've seen (Dennis) Hayslett's photo, I knew it was real,'' Noy said.

"I made a mistake and it was an honest mistake," said Noy, who was accompanied at the hearing by his father, William, from Mason County, Ky.

But in the next breath, Noy vowed to file new complaints against Schmidt's attorney and her chief of staff, and an IRS complaint against the congresswoman's campaign.

Read more in Friday's Enquirer.

Federal judge orders 2004 Ohio ballots preserved

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley today issued an order directing all 88 county Boards of Elections in Ohio to keep all ballots and miscellaneous other election material from the 2004 election.

In response to a lawsuit filed Thursday by King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association et. al. v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, and a subsequent petition by citizens and neighborhood groups, Marbley ordered the "preservation of certain evidence."

In his attached one-page decision, Marbley ordered all Boards of Election "to preserve all ballots from the Presidential election, on paper or in any other format, including electronic data, unless and until such time otherwise instructed by the court."


Under federal law, county boards can destroy voting records 22 months after the presidential election, or this past weekend. On Friday, Secretary of State Blackwell directed boards to voluntarily save the records, although officials in Hamilton and Clermont counties conceded they already discarded unused ballots from Nov. 2, 2004.

Columbus attorney Clifford Arnebeck and other complainants said an ongoing investigation has found a pattern of tampering, that punch-card ballots in at least six urban counties including Hamilton show a systematic pattern of multiple punches or so-called overvotes that disproportionately favored President Bush over Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

Elections Commission rules 6-0 against Noy, in favor of Rep. Schmidt

In what they called a "directed verdict," the six-member Ohio Elections Commission unanimously voted to dismiss Nathan Noy's false statement complaint against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt.

Commission Chairman William Booth and Vice Chairman Martin O. Parks, who led today's hearing, asked Schmidt attorney Joseph Braun to submit details of his legal fees and all other costs related to the complaint.

If Noy's actions are determined to be frivolous, Commission Executive Director Phillip Richter said, they can act on Braun's request for fees and costs. Richter called such punitive actions against a complainant very rare in his tenure with the commission.

"We shouldn't need more evidence on it," Parks, the acting chairman said of a frivolous complaint finding.

Richter said he'd like Noy to have sufficient time to respond to Braun's request for fees and costs.

Noy gets scolded

"Quite honestly I gave you the benefit of the doubt,'' Elections Commission member William Booth, said to Nathan Noy. Booth sat on last month's four-member probable cause panel that voted to hear evidence today.

Booth said he was disappointed that Noy did not call his own witnesses to testify to the authenticity of race photos, as he promised last month.

Columbus Marathon race director testifies

Rich Williams, race director of the Columbus Marathon, said he reviewed more than 4,000 photos in a race results publication which he helped lay out.

"In extreme conditions they might wear tights,'' Williams testified under questioning from Nathan Noy.

"We've had weather as low as 22 degress, and no higher than 70," he said noting that runners wear everything including sweat pants.

"We've seen people wear tutus," Williams said.

And the temperature at start time was well under 40 degrees in 1993 and 1994, he said.

Opening remarks

Nathan Noy just revealed he has no witnesses in his elections complaint against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt. The congresswoman's lawyer, Joseph Braun, "cornered the witnesses," Noy alleged this afternoon

"Why are we here?" Ohio Elections Commission member Benjamin Marsh asked.

"I told you the potential consequences, did I not?" Commission Chairman Martin O. Parks said to Noy, a write-in congressional candidate from Chillicothe. "It's close to being an abuse of process of this body."

Braun, a Cincinnati attorney and Schmidt's former campaign manager, said he had no problem tracking down witnesses at great legal cost.

Braun said his search for witnesses "reached from Montana to Michigan to (a runner's) home in Florida to Columbus where we tracked down the photographer."

After brief discussion, the six-member commission (one member is absent) allowed Noy to crossexamine Thomas Madine, a professional photographer and president of Madine Enterprises. Madine photographed the 1993 Columbus Marathon that Noy contends Schmidt didn't run.

The shadow of the runner behind Schmidt is broken by her legs, Madine testified.

Madine, who said he has taken 700,000 to 1 million photos in his lifetime, said the shadows in Schmidt's campaign web site photo of the race are not an unusual shadow pattern.

"Miss Schmidt appears to be looking directly at the camera,'' Noy said.

"She is,'' Madine said, adding that more experienced runners know to "look up at the camera and smile."

Noy asked Madine if many other runners wore leggings as Schmidt is in the race photos presented as evidence. Madine said that while the weather appears to be brisk and sunny on that day in late October 1993, he can't recall if many others wore tights.

The audience, mostly made up of witnesses called by Braun, broke out in laughter.

Ghiz: Thank goodness I wasn't at press conference

From city councilwoman Leslie Ghiz:


Bottom Line: ‘People Don’t Feel Safe’

Councilmember Leslie Ghiz, in response to yesterday’s press conference, spoke out today about the need for concrete solutions to the upscale in neighborhood crime. Ghiz, who has been the most vocal Councilmember about the need to focus attention on crime issues, said she felt embarrassed when she found out the purpose of the Mayor’s last-minute press conference.

“Our job as City leaders is to attack crime head-on,” Ghiz said. “We should never be holding press conferences trying convince people that there is no crime problem.”

Ghiz noted that for the past several weeks she has been touring the City talking to residents and neighborhood leaders about crime issues. “I am hearing time and again that the crime rate is out of control,” she said. “People tell me about cars being broken in to, businesses being robbed and even criminals trying to enter their homes ― and then they tell me this is all new to their neighborhood. This is old hat to many of the city’s neighborhoods.”

Ghiz further said that, while her absence at the press conference was due to conflict at work, she is relieved that she did not attend. “Some Members of Council attended yesterday’s press conference out of respect to the Mayor,” she said, “but none of them had any idea of what would be said. I’m certain many would not have attended had they known.”

Ghiz said that she is working and will continue to work on finding solutions to neighborhood crime. In her first term, she has consistently voted to give the police department the resources they need to combat crime. She said she plans on reintroducing her and Councilmember Berding’s ordinance to build a $6 million temporary jail to help overcrowding and to get repeat criminals off the street.

New developments in Noy case

Just before the Ohio Elections Commission took a lunch break, Nathan Noy informed me he wants to call me as a witness in his "false statements" complaint being argued today against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt.

Noy said he intends to ask questions about a recent blog item in The Enquirer that gave an update from Schmidt's attorney, Joseph Braun, about the case and a Montana man's offer to sell his Columbus Marathon finish-line photo.

Braun said he plans to ask the seven-member commission to quash Noy's last-minute subpoena request.

Michael W. Deemer, legal counsel to the Ohio Senate Democrats, who was sitting in on a separate elections complaint, said, "It's crazy being the center of the storm. It's exciting."

The documentary filmmaker from Cleveland (reported about earlier) looked bored by the LONG Elections Commission proceedings. In fact, her Hollywood producer asked her to cut out by 2 p.m. for a Statehouse news conference. There, Columbus attorney Cliff Arnebeck said he planned to announce a federal order to preserve ballots from the 2004 election. Arnebeck and others filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court claiming punch-card ballots and other election materials were tampered with.

Jennifer Black, who was waiting for her twin sister Jean's hearing to begin reacted, "Are they still crying over 2004? It's over. The fat lady has sung."

The gang's all here

I'm at the first of two scheduled meetings of the Ohio Elections Commission in Columbus this month and it FEELS as busy as October already. An agenda packed with complaints. The lobby is jammed with witnesses subpoenaed in Nathan Noy's "false statements" case against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt.

There are at least 65 cases listed ahead of Noy's, but the commission sometimes takes higher-profile or complex cases earlier, and out of order.

As I stepped off the elevator to enter the state commission's 6th floor waiting room at the Wyandotte Building near Broad and High, I had to look twice.

Schmidt's twin wister, Jennifer Black, was seated on the white couch. She introduced herself. I was not alone in briefly mistaking her for the congresswoman from Miami Township. Noy asked Schmidt's attorney, Joseph Braun, if he could question the congresswoman, since he, too, thought Schmidt herself had made it here today from Washington, D.C. She was deposed by telephone Wednesday for about 30 minutes in between congressional votes there.

Noy, who says he ran out of time and money trying to track down people who ran the 1993 Columbus Marathon, said he will seek to question Braun's witnesses today.

Schmidt's chief of staff, Barry Bennett, is here, along with Peter Schmidt, the congresswoman's husband and campaign manager. Also present are a half dozen Columbus Marathon officials and race photographers.

Noy's active complaint claims Schmidt did not run the marathon, or at least not in 3 hours, 19 minutes and 6 seconds. He also alleged her campaign may have fabricated a finish-line photo. See the article previewing today's evidentiary hearing in the newspaper (with a newly surfaced photograph sent overnight from Montana) and on our Local News front online.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fundraising: The Blackwell spin


COLUMBUS - Gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell today reported raising $1.6 million in August and nearly $10 million since January 2005. Also, Blackwell today reported nearly $5 million in total funds available.

“Ken Blackwell has bold solutions to issues Ohioans care about most – jobs, education and health care,” said Blackwell campaign chair Lara Mastin. “Ohioans are responding to Ken Blackwell’s leadership and willingness to discuss real solutions to our state’s problems.”

“During yesterday’s debate, voters saw firsthand Ted Strickland’s lack of new ideas and inability to offer a specific plan to bring jobs and prosperity back to our state,” added Mastin. “Ken Blackwell has a plan to move Ohio forward and the resources to communicate that plan. He will be elected our next governor November 7.”

Blackwell has received 30,253 contributions from 17,921 individual contributors.

Fundraising: The Strickland spin

Strickland Raises $2.3 Million in 31 Days
Strickland Widens Gap; Total Funds Raised $11.2 Million

Columbus, Ohio - The Strickland for Governor campaign today announced it raised more than $2.3 million in one month, widening the gap in total amount raised and funds available since the previous filing in August.

The campaign raised a total of $11.2 million in sixteen months, and reported $7.5 million total funds available at the end of the August filing deadline. The campaign reported an average daily contribution rate of $75,500 for the period.

"I am humbled by the generous support we continue to receive from Ohioans who are ready for change," Strickland said.

The campaign has received contributions from a total of 17,826 contributors.

Strickland continued to garner broad support from across the state. The counties with the largest amount of contributions during the latest period were Franklin County and Cuyahoga County, which together accounted for more than $1 million.

Mallory letter: No vote on charter change

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory wrote a letter Tuesday to the three Hamilton County party heads saying he will not place on the Thursday council agenda a proposal to change the city charter so that the legislative body could meet in closed-door executive sessions for selected issues. The decision means there will be no vote on the issue Thursday, eliminating the possibilty of a ballot referendum in November.

It would have taken six affirmative votes of council members to place the issue before voters.

Here's the letter:

September 5, 2006

George Vincent, Chair Hamilton County Republican Party
Michael Goldman, President Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati
Tim Burke, Chair, Hamilton County Democratic Party

Dear Chairman Vincent, President Goldman, and Chairman Burke:

I write to you today in response to your letter concerning the proposal to place an amendment to the City Charter before the voters in the November election. The proposal would amend the Cincinnati City Charter to conform with the Ohio Open Meetings Act, allowing City Council to adjourn to executive session.

Adopted 1926, the City Charter is a landmark in city government reform and has made Cincinnati a national leader in good government. Amending the Charter is a very serious endeavor and must be undertaken with the utmost caution and only after extensive deliberation.

I have several concerns with the timing of the current proposal. I believe that before any amendment is placed on the ballot there should be extensive public input and debate on the issue. Public input is especially important since this proposal asks the voters to voluntarily exclude themselves from certain proceedings of city government. I first heard about this proposed amendment on Friday and just received your letter today, so I am sure that most citizens are unfamiliar with the proposed amendment.

The City of Cincinnati faces many serious and difficult challenges that must be addressed in the coming months. Our main focus should be addressing the priorities that are important to the citizens of Cincinnati and that will improve the quality of life in our region.

I do not believe that it is in the best interests of the city to put this amendment on the ballot without first conducting hearings in public. Therefore, I will not be scheduling this amendment for a vote at the September 7th meeting of Council. If you have any questions about this matter or if you wish to discuss it further, please fell free to contact me directly.


Mark Mallory
Mayor of Cincinnati

Cc: Members of Cincinnati City Council

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Schmidt's attorney gives update

Joe Braun, a Cincinnati attorney and U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt's former campaign manager, said Rich Williams, the 1993 Columbus Marathon race operations director, will be among those called to testify at Thursday's Ohio Elections Commission hearing in Columbus. It begins at 10 a.m.

"I spoke with Dennis Hayslett today and nobody has yet purchased his photo," Braun said in an e-mail sent late this afternoon. "Perhaps the Enquirer has an interest."

Hayslett, who crossed the finish line two places in front of Schmidt as shown in her campaign web site photo, called the Enquirer Saturday to say he has a photo and videotape of the 1993 Columbus Marathon finish. He was unwilling to say what it looks like, except to say the photo was taken one second before Schmidt's, according to a finish-line clock. Nathan Noy, a write-in candidate, filed an elections commission complaint claiming Schmidt fabricated the photo and did not finish in the time and place that she claims on her campaign web site.

In an e-mail Monday, Braun wrote, "Of course I am interested in seeing (Haylett's) picture however I think his offer to sell it is nothing short of extortion. The Ohio Election Commission complaint filed by Mr. Noy which is now pending is a serious matter and we look forward to proving beyond any doubt that the Congresswoman did nothing wrong."

Grading the manager

Cincinnati Council member Jeff Berding, chair of the Rules and Government Operations Committee, introduced an idea Tuesday to create a four-person panel to review new City Manager Milton Dohoney's job performance.

The motion will be discussed fully by the committee at its next meeting, in two weeks. Only the mayor can hire or fire the city manager, but council members control his raises.

The panel would be made up of one member from each political party and one person appointed by the mayor.

Dohoney's hiring was the subject of much controversy. Several council members said the way Mayor Mark Mallory went about offering the job to Dohoney violated the city charter because he did not offer two candidates for council members to interview. Other council members questioned Dohoney's qualifications for the job.

Frist comments on DeWine-Brown race

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist held a conference call with reporters today to talk about the upcoming Senate agenda. The Senate will be in session for about a month before adjourning until after the November elections.

Asked what he thinks of Sen. Mike DeWine's re-election campaign against Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from northern Ohio, and how important this race is to maintaining a GOP majority in the Senate, Frist said:

"It is a critical race. I recognize it is a very close race now. As the contrast between Mike DeWine and Sherrod Brown plays out over the next 60 days, I am confident that Mike DeWine will win."

Not exactly a surprise answer. But there ya go.

Majority of council favors executive sessions

It appears a majority of Cincinnati City Council favor the idea of meeting behind closed doors to discuss sensitive topics, like personnel evaluations, pending lawsuits and real estate transactions.

That means voters in Cincinnati will get the final say.

The city’s Rules and Government Operations Committee discussed for nearly an hour Tuesday the idea of changing the charter to allow closed-door executive sessions. The issue will likely be voted on by the entire council Thursday. It will take six affirmative votes to place the issue on city-wide ballots this November.

Committee members Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz and Laketa Cole all said the change was needed.

"Only Cleveland in Ohio doesn't have executive sessions," Bortz said. "Why can't we keep up with cities around us, like Newport? Not being allowed to go into executive session puts us at a competitative disadvantage. I don't think that's appropriate."

Members David Crowley and Chris Monzel said they would oppose the measure.

"I am surprised at the suddenness of this proposition," Crowley said. "Moving us into executive sessions might be moving us back rather than forward, especially if you believe in open government. I think it's a stretch to say it's impeded our development."

The chairmen of the Republican, Democratic and Charterite parties wrote a letter to council, urging the proposal. But committee chair Berding actually requested that the letter be written so they could push it through before Friday's deadline to place items on the ballot.

Two council members who are not part of the committee attended the meeting and weighed in, even though they could not vote on the proposal. Cecil Thomas said he supports closed-door sessions, while Leslie Ghiz said she'll be voting no.

While Jim Tarbell wasn't at the meeting, he has complained for years about council not being allowed to enter into executive sessions and is a sure-fire yes vote on the proposal.

Mayor Mark Mallory said he is against the idea -- at least, not for now: "I just don't see why we need to rush into making this change without a lot of public input."

The Blackwell spin


YOUNGSTOWN – Gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell provided Ohio with a bold and innovative vision to move Ohio forward during Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate, while Congressman and former prison psychologist Ted Strickland offered more of the same: absolutely nothing to move Ohio forward.

“I’m going to provide leadership,” said Blackwell. “Right now Ohio needs a leader who will usher in a new era of prosperity. I’m your guy.”

Strickland’s performance was a stark reminder of why he has been consistently ranked as one of the most liberal and ineffective members of Congress for the past 12 years. The debate exposed Strickland’s lack of command of state issues and showed his failure to commit and his complete lack of vision to move Ohio forward.Among the highlights:

When asked to directly answer if he would pledge not to raise taxes, Strickland avoided the question.

An angry Strickland, acting like a second-grader, commented that Blackwell’s ideas were bad and his were good.

Strickland could not answer a question on how much money from the state budget he would direct to specific proposals.

“What we saw today was the same Ted Strickland who has never authored one piece of legislation that has become law and the same Ted Strickland who ranks behind the delegates from American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in terms of his effectiveness in Congress,” said Blackwell spokesperson Carlo LoParo. “Ohio needs bold leadership and Ted Strickland proved today that he doesn’t have what it takes to bring jobs to Ohio and move our economy forward.”

The Strickland spin

Strickland Lays Out Plan to Turnaround Ohio, Draws Sharp Contrasts in First Gubernatorial Debate

Columbus, Ohio – In the first Ohio gubernatorial debate in Youngstown Tuesday, Congressman Ted Strickland laid out his vision to Turnaround Ohio and emphasized his ability to move beyond partisanship to solve the challenges facing Ohio.

Focusing on spurring economic growth, improving the state’s education system while lowering college tuition costs, and expanding access to affordable health care, Strickland laid out a positive agenda for change.

"Ted got across a clear message today: if Ohioans are sick and tired of failed Republican leadership and are eager for change, Ted Strickland's their candidate," said Strickland for Governor spokesman Keith Dailey.

Pointing out that 16 years of Republican rule have driven Ohio to the bottom among key indicators of economic health, Strickland emphasized his experience delivering for his constituents: from helping to coauthor the Children’s Health Insurance Program to working with the labor and management to save thousands of jobs at Wheeling-Pittsburgh’s steel plant to building roads throughout his congressional district.

And Strickland also made clear he has a record of living out his values, not just talking about his values. As a Congressman, Strickland has returned several hundred thousand dollars from his congressional office budget, because he believes government should live within its means. He’s also returned more than $40,000 in mid-term pay raises and health insurance benefits since 1999, because he believes his constituents should have access to affordable health insurance. Meanwhile, Ken Blackwell is against abortion but has invested money in the company that makes the Morning After pill. Blackwell is against gambling but has invested his money in a company that makes slot machines.

In contrast to Strickland’s comprehensive plan to Turnaround Ohio, Republican Ken Blackwell continued to offer a series of gimmicky proposals that have been debunked by local and national experts. From his proposed lease of the Ohio Turnpike, which would likely go to a foreign company and lead to higher tolls, to his 65-cent education plan that former Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige called a “gimmick” and “one of the worst ideas in education,” Blackwell offered platitudes instead of solutions. While claiming he wants to shrink government, Blackwell neglected to mention that as Treasurer he requested a 42% spending increase, the highest of any statewide official. And as Secretary of State, Blackwell increased his office spending by 73% by hiking user fees on Ohioans.

“We can't trust Ken Blackwell to level with Ohioans," Dailey said. "He has the nerve to say that we 'had a great election in 2004.' Has he forgotten the thousands of people waiting hours in line to vote, or the tens of thousands of voters who had their valid, provisional ballots disqualified? We need solutions from the next governor of Ohio, not smoke and mirrors."

While Strickland emphasized returning honesty and accountability to state government after the corruption scandals that have plagued Columbus, Blackwell insisted he should not be lumped in with the failed Republican leadership he has been a part of for the last 12 years. But Blackwell’s actions speak louder than his words: he still refuses to release his tax returns, even though Republican gubernatorial candidates for the last 35 years have done
so. --30--

Closing remarks bring Blackwell back to his roots

Ken Blackwell, in his closing remarks, recalled growing up a half mile from City Hall in a public housing project and selling peanuts inside and outside sports events.

Now he's a minority owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Blackwell said.

"I've had the ability to live the American dream," Blackwell said. "I want more Americans to live that American dream."

But Ted Strickland replied that if people like what Blackwell represents "as a continuation of the Taft-Blackwell way of government," then they should vote for the Republican.

"I represent change," Strickland said.

On abortion

Strickland said his opponent is "opposed to abortion in all circumstances.

But Blackwell, noting his wife and two daughters were here today, said modern medicine "makes the intentional killing of a baby unnecessary."

We can save the mother and the child, Blackwell said.

Asked about war in Iraq

"This war was a wrong decision," Ted Strickland said. "I think we need to change course."

George W. Bush might not be in office if not for Ken Blackwell's support, Strickland said.

But Blackwell reminded his TV audience that we are approaching the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We know that this is a new world. We know that the threat is real," Blackwell said.

"We ought to fight terror. But the fact is we chose the wrong war," Strickland responded. "We're losing soldiers every day."

The way the president is conducting the war is not smart, Strickland said.

Name calling escalates

"His record is his record," Blackwell said of Strickland. "He's a tax and spender."

Strickland is masquerading as a conservative back home in his congressional district, Blackwell charged.

"I'm a commonsense, practical congressman," Strickland said, while calling Blackwell a "flip-flopper" on issues such as gambling and right-to-work laws.

Blackwell says he's against gambling, Strickland noted, but invested in a company that benefits from casinos.

Blackwell sees no conflict in his dual election role

Asked by a debate panelist whether he should have been co-chairman of President Bush's campaign while overseeing elections as secretary of state, Blackwell said, "We had a great election in 2004. We had a bipartisan system" of election officials monitoring the election.

But Strickland said Ohioans never worried about the validity of their election system when Rep. Sherrod Brown or Gov. Bob Taft were secretaries of state.

Taft and Sherrod Brown did not invest in the Diebold Election System company "but my opponent did...He has failed the people of Ohio," Strickland said.

"The 2004 election was not conducted as it should have been conducted,'' Strickland said.

"We had a record turnout (of voters) in 2004,'' Blackwell replied.

12:35 and this blog is slowing down

Are readers freezing me up?

Gotta tell you more. The candidates are on a roll now.

They have hit their stride.

Ken Blackwell said his ideas will work on Wall Street as well as on Main Street, Ohio.

"That's typical Ted Strickland. He just puts more ornaments on a Christmas tree,'' Blackwell said. "That's why we must restrain government spending (and) cut taxes."

How are you going to pay for all these new programs, Blackwell asked. By raising taxes.

My ideas are OK

"My ideas are OK...We need to invest and create new jobs,'' Strickland said, saying voters are sick and tired of state government telling local governments what to do with its heavy hand.

"Look at his record, don't read his lips,'' Blackwell snapped back smiling.

Jobs are fleeing

The governor has to bring about change, Ken Blackwell said, noting "Our jobs are fleeing."

"I'm going to provide leadership, not goal-setting."

Their attire

Let's tell you what they are wearing and I'll come back with some more meat later..and in print Wednesday.

Blackwell is wearing a scarlet and white striped tie, and dark suit. But the stripes are a little fuzzy on our debate monitors.

Strickland is in a light baby blue tie.

Strickland: I won't raise taxes

Ted Strickland promised he wouldn't raise taxes.

"He's blowing hot air," Strickland said of Blackwell charges that he would raise taxes.

Candidates start going at it over taxes and schools

"Mr. Strickland doesn't have an alternative,''Blackwell said.
"His alternative is to raise taxes"

"What Mr. Blackwell says is not true,'' Strickland said, adding, "He's blowing hot air."

Strickland talks about his Turn Around Ohio plan

U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, the Democratic candidate for governor, opened up by highlighting his "Turn Around Ohio" campaign platform.

"We're going to end the corruption tax," he said of special state deals for major campaign contributors like Maumee coin dealer Tom Noe.

"I don't intend to raise taxes," Strickland replied to Ken Blackwell's charge that he supported 31 tax increases as a congressman.

"Mr. Blackwell is distorting my record."

For his part, Blackwell said he never supported any of the tax increases sought by Gov. Bob Taft. "When I was fighting Taft...I didn't see Mr. Strickland."

Blackwell called for getting more money to Ohio classrooms.

But Strickland retorted that even the Cincinnati schools where Blackwell's wife, Rosa, is superintendent doesn't meet the Republican candidates goal of at least 65 percent of public school funding going to classrooms and teachers.

"It is one more of his many political gimmicks," Strickland said.

Blackwell opens up talking about his childhood

Secretary of State Ken Blackwell opened up today's debate by talking about growing up in a Cincinnati housing project.

"My dad believed in working and saving and working and saving," he said.

But Blackwell said his parents knew if they worked hard their sons could do better.

"My record is one of getting results," Blackwell said of his tenure as mayor of Cincinnati, state Treasurer and now Secretary of State.

Blackwell said the next 64 days days will be drastic and important to all Ohioans.

"There's no more important job than getting our economy growing again," Blackwell said. "I've been a mayor of a city."

Blackwell vs. Strickland, round one

From the AP

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A loud crowd of supporters outside the site of the first debate of the governor’s race chanted the two major candidates’ names Tuesday in front of big displays for each side – a tall sign for Democrat Ted Strickland and a blowup elephant for Republican Ken Blackwell.

Blackwell, the secretary of state, and Strickland, a U.S. congressman, have been taking shots at each other through ads, campaign workers and the media since the May primary. But their meeting Tuesday was their first face-off of the campaign, to be televised across the state that narrowly gave President Bush a win over Democratic Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

About 30 supporters stood in the street outside the television station. The Republicans’ elephant, the symbol of the party, was about two-people tall and had Blackwell’s signature on a tusk. A ribbon banner hanging from the trunk said “Support Our Troops,” and another banner draped on the animal said “The New Republicans. Restoring Conservative Values in Ohio Leadership.”

The Democrats had a 12-foot high banner that said “Ted for Governor,” and they shouted “We want Ted” when Strickland walked into the building.

Strickland campaign volunteer Don Rowinsky, a retired teacher from Youngstown, said the Democrats were chanting about their accusation that Blackwell stole the 2004 presidential election from the Democrats.

“He did all kinds of things to help Bush do that. I think it’s pretty well established. And now he’s going to try to do it again with this election,” Rowinsky said.

Blackwell has been criticized for his oversight of the presidential election in Ohio, which was plagued with long lines and questions about ballot tallies, and Democrats say his role as the state’s chief election official is a conflict of interest with his candidacy.

Blackwell has been behind in most polls since eliminating Attorney General Jim Petro in the primary. The debate is where he could find a spark.

At an imposing 6-foot-5, Blackwell has long been sought as a speaker for TV news shows for his booming voice and quick-on-his-feet speaking style and has four statewide campaigns behind him.

Strickland represents a district that hugs the Ohio River from the suburbs of struggling Youngstown south to Portsmouth, another ailing industrial town. This is his first statewide campaign, but his background as a friend of gun owners and a former United Methodist minister who’s spent most of his life in Appalachia figures to help him with conservative voters.

The debate is the first of four planned leading up to the Nov. 7 election, although the sponsor of a debate scheduled in Columbus on Oct. 16 has backed out, leaving that debate in doubt.

It's a circus outside the debate

Who would have thought a governor's debate in downtown Youngstown, nearly 300 miles from Cincinnati, would attract throngs of protesters and supporters?

Just outside WFMJ 21 Action News studios, where Republican Ken Blackwell and Democrat Ted Strickland are about to square off in their first of four face-to-face debates, a couple dozen members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and supporters of the Secretary of State from Cincinnati were exchanging chants and words.

"Taxing Ted, Taxing Ted," one group carrying a three-by-six foot "Blackwell for Governor" sign was shouting.

"We're here to support Ted Strickland," said Jack Hayn, assistant to the general president of government affairs for the IUPAT union, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

A block away, a giant inflated 20 foot tall elephant, with the sign "The New Republicans. Restoring Conservative Values" was jamming a parking lot. Kathy and Greg Badger, supporters of Blackwell, carted it from Middleburg Heights before inflating it here.

Reporters from all corners of the state filled a second floor waiting room to watch on a bigscreen TV. Donuts, soda pop and water was available, but reporters and TV crews were scurrying for computer and electric lines and trying to get wireless connections to work. Because of the interest and chaos, the TV hosts allowed the spillover crowd to work off tables with landlines in their main newsroom.

Because there is no access to the candidates before they appear on live television, some reporters lamented it would be easier to cover from elsewhere.

"I could have stayed in the office to do this. I could have stayed at home and done this," one groaned.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hamilton Board of Elections director asked to save '04 ballots

Timothy M. Burke, a Democrat and chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, sent John Williams, a Republican and the board's director, a note Saturday requesting that ballots from the 2004 election not be discarded.

Under federal law, they can be destroyed after 22 months, or this weekend.

Burke wrote: "I received a phone call yesterday evening from Commissioner Todd Portune. He has requested that we do not destroy the 2004 ballots while the new lawsuit is pending. That is a reasonable request. Can you confirm what the status of those ballots is and what if any plans currently exist for their future preservation."

Williams told the Enquirer on Thursday that the board planned to retain all used ballots, although it inadvertently discarded unused ballots last spring.

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