Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Thursday, May 18

Gov: Blackwell (R) Blinks

In the game of chicken between gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) and the crushing groundswell of opposition to his campaign's signature initiative, the frighteningly draconian Tax & Expenditure Limitation Amendment (TEL), Blackwell has flinched.

Helping Blackwell to bail in order to avoid the collision, Republican lawmakers agreed to pass a watered-down version of TEL as a state statute (it would not affect local and municipal spending), and to pass a law permitting the sponsors of the TEL constitutional amendment to withdraw it from the ballot, as reported in the Columbus Dispatch:
Although Blackwell had insisted for more than a year that the state needs the amendment, he agreed to the move in the face of fierce criticism from local-government officials that the TEL plan was flawed and the fear among some Republicans that it would be a political albatross. ...

But he had insisted throughout the primary campaign that he would not back away from the TEL amendment and would wage an aggressive campaign for it.

"The fact is that a half a million people signed a petition saying that they want this to be before the people for a vote. I happen to believe in it," Blackwell told The Dispatch in April. "I’m prepared to make our public case (for the amendment), and I’m prepared to run on making that public case this fall."

Blackwell also ridiculed GOP primary opponent Jim Petro throughout the campaign for changing positions on issues, saying, "I can hold a position on an issue longer than six months without getting exhausted."
Democrats are all over it. ODP Chairman Chris Redfern said, "I’m just floored that we just witnessed the entire political underpinnings of a campaign being ripped away." Gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) says Blackwell’s willingness to back away from the amendment makes it difficult to believe anything Blackwell says he supports. "For him, in the face of political pressure, to so quickly abandon what he has said for months was so important to the future of Ohio, I think it does represent weakness," Strickland said. In a written statement to the press, Strickland elaborates:
This is one for the history books. I suppose Mr. Blackwell will be able to say he was for the TEL ballot initiative before he was against it.

I think it’s becoming clearer every day that Mr. Blackwell will say and do anything in order to try to win an election. Mr. Blackwell built his entire campaign for governor on the TEL amendment and now he is folding in the face of massive opposition. Mr. Blackwell’s flip-flop on the TEL begs the question: If voters can’t trust him to stand up for his own ideas, how can they trust Mr. Blackwell to stand up for them?

My position on the TEL amendment has been and will remain solid. I am opposed to this unwise approach to our state government, as are business leaders, educators, health care providers, fire departments, libraries and local governments across Ohio.

How will the anti-tax extremists in Blackwell's base react to this retreat by their man of principle, the rock-solid anti-tax champion? Maybe not so well:

David Hansen, president of the conservative Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said it’s not good enough to pass a state law that doesn’t limit spending by local governments and doesn’t apply to fees and other revenue. "A statute referring only to state (general-revenue funding) is only addressing part of the problem and not even the worst part of the problem," he said.
Additional coverage from the Toledo Blade is here.