Gov: Tubbs Jones (D) "In Discussions" on Endorsement
At a meeting last night of her political organization, the 11th Congressional District Caucus, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) told a crowd of supporters that she is "in discussions" on making an endorsement in the gubernatorial race, which pits Rep. Ted Stickland (D-Lisbon) against Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati). Noting that she had made no endorsement in the Democratic primary for the office, she said that people were saying it was about whether or not she liked a particular candidate. "It's not about whether I 'like' someone," she insisted. "When I make an endorsement, I make it on behalf of my constituents," and therefore she need commitments to address her constituents' needs before proceeding. She said that "we've all seen it happen before that we make an endorsement" and then after the election "it's like nothing happened." Therefore, she continued, she is "negotiating" to obtain commitments by the endorsed candidate before issuing an endorsement. However, she told the audience, "Don't be voting a Blackwell ballot!", an allusion to Blackwell's urban radio ad during the primary in which it was suggested that African-Americans should vote for Blackwell on a Republican ballot in order to prevent supposed interference with urban radio stations' playlist by opposing candidate Jim Petro (R-Rocky River). During Tubbs Jones' remarks, State Treasurer candidate Rich Cordray (D-Columbus) was seated in the front row next to political strategist and long-time Tubbs Jones friend Arnold Pinkney.
Tubbs Jones' comments on the gubernatorial endorsement came toward the end of a one-and-a-half hour meeting, conducted largely by new executive director Greg Groves, that covered both substantive issues and procedural matters relating to rebuilding the caucus. Lillian Davis, President of the Progressive Action Council, and Cleo Busby, now with the Cleveland Tenants Organization but formerly with the National Public Housing Alliance, and a primary candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives this year, discussed circulating a petition to Sen. Mike DeWine (R) and George Voinvovich (R) to protest massive cuts in funding to public housing-related programs in George W. Bush's proposed budget for next year. Attorney Leslie Huff and Tubbs Jones staffer Chris Nance talked about the Voter Protection Project, an effort to avoid election problems in the fall like those that plagued the primary election last week. This effort will include public seessions throughout the area to collect voters' statements about their experiences in the primary. This part of the meeting included hair-raising accounts of voting machine malfunctions and general confusion, including a description of a polling place in East Cleveland where hundreds of voters were turned away because voting machines would only display Republican ballots, and there were not enough paper ballots on hand to accomodate the voters. During this part of the meeting there were numerous comments to the effect that the problems were most prevalent in African-American areas, and several direct and indirect references to Blackwell as the ultimate cause of the voting problems.
During the meeting Tubbs Jones acknowledged current officeholders and candidates for office in attendance. In addition to Cordray, the candidates on hand included former representative Barbara Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights), running in the Ohio House 9th District; Common Pleas Judge candidate Suzanne Bretz Blum (D), who will oppose Judge Kathleen Sutula (R) in the general election; Eugene R. Miller (D), who has coordinated several political campaigns in the past and is now the apparent primary winner in the Ohio House 10th District; and Ohio Senate 21st District candidate Rep. Shirley Smith. In his brief remarks to the crowd, Cordray emphasized the need for state government to shift its focus to Ohio's big cities. He said that people in the current Republican administation have been heard to say of the cities, "That's not where our voters are." Cordray pointed out that 9 million out of Ohio's 11 million residents live in cities, and that the state's economic future is bound up with the condition of its large urban centers.
After the meeting I participated in a revealing discussion with a few acquaintances in attendance. One commented that she was dismayed that Tubbs Jones did not come right out and express support for Strickland now, asking "What else is she going to do, anyway?" and pointing out that voter education takes a long time, and that the Blackwell campaign is already at work trying to influence African-American voters to support his candidacy. Another suggested that the primary vote did not reflect disaffection on the part of African-Americans, but a third sharply disagreed with that assertion, claiming that voting in heavily African-American areas did indeed reflect antipathy toward gubernatorial candidate Strickland. She framed the question of African-American support for Blackwell in a striking way. "Who was the first white governor of Ohio?" she asked. The question made me realize the extent to which I take it for granted that the governor is and always has been white. "Now think how much it would mean to blacks to be able to answer that question if you turn it around and ask who was the first African-American governor." The symbolism of having an African-American governor is extremely powerful, she continued, so African-American voters are going to need a very strong reason not to vote for Blackwell. "We're Democrats," she continued, "and we can and will get it done," but it's going to take a big effort on the part of the Democratic Party.