Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Saturday, September 2

Gov: Blackwell (R) at Rally in Independence

This morning I attended part of a rally for gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) at the Civic Center in Independence, Ohio. The bus pictured above was parked outside. When I got there, Cuyahoga County Republican Chairman Rob Frost was speaking. He sneered at Democrats for expressing optimism and unity in 2006, asserting that Democrats felt that way in August 2004 before going down to defeat. He also dismissed the fact that Blackwell trails in the polls, asserting that Bush trailed Kerry by ten points in a CNN Ohio poll in August 2004.

Frost introduced treasurer candidate County Auditor Sandy O'Brien (R-Ashtabula County) and auditor candidate State Rep. Mary Taylor (R-Green), each of whom spoke briefly. O'Brien boasted of her high rating as a county auditor, and Taylor emphasized that she is a CPA, has performed audits, and has taught a class on government accounting in college. (No mention of the fact that the current state auditor, Betty Montgomery (R), is not a CPA or accountant.) Frost also introduced outgoing State Rep. Jim Trakas (R-Independence), who among other things said that gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) is "able to speak so expertly about corruption" because he has two "corrupt aides" on his staff. (This is a new allegation to me, and I didn't catch exactly what he said, but the claim apparently involves one person getting no-bid contracts and another getting paid a salary without actually working.) He also made much of Blackwell having run an agency with thousands of employees, while Strickland as a Congressman "only supervises a few secretaries." He said that under Blackwell we have had "clean and fair" elections in Ohio (!).

Frost then introduced Blackwell, who entered the room with wife Rosa to blaring rock music. It was deafening, like the player introductions at a professional basketball game. The first part of his speech focused on the upbringing of Blackwell and his wife. His wife is the daughter of a coal miner, and Blackwell is the son of a meatpacker. (He actually paused for a split second before saying the word meatpacker, as though it is a shameful or painful memory.) He painted the image of their childhood families sitting around the dining room table asking questions, like whether the kids would get a good education and good jobs. This became a theme for talking about his campaign promises for Ohioans. Too many young Ohioans, he said, "think that to go up they need to go out." Blackwell's pledge is make sure that young people have an "Ohio option," meaning that they can find a job and raise a family here, thus answering the questions asked around the table.

This shot, taken after his speech was over, shows Blackwell holding hands with Frost and spouse Rosa and a few others I don't know, while saying that the Republican primary "had settled some things" but now the party is unified and ready to go on to victory. Blackwell described his agenda as a "growth agenda" and a "hope agenda," as compared to the Democrats who have no ideas and "can only criticize." Among other things he stressed his health care proposal as shifting to a "patient-centered system" in which "every Ohioan has a health policy."

On education, he portrayed his 65% proposal (capping non-classroom expenditures at 35% of overall educational costs) as a way of sending a fresh $1.2 billion into the classrooms for new teachers and computers without raising taxes. (Big cheers for that whopper.) However, he said, all education challenges are not about money, but rather a change in attitude is needed. He praised competition in education ("a basket of choice") as the kind of educational leadership that will inspire students. He recalled that his own teachers said to him "you can learn, and you will learn," as compared to teachers of today who "look for excuses" for why their students can't learn (broken homes, poverty). What the education system needs is more teachers who will say to their students, "you can learn, and you will learn." (No mention of the Ohio Supreme Court ruling that the school funding system is unconstitutional.)

Blackwell said that the General Assembly has laid down "a solid foundation" of tax reform and tax cuts, and did so "without one Democratic vote." To tremendous cheering, he asked "will we choose a governor who will be a brake on tax reform, or one that will be an accelerator of tax cuts?" He related tax cuts to creating more jobs, saying that in "J. Kenneth Blackwell" the "J" is for "Jobs." He said he is going to "clean up" our "over-regulated environment" to make doing business easier. (There is painful irony in using the words "clean" and "environment" to describe slashing regulations, which of course includes regulations to protect the environment.) He acknowledged that Ohio is 50th in small business start-ups, and that 80% of new jobs will be from small businesses. (This was one of the only references he made to Ohio's dismal economy, although at one point he referred to it as being in a "lull.") Only by cutting taxes, "cleaning up" regulations, and restricting lawsuits can small businesses be encouraged.

At this point Blackwell boasted about his "record of results" as a mayor, treasurer and secretary of state, including the specious claim that he has reduced the expenditure of tax revenues by the Office of the Secretary of State by over 60% (ignoring sky rocketing user fees during his term). This record he compared to Strickland's alleged lack of accomplish in Congress, claiming to quote Strickland as saying "I've been in Congress 12 years and I didn't leave a deep footprint." He then called Strickland a "political schizophrenic" for claiming to be a moderate-to-conservative in Ohio while voting as a liberal in Washington. (He cited a 100% approval rating by NARAL and alleged votes for tax increases and "against marriage as a union between a man and a woman" as proof of Strickland's liberalism.) He called on the crowd to give Strickland "treatment" for his schizophrenia by defeating him in the election, "allowing him to come together." He made special mention of Strickland's voting "against 'under God' in the pledge of allegiance" and again purported to quote Strickland as saying "my record is the mirror image of Dennis Kucinich and Nancy Pelosi," to much hooting and derision by the crowd.

There was much more, but the last part I noted down was that Blackwell played football at Xavier University and they then "retired his jersey," which he revealed to be a joke because Xavier dropped football as a sport and therefore "retired" everyone's jersey. On the football field, he said, he was taught not to look at the other player's head or shoulders but instead at his belt buckle, in order not to be fooled by a head fake. "Over the next 60 days," he said, "I will help Ohioans look at Ted Strickland's belt buckle!" (What a truly strange line.) He related that metaphor to drawing a contrast between himself and Strickland as abortion vs. pro-life, tax increaser vs. tax cut leader, stifling the economy vs. jobs and "putting the option in young people's hands."

I recorded the very tail end of his speech as a video, which doesn't include anything of substance but gives a sense of his speaking style:

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded video link, but the video can be watched here.]

My impression of Blackwell, whom I had not heard before, is that he is a very smooth, clever, effective speaker. There were bits in his speech that were very rousing to the partisan crowd, and other parts that were charming or funny. I was surprised that there was very little religious content, only a few general references to faith or to trust in God. He never mentioned his turnpike privatization proposal. The biggest reactions were to promises of tax cuts and bashing of Strickland.


At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Earl said...


You're a better man than I.

At 5:29 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Fascinating, Jeff. Thank you so much for this. Can you say anything about the composition of the audience? Age, gender, ethnicity? Given the locale - Cuyahoga Country, I have got to believe that Rob Frost - who supported Petro - must have had a chat with Blackwell (probably more than one) about how to play to this area. Any comments on that?

At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you'll be voting for Blackwell and straight Republican!!!

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Good questions, Jill! There were a fair share of squeaky-clean looking young white people, older angry-looking middle-calss people who cheered loudly every mention of tax cuts and schools not needing more money, and older wealthy-looking white people. However, there were a number of African-Americans; I'd say something like 20-25 in a crowd of 200 or more. Many of them were wearing Blackwell tee shirts and may have been part of a contingent whose attendance was orchestrated, but others clearly were not. There was an older black man near me who did a lot of "call and response" type reacting, and I'm sure it was just authentic excitement and pride.

Frost and Blackwell both emphasized the importance to the campaign of generating 150,000-plus Republican votes in Cuyahoga County, as happened in 2004. The big overriding purpose of the rally was to get people to go out into their neighborhoods and spread the message about Blackwell. However, there was a lot of consciousness of being in a blue county. There was even a hand-made sign on the wall with a big red dot, and it said "Welcome to Indpendence, a Red Dot in a Blue County."

I strongly suspect that Blackwell's speech was tailored specifically to this county. There was very little God-guns-gays in it, and no quoting scripture. On the whole, it emphasized fiscal stuff (tax cuts, mostly) over social stuff.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Modern Esquire said...

Isn't Ken Blackwell's own children part of the youth that have moved out of the state to find opporunity due to the failure of Republican leadership in Ohio. I could have sworn I've read the Blackwell's son moved to Colorado

At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Ambercat said...

Wow- I love how he claims his 65% plan will somehow mysteriously "free up" $1.2 billion for classroom use. That means, without increases in funding, which he's clearly unwilling to provide (or is THAT going to come from leasing the turnpike too?), slashing a whole lot of other things which people probably haven't thought about — that or dramatically raising property taxes as his cuts in state taxes trickle down to counties and municipalites. Personally, I'd rather leave my state taxes as they are and forego the $25 or $50 "cut" most of us will cut, and pass on the hundreds of dollars increase in property taxes every few years.

Loved Kenny's failure to mention the staggering fee increases in his office —I've read as much as 73% since he became SoS. After all, a fee is just a tax, really. Kenny B, the taxin' machin!

I'm actually surprised that, given the was a countywide rally, there weren't more people there. Were any local Republican officials in attendance, do you know? What about David "oops, I forgot to mention I'm a Republican" Lynch?


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