Ken Blackwell takes the high road

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Redhots, Oct 21, 2006.

  1. Redhots

    Redhots Member

    Apr 9, 2006
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    Blackwell's attacks on foe getting personal; Strickland's sexual orientation questioned

    Three months ago, merely referencing a Web page that questioned whether the Democratic nominee for governor was gay cost an Ohio Republican Party staffer his job.

    This week, Republican nominee Ken Blackwell sent reporters an e-mail that quoted Fox News commentators accusing Democrat Ted Strickland of vacationing in Italy with a “boy toy.”

    No one at the state GOP complained.

    Mr. Strickland, a congressman from southeast Ohio, has been married 20 years. He and his wife, Frances, have no children.

    In recent weeks, he has told reporters asking a barrage of questions the same thing over and over. He is not gay.

    Questions by Republicans about Mr. Strickland’s sexual orientation resurfaced this week, along with attacks on his past employment of a man convicted of exposing himself to children and a 1999 vote not to condemn a psychological study that suggested adult-child sexual relations aren’t always bad.

    Mr. Strickland called the renewed attacks the act of a “desperate candidate” who is “very close to losing [his] own integrity.”

    A Blackwell spokesman, Carlo LoParo, said Ohio’s secretary of state is “not concerned” with questions of Mr. Strickland’s sexual orientation — only the questions about his judgment in the case of the staffer and the vote — and that the Blackwell campaign e-mail sought only to show Ohio reporters that “this scandal is being discussed in the national media.”

    Political analysts question Mr. Blackwell’s strategic judgment as he tries to close what polls show is a double-digit deficit to Mr. Strickland in the campaign’s final weeks.

    “This is not going to appeal to the average bread-and-butter voter in Ohio who is worried whether there’s going to be jobs in the next 15 years for them and their kids,” said Chris Duncan, chairman of the University of Dayton’s political science department. “This is beneath Blackwell.”

    Peter Schramm, the executive director of the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University, called the week of attacks on Mr. Strickland “a mistake” for a Republican candidate he otherwise admires for his intelligence and articulation.

    “This is not the sort of thing Blackwell does by nature,” Mr. Schramm said. “He ought to just talk about his fondness for Ohio, his vision for Ohio.”

    Staffer quit in 1999
    The Democratic staffer in question left Mr. Strickland’s employ in 1999. Mr. Strickland has said he did not screen the background of the former employee when he hired him and that he has never knowingly employed someone with a sex-crime record.

    By the time he discovered the staffer had a criminal record, the employee had already quit.

    Mr. Strickland said he did not approve of the House resolution condemning the 1999 study because, as a trained psychologist, he did not agree with a line in the resolution that stated sexually abused children can never have healthy adult relationships.

    Media outlets have documented both issues extensively since last spring, when opponent Bryan Flannery first raised them in the Democratic primary.

    Mr. Blackwell raised the issues again in the final gubernatorial candidates’ debate on Monday night, with talk radio and conservative television hosts following up.

    On Thursday, Mr. Blackwell’s campaign emailed a transcript of a Fox Hannity and Colmes interview with a Cincinnati radio host who said Mr. Strickland had flown to Italy with the staffer in question “in order to enjoy a little fun with this 26-year-old boy toy.”

    Mr. Strickland has said the post-election trip in 1998 was supposed to include other staff members, but they canceled. The attorney for the former Strickland staffer said his client is not gay.

    Asked about the “boy toy” line yesterday, state GOP spokesman John McClelland said the party does not control campaign decisions, adding: “We do not believe that issue is relevant or appropriate in this election.”

    He continued: “We do, however, believe Ohioans deserve an explanation about why Mr. Strickland employed a man convicted of exposing himself to children and why, when confronted with the issue, Mr. Strickland chose not to take action and now says he ‘perhaps’ should have handled the matter more aggressively.”

    GOP apology
    In July, GOP chairman Bob Bennett fired Gary Lankford, the party’s “socially conservative coordinator,” for sending supporters an e-mail that linked to a blog questioning Mr. Strickland’s sexual orientation. Mr. Bennett apologized to Mr. Strickland in a public letter.

    The last time an Ohio gubernatorial candidate made sexual orientation an issue, he lost badly. Republican James Rhodes, a former four-term governor, labeled then-Gov. Richard Celeste a gay sympathizer in the 1986 election. Mr. Rhodes received less than 40 percent of the vote.

    Mr. Blackwell’s supporters attacked Mr. Strickland anew on another issue this week: whether he can legally vote in Lisbon, where he is registered and maintains an apartment, even though he owns a condominium and pays local taxes in Columbus.

    The secretary of state’s office this week ordered a local elections board to hear a challenge to Mr. Strickland’s voting status. Mr. Strickland said the law “clearly” favors him. Still, he cast an early ballot yesterday in Lisbon — to protect his right to vote, he said.

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