one deal from [current] Governor [Bob] Taft’s administration … not one. So myself and all 20 of the African American firms on Wall Street are virtually out of business in Ohio.” Brandford believes their fortunes will be lifted dramatically, however, under a Blackwell regime.
L. Ross Love, an entrepreneur and former Procter & Gamble executive who was once considered one of the nation’s most powerful black corporate managers, maintains that the group needs to make the case for Blackwell despite his party affiliation. “This is an incredibly significant campaign from a national standpoint. What it means to this country to see an African American essentially run a state that is in trouble, make it a financially and economically stronger part of this country, to do it through creativity and significant changes in its fiscal policy, sends an incredible message about the capability of African Americans to lead this country in any role. I think it sends a huge message to our children, to young African Americans, about the possibilities and about what we are capable of.”
Adds James, whose firm has handled the legal work for state bond transactions: “In our business, we have to compete every day. And through Ken’s whole political life, he’s been competing and winning. To tell our people that when we have a candidate who brings all of these capabilities to the table, to vote against him simply because he is a Republican is almost a crime. It sends the wrong message throughout the entire community. Secondly, most of our presidential aspirants come from governors. So we have to continue to build leadership not only locally but also nationally. Ken has that kind of capability.”
Blackwell knows that it’s premature to think about a trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. W
ith Election Day weeks away
, the 58-year-old must focus on the toughest campaign in his 30-year political career — one in which most political pundits cast him as a long shot. In order to capture the statehouse, he needs to woo voters in urban hubs as well as rural counties. If successful, he will earn his page in the history books. Only one African American has ever been elected governor — L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, who took the helm of the state of Virginia roughly two decades ago.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
At no other time in modern political history have so many African Americans had a shot to gain national and statewide office under the Republican banner. Besides Blackwell, former gridiron great and sports commentator Lynn Swann is seeking the governorship of Pennsylvania. And in Maryland, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is battling to become the first black senator from that state and the sixth African American to serve in the U.S. Senate. In fact, Steele would become the first black Republican since reconstruction to win a seat in the U.S. Senate since Edward Brooke of Massachusetts was elected in 1966. (Democrats also have two black contenders for statewide and national office this year: Rep. Harold Ford, who is running for a