Says Rev. Floyd Flake, a former Democratic Congressman who serves as president of Wilberforce University in Ohio and the Blackwell campaign co-chairman: “If he were not a Republican, with his background, the reality is most African Americans would be giving him their full support.” However, over the years, his political stances have drawn heat from conservatives and liberals alike. As Cincinnati’s mayor, he was at odds with the business establishment when he challenged majority banks’ lending practices to minority customers. However, when he ran as the Republican nominee for a congressional seat 16 years ago, he came out against the Civil Rights Act of 1990 and drew the ire of civil rights groups.
Blackwell’s biggest controversy involves the 2004 presidential election. As Ohio Secretary of State, Blackwell oversees the state’s electoral process and, during that race, handled a multitude of complaints regarding voting machine failures and confusion over polling site changes. Over the past two years, some Democrats have charged that Blackwell engineered voting irregularities to suppress minority voter turnout and steal the election for Bush. Asserts Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), the only black woman on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee: “Throughout the course of [the 2000 and 2004] elections, Ken Blackwell as Secretary of State in my opinion has done things to frustrate people’s access to the ballot box. The record is replete with instances in which he had an opportunity to ensure people’s access to the ballot and he did not. [Blackwell] served as chair of the Bush re-election campaign in Ohio; it’s not illegal but it truly creates an appearance of impropriety and makes people think, ‘how could he chair the campaign for the president and then be the one responsible for ensuring that we have a fair election?’”
Blackwell characterizes such criticism as ludicrous. “Do you think Mrs. Blackwell raised a dumb child? Why would I suppress the black vote when I understood how well I do in the African American community?” Blackwell asks. He says there were a record number of blacks that voted in Ohio in 2004. (Bush won 16% of the African American vote in Ohio — 5 percentage points above his na
tional share.) Although none of the allegations ha
ve been proven, Strickland has used the imbroglio to attack Blackwell’s credibility as a candidate.
Jones says she will work hard to ensure that Blackwell doesn’t occupy the governor’s mansion. “I support affirmative action. He doesn’t believe in affirmative action. He’s anti-gay. I’m a big supporter of the Human Rights Campaign. He uses religion as a bat. I use religion as a support,” she says, rattling off her views of his negatives. “He’s saying, ‘Make history with Blackwell.’ Let him be the first African American governor in the state of Ohio. I’m not going to fault [black Democrats] if they choose to vote for him. I believe he is misleading them as to his position on issues that are important to African Americans. The only thing that he keeps talking about is that he