has hired [African Americans] in his position and that he has given them access to jobs and opportunities. My response to that is [he’s helped] an elite few just as George Bush helps an elite few. If he really wanted to help the greater good, his position on a lot of policies would be totally different.”
Blackwell’s political skin is made of rawhide. He doesn’t waver from his political convictions — regardless of how unpopular they may be. He believes his platform reflects his experiences and the pulse of his constituents. A former entrepreneur who has created energy and media companies, Blackwell pushes job creation through privatization of the Ohio Turnpike. He’s a former educator who believes in parents’ rights to choose public, charter, or alternative schooling. As a life-long member of the National Rifle Association, he’s a staunch advocate of the right to bear arms.
Blackwell, who once trailed Strickland in polls by double digits, has been gaining momentum. The Wall Street Journal Zogby International Poll showed in late September that the race had narrowed 5.7 points with Blackwell receiving 41.8% to Strickland’s 47.5%. In a race in which both candidates have raised more than $21 million — the most expensive ever in the state of Ohio — Blackwell is catching up with Strickland in fundraising as well. He has raised nearly $10 million (Bush’s attendance at a fundraiser for Blackwell added $1.5 million to his coffers) while his opponent amassed nearly $11.2 million.
Says Blackwell, “I want to be clear that this is a big race and there are a couple of strategies. My opponent will make this race between him and Bob Taft, him and George Bush, him and the war in Iraq. My job is to make this a choice between me and him. When you make it a choice between me and him, it’s going to be clear to the general population — and the African American population in particular — who is the better choice, because we have measurable track records.”
Blackwell knows the ultimate test will be conducted at the polls. Will conservative white voters pull the lever for a black candidate even though they share his values? Has Blackwell’s message of economic empowerment connected with enough blacks willing to break ranks with the Democratic Party? The answers will be revealed on Election Day.
— Additional reporting by Hyacinth B. Carbon and Tennille M. Robinson