Rise Of The Black Republicans? - Page 2 of 9

Rise Of The Black Republicans?

at a disadvantage and you lock yourself into the economic doldrums.”

Ninety minutes later, Blackwell arrives in the state’s capital for a lunch that has strategy and fundraising at the top of the menu. Entering the elegant corporate law offices of Crabbe, Brown & James, he’s greeted by one of the firm’s senior partners, Larry H. James, a legal and business heavyweight in his own right. James escorts Blackwell into a conference room with a panoramic view of downtown Columbus. Seated around the table is a cadre of powerful black business leaders, including the legendary Albert Johnson, the first African American to own a Cadillac dealership, who was instrumental in making the late Harold Washington the first black mayor of Chicago more than 20 years ago; Warren Anderson, CEO of Solon, Ohio-based Anderson-DuBose Co. (No. 21 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $194.5 million in sales); Dr. Robert Wright, chairman emeritus and senior adviser of Dimensions International Inc. (No. 35 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $122.8 million in sales); and Napoleon Brandford III, chairman of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. L.L.C. (No. 4 on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list with $50.6 million in total managed issues). The roundtable conversation involves a range of topics, from soliciting campaign contributions via the Internet to the appeal of Republican candidates when large numbers of voters are fed up with President George W. Bush and the GOP. Blackwell also uses the meeting to make the distinction between him and his opponent, Rep. Ted Strickland, a six-term congressman, as he seeks to mobilize the black vote. “As I crisscrossed this state, I have talked with African American communities. Until we started putting heat on [Strickland], he has never hired an African American … he hadn’t even bought pencils from African American suppliers. So I would just suggest that this race is going to be about comparing records, comparing our performances, comparing our visions. We are going to hold our base in the Republican Party, and we’re going to win the African American vote. We’re going to re-establish a competitive, two-party system in the African American community in Ohio.”

Those assembled embrace the words of this man who still serves as Secretary of State. Many of them have benefited from the role he’s played in state government over the years. For instance, during his two terms as state treasurer, Blackwell increased minority business enterprise participation from 2.8% in 1994 to 30.4% in 1999. In fact, Siebert Brandford Shank was awarded its first senior-managed deal in Ohio because of Blackwell. By 2001, the firm had not only completed the refinancing of $475 million in outstanding bonds — the largest deal in Ohio history underwritten by a minority-owned firm — but was the leader among investment banks in senior-managed bond transactions for the State of Ohio. Brandford says that’s not the case today: “Over the last three legislative sessions, they have shifted the debt issuing capability from the treasurer’s office to the governor’s office. I have not gotten