In the state of Ohio there is one such remarkable person, who I have known for a couple of decades. He is getting ready to run for governor of Ohio. His name is Ken Blackwell. He is serving as secretary of state of Ohio, after having served two successful terms as state treasurer.
The few blacks who have been elected as Republicans, either to the U.S. Congress or to state legislatures, win with almost all white votes. Ken Blackwell is a black man who received 50 percent or more of the black vote in his latest run a couple of years ago.
You may very well have seen Ken Blackwell in action. As secretary of state he handled the election procedures and results in the 2004 election.
Leftist blacks, such as Jesse Jackson, and other leftists, such as Barbara Boxer, already are attacking Blackwell. What seems to be behind their message is that he is a disgrace to his race by being a Republican, and if he were a genuine black he would have found a way for John Kerry to win in Ohio.
We can thank Ken Blackwell for the fact that we are not still in court over the 2004 election. When a Clinton appointee to the federal judiciary in Toledo, two weeks before the general election, ruled that voters did not have to vote in their own precinct but could show up anywhere they pleased, Blackwell went to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and won the case, which upheld Ohio law.
Had that case not been won, there would have been double, maybe triple, the number of provisional ballots, some of which likely would be in dispute today.
Ken Blackwell also fended off challenges from the Democrats, the Republican attorney general, the Republican governor and both Republican U.S. senators, who wanted to keep the proposed Ohio Marriage Amendment off the ballot. Blackwell not only saw to it that voters had the chance to vote on the amendment, he also championed it in statewide ads. He was the ONLY statewide officeholder to support the amendment.
The marriage issue on the ballot made Bush voters 26 percent more likely to vote, while it made Kerry voters only 17 percent more likely to vote. Undecideds coming to vote for the Marriage Amendment broke 6-to-1 in favor of Bush. The amendment itself received a half-million more votes than Bush in Ohio, yet clearly without it Bush would have lost.
Blackwell had to fight every obstacle imaginable to keep the establishment forces from stopping a vote on marriage. These same forces now oppose Blackwell for governor.
Blackwell also was a factor in Bush getting 17 percent of the black vote in Ohio as opposed to 8 percent in 2000. In neighboring Michigan, with a marriage amendment on the ballot, Bush received only 10 percent of the African-American vote. Nationally the figure was 11 percent. The difference was that Ohio had Ken Blackwell; Michigan and the nation as a whole did not.
You will recall that John Kerry had 20,000 volunteer attorneys ready to be dispatched anywhere necessary in order to deliver the election for him. The Kerry camp had concluded that Ohio would be the place where they were needed. Blackwell went on television on Election Day repeatedly urging Ohioans to be patient and civil while casting their votes. On election night Blackwell many times went on television assuring the people of Ohio that every vote would be counted and that the election would be determined by the voters and not by lawyers and judges.
The Blackwell strategy worked. That is why Kerry conceded so quickly. When all was said and done, Ohio had the highest validation rate of provisional ballots in the country.
Blackwell, in the months before the election, met with over a thousand evangelical pastors, providing them with the tools and encouragement to register their church members and turn them out on Election Day. The percentage of evangelical vote participation jumped from 17 percent in 2000 to 25 percent in 2004.
Ken Blackwell also has been an opponent of the state's spending binge and the higher taxes needed to pay for it. He angered the establishment, including Governor Taft, by circulating a petition that would give the voters a chance to repeal the increase in their "temporary tax." The Wall Street Journal editorial page dubbed Blackwell the "Arnold of Ohio."
Blackwell, who is the only African-American in the USA to be elected statewide in three subsequent elections, was also under secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He was mayor of Cincinnati and U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Commission at the U.N. He even did a stint as a research policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
He was cited by Government Technology magazine as one of the top 25 public-sector leaders in the nation for using technology to help government fulfill its mission and commitment to its citizens.
Ken Blackwell is a deeply religious man – not someone who wears his religion on his sleeve, but someone who is God-centered and who prays to do God's will rather than his own. He believes God wanted him as secretary of state during 2004. It is difficult to disagree with that proposition.
Right now Ken Blackwell is 15 percent to 20 percent ahead of his nearest competitor for governor. The establishment will not let that stand. It is going to go all out to try to tear down this very good man. If he could get elected governor of Ohio, he would be able to do incredible things for the state, the nation and especially the black community.
The self-appointed African-American leaders do not want Blackwell elected. They fear he might expose the lies they have fed their constituents all these years. They will pull out all the stops. If values voters were to be serious about continuing to advance their cause, then surely Blackwell would be their candidate.
It will be interesting to observe how the issues and the candidacies develop.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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