Dirty politics, as usual

Ken Blackwell is playing dirty politics — so dirty, he might be torpedoing his own election prospects.

Last week, this editorial board endorsed Blackwell’s opponent, Ted Strickland, in the upcoming gubernatorial election. But we feel it’s worth bringing up his latest accusations to highlight just how desperate and dirty he has become in the final days of campaigning.

During Monday night’s final debate between the two candidates, Republican Blackwell repeatedly accused Democrat Strickland of employing a sex offender and then trying to cover it up, the Plain Dealer reported. Blackwell brought up the charge four times without offering proof to back up the claim.

It’s a despicable accusation, especially because he apparently has no facts to support the allegation.

Republicans across the country are reeling from the revelation that Florida Rep. Mark Foley had sex chats with underage male pages, leading to his resignation. Polls show the previously trailing Democratic candidate in Foley’s district is leading, and GOP candidates across the country are struggling after the congressional page scandal exploded. Voters are turned off by the notion of men in power being less-than-perfect — particularly when the offense is sexual in nature.

It must give Blackwell tremendous glee to think he could paint Strickland in a similar color to boost his prospects.

In the United States, political speech receives the greatest protection under the First Amendment. Without a free and open exchange of ideas (and accusations, it seems), how can we fashion our decisions about elections? Politicians can say practically anything about their opponent and get away with it because it’s “protected speech.” But that doesn’t mean it’s right.

Blackwell is trailing in the polls – double digits in the latest. It’s clear that voters in Ohio aren’t interested in him or his ideas for governor for the next four years. So he must be pretty desperate — after all, this is Ohio, right? Republicans are practically assured of winning statewide elections.

If Strickland maintains his lead during the next few weeks, you can expect Blackwell and the Republican Party’s accusations to become only filthier. We hope voters will be smart enough to look past the distractions and make their evaluations based on the issues that truly affect the state and its citizens.

One of those issues voters should always remember is just how far a candidate is willing to go to win an election.

“Well Mr. Blackwell,” the Plain Dealer reported Strickland saying during the debate. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

We agree.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.