Republicans seek to boost economy, reconcile debts

Douglas M. Kafury

The competition for the Republican bid for governor has been a public display of sparring between two members of the Grand Old Party.

Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell of Cincinnati and Attorney General Jim Petro of Brooklyn will square off in the primary election May 2.

Both candidates have been endorsed by Ohio Right-To-Life, a pro-life organization. However Blackwell’s campaign committee has said that Petro has flip-flopped on the abortion issue. Petro was once endorsed by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

“People have changes of conviction,” said Bob Paduchik, chairman for the Petro for governor campaign. “It’s thickheaded to think that doesn’t happen.”

Paduchik said Blackwell has had major changes in conviction himself and cited that he was formerly a member of the Democratic Party.

As Secretary of State, Blackwell was able to get the 2004 Ohio Marriage Amendment passed, which limited marriage to a union between one man and one woman, and get assisted living care supported by Medicaid, said Roak Zeller, Portage County coordinator for the Blackwell campaign.

Zeller said one of Blackwell’s major goals is to improve Ohio’s dismal economy. Blackwell plans to lease the Ohio Turnpike to private contractors, which will generate more than $6 billion for the projected 75-to-99-year lease period. The money would be used to foster economic development throughout the state.

As Attorney General, Petro has fully implemented the DNA registry in Ohio, and he is on pace to recover $1 billion dollars in debt owed to the state, Paduchik said.

Petro has a plan to reorganize state government, which would realign the state’s 23 cabinet level departments to nine departments. The move would cut approximately 11,500 jobs, which would mainly be management positions, through attrition and the 4,000 annual retirements, Paduchik said. If the reorganization is made, the state will save more than $1 billion annually, which will be used to address education and tax reform, Paduchik said.

Blackwell, 58, earned his Master’s of Education degree from Xavier University. After serving on Cincinnati City Council, Blackwell ousted Jerry Springer to become mayor of Cincinnati. In 1994, Blackwell became the first African-American to be elected to a statewide executive office when he became state treasurer. Blackwell has served as Ohio’s Secretary of State since 1998.

Petro, 57, graduated from Denison University with a bachelor’s degree and earned his law degree from Case Western Reserve University. Prior to taking office as Ohio Attorney General in 2003, he served four years as a Cuyahoga County commissioner, eight years in the Ohio House of Representatives and eight years as Auditor of State.

Both candidates have drawn from the Ohio General Assembly for their running mates.

State Rep. Tom Raga of Warren County, who is currently serving his third term in office, was Blackwell’s choice for lieutenant governor.

Petro’s initial choice for Lieutenant Governor, Phil Heimlich, departed from the ticket to run for re-election as Hamilton County Chairman. Petro then turned to State Sen. Joy Padgett as his running mate.

Contact public affairs reporter Douglas M. Kafury at [email protected].