Race for governor begins

Aman Ali

Last Friday gubernatorial candidates speak during a forum at the Ohio Newspaper Association conference in Columbus. From left to right, Ohio Secretary of State James Blackwell, Ohio State Senator Eric Fingerhut (D-25), Ohio State Rep. Bryan Flannery (D-La

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

COLUMBUS – With the Thursday deadline approaching for the Ohio governor nominations, five candidates stated their platforms Friday at the Ohio Newspaper Association Convention.

Running for governor as Democratic nominees are Rep. Ted Strickland, state senator Eric Fingerhut and business consultant Bryan Flannery. The Republican nominees are J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s Secretary of State, and Jim Petro, Ohio’s Attorney General.

Frank Deaner, executive director for the Ohio Newspaper Association, moderated the gubernatorial candidate forum. During each of their opening statements, the five candidates addressed critical issues affecting Ohio.

“There is no more important job for the next governor than job creation,” Blackwell said in his opening statement. “The slow job growth is something that doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand.”

In some shape or form, job losses and education were problems all five candidates agreed upon. But the candidates, even among fellow party nominees, disagreed with solutions.

Blackwell said outsourcing initiatives such as leasing Ohio turnpikes to private investors could create $4-6 billion that could stimulate Ohio’s economy and promote job growth. He added controlling state budgets should also be a priority.

One of Blackwell’s proposals several candidates disagreed with was the tax and expenditure limitation, or TEL Amendment. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the TEL Amendment would “limit the annual increase in state and local government spending to 3.5 percent or the sum of the rates of inflation and population growth, whichever is higher.”

“The only way we’re going to help families is by keeping state spending under control,” Blackwell said.

Ohio voters will vote on the amendment on November’s election ballot. The amendment will likely be a central issue in this year’s governor race.

Fingerhut spoke next by outlining a five-part plan that included job creation, scholarships and tuition freezes for students going to school in Ohio, equal access to health care, safe cities and controlling government corruption.

“We need an open and transparent administration that is free of corruption,” Fingerhut said. “Corruption breeds when you have no agenda.”

During his turn to speak, Flannery said both Fingerhut and Blackwell weren’t addressing the important issues.

“These people are giving you buzzwords that you want to hear,” Flannery said. “But where has that gotten us as a state?”

Flannery said the central issue in Ohio was education, and he compared the problem to Hurricane Katrina.

“During Katrina, the levees broke,” Flannery said. “The people here (candidates) don’t want to discuss the levees here in Ohio – (they want to discuss) the school levies.”

Throughout the forum, Flannery hammered on educational reform.

“People label me as a one-issue candidate,” Flannery said. “But I’m running for issues that haven’t been addressed. And that is making Ohio’s education system constitutional.”

In his opening statement, Petro emphasized the need to “reshape” Ohio. He added slimming down bureaucracies such as cutting down Ohio’s 23 cabinets to nine could save $11 billion.

“We’ll know we’ll succeed in four years if our children don’t leave the state,” Petro said. “If we don’t use good judgment and widely reshape the state, then that (success) isn’t going to happen.”

Strickland began his turn to speak by responding to the plans the four other candidates had proposed.

“The fact is that budgets and programs are not leadership,” Strickland said. “Ohioans are thirsting for leadership that is calling them towards an agenda.”

Unlike the other candidates, Strickland wanted to take more energy initiatives such as creating more ethanol production facilities. He was the only candidate aside from Fingerhut who addressed controlling corruption.

“If I’m elected governor,” Strickland said, “I’m going to be a law-abiding governor and Ohio is going to be a law-abiding state.”

He added the other candidates’ budgets and programs were an “attempt to escape the responsibilities of governing.”

Both Blackwell and Fingerhut defended their initiatives against Strickland’s remarks. Because Strickland downplayed the need for budgets and programs, Blackwell said the remarks proved Strickland’s “unsophisticated inexperience at the state level.”

Fingerhut banked off Blackwell’s rebuttal. He said Strickland needs a plan if he’s going to object to Blackwell’s proposals.

“Budgets and programs are leadership,” Fingerhut said. “That is exactly what is needed if we’re going to have an alternative.”

The nominees will compete for the Republican and Democrat spots for governor during the May primaries. The two primary winners will run as the Republican and Democrat candidates during the governor election in November.

Contact student affairs reporter Aman Ali at [email protected].