Blackwell Has the Message (and the Money)

Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, a Columbus Republican, brought his upbeat, can-do message to Washington yesterday. Meanwhile, back in Ohio, his GOP opponent, Atty. Gen. Jim Petro, launched a smear campaign against him.

The differences between Blackwell, a conservative and party outsider, and Petro, the party establishment’s favorite son, couldn’t be clearer one week before Ohio Republicans head to the polls to pick a nominee on May 2.

Petro’s latest smear left Blackwell’s mother in tears, he told a full room of supporters gathered at a downtown Washington office building. Petro alleged in a TV ad that Blackwell was a hypocrite for owning stock in a company that makes slot machines and another that makes RU-486. Blackwell’s spokesman told the Cincinnati Enquirer he no longer holds stock in either company.

What the episode illustrates is the contrast between Blackwell’s optimistic campaign message and Petro’s lack of one.

Apparently, Blackwell’s agenda is the one that’s resonating in Ohio. Besides leading in public-opinion polls, he’s raised $1.1 million since February 1—more than Petro and Rep. Ted Strickland, the likely Democrat nominee for governor. And, most impressive, his total number of contributions—21,000—is more than everyone else has combined, he said.

Blackwell said one of his top priorities will be keeping Ohioans in Ohio. He said about 65 Ohioans leave for Florida every day. The problem, according to Blackwell, is the state’s high tax burden and disincentive for businesses to operate there.

“In Ohio, we have put risk-taking at risk,” he said last night.

Despite being a statewide candidate—as opposed to a candidate for U.S. Senate where he’d have a greater impact—Blackwell has lined up an impressive list of supporters. They include Arizona Sen. John McCain and three high-profile Republican governors, Jeb Bush of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Turning out for last night’s fundraiser were a handful of GOP big shots, including former Representatives Jack Kemp and Susan Molinari as well as Republican political strategist Charlie Black. The event was hosted by Vin Weber and Erik Hotmire of Clark and Weinstock fame.

UPDATE — 4:44 p.m.: I just spoke with Blackwell’s spokesman, Carlo LoParo, who said the candidate never owned stock in that company that makes RU-486. And even though Petro’s making that assertion — saying he “owns stock in the firm that makes the abortion pill” — it’s false, LoParo said. Barr Pharmaceuticals is the manufacturer of Plan B, not RU-486. And yes, Blackwell did own stock in that company, but no longer does today. In fact, LoParo said, Blackwell instructed his portfolio manager to sell all stocks that were inconsistent with his views.