Sunday, February 25, 2001


Imagine a world without Blackwell
Many in Ohio GOP doing just that - with a smile

        Love him. Loathe him. Can't live without him.

        That's pretty much how the Ohio Republican Party establishment has regarded Cincinnati's J. Kenneth Blackwell since he surfaced on the statewide political scene nearly a decade ago.

        They have always been, well, conflicted on the subject of Mr. Blackwell.

        Now, Mr. Blackwell may be on the verge of leaving Statehouse Square for a job in Washington at the right hand of Secretary of State Colin Powell.

        The Ohio secretary of state, Ohio's chief elections officer, has been offered the high-ranking job of counselor to the U.S. secretary. Very soon Mr. Blackwell may be more concerned about the Chad in Africa than the chads on the back of punch-card ballots.

        If he goes, there will be those in Ohio Republican Party headquarters in Columbus who, after issuing treacly press releases about how much their friend Ken will be missed, will lock themselves in their offices, strip to their shorts and do hula dances on their desks.

        Gutenberg invented movable type, but J. Kenneth Blackwell invented how to get your name set in it.

        His penchant for getting his name in the papers and mug on the TV has never set well with some of his GOP colleagues. Back when George Voinovich was governor, the Voinovich camp and the Blackwell camp spent most of their time glaring at each other. The situation has changed little with Bob Taft, Mr. Blackwell's fellow Cincinnatian in the governor's office.

        The Ohio Republican Party, of course, wants Mr. Taft to run for reelection next year and win. But, in 2006, Mr. Taft will be done as governor, and Mr. Blackwell is one of a number of Ohio GOP political figures who see themselves as his successor.

        The senior senator from Ohio, Mike DeWine, is said to be considering coming home to run for governor in 2006; he would be formidable. State Auditor Jim Petro and State Treasurer Joe Deters may slug it out in a GOP primary for Ohio attorney general next year, as a prelude to a gubernatorial race in 2006.

        In other words, the traffic is pretty heavy.

        Sending Mr. Blackwell off to solve the world's problems might thin it out a bit. Knowing Mr. Blackwell, he'd be unlikely to give up entirely on his Six-Year Plan to be governor, but it is mighty hard to stump at the Wapakoneta Chamber of Commerce or the Chillicothe Kiwanis Club when you're in some international hot-spot, knocking heads together.

        If Mr. Blackwell were to leave, the governor would have to appoint a new secretary of state. Bob Bennett, the state GOP chairman, daydreamed aloud the other day that Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas might want the job.

        Removing Mr. Douglas from the bench would allow Mr. Taft to appoint another. That would be fortunate for Mr. Taft and the Republican legislature — he could appoint a justice who would reverse the 4-3 majority that has said Ohio's school-funding system is unconstitutional and take the statehouse gang off the hook.

        Can the Ohio GOP imagine a world without J. Kenneth Blackwell?

        You bet they can.

       Call Howard Wilkinson at 768-8388 or email at


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