Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Bradley step-up called a signal

Taft says Ohio is state of equal opportunity

By Debra Jasper
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - In her first appearance after being sworn in as Ohio's lieutenant governor Monday, Jennette Bradley weighed in on an anti-Semitic comment recently made by Ohio Senate President Doug White.

Mr. White admitted that he used the expression "we need to Jew them down" at a Cleveland fund-raiser.

[photo] Jennette Bradley and Gov. Taft at a news conference after she took the oath of office as lieutenant governor.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
He said he apologized to state Jewish leaders after he realized some in the audience found the expression objectionable.

Ms. Bradley, the first black woman lieutenant governor in the nation, said she was surprised to learn of the remark.

"I think he was right to apologize, and I think this should be a learning experience," she said. "I hope all of us learn. How many of us saw themselves in those comments? As a nation, we have to be united and we have to be very sensitive to these types of issues."

Gov. Bob Taft also talked about the controversy, saying he has known Mr. White a long time and "personally have never heard him say anything that was biased or insensitive."

The governor said Ms. Bradley's swearing-in as lieutenant governor on Monday shows that Ohio will not tolerate racism.

"As I said after Senator (Trent) Lott's comments in Washington, we are a state of equal opportunity," Mr. Taft said. "We are not a state that believes in racism or prejudice and that's illustrated by what took place today."

Ms. Bradley said she hopes her election sends a strong signal that a change is taking place in Ohio politics.

"I hope it will encourage people to enter the public sector, particularly minority women," she said. "I don't want to be the first and last."

Later on Monday, during a packed tribute to Ms. Bradley at the Hyatt downtown, she became emotional as she tried to speak to the crowd.

On the state budget:

"I think it's going to be very difficult to reform Ohio's tax structure in a way that doesn't raise taxes. I don't want to raise income taxes. That's for darn sure." - State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township.

"I think the governor spoke in the broadest sense possible, which is appropriate. They face a real challenge with the budget. It's going to be tough." - Former Senate President Richard Finan, R-Evendale.

On Michael Taylor, the husband of Lt. Gov. Jennette Bradley:

"He's happy today because everyone referred to him as Mr. Taylor and not Mr. Bradley," Ms. Bradley said in a speech.

On Joe Deters' swearing in:

"I'm reminded of a refrigerator magnet that says, `Behind every successful man is a very surprised mother-in- law.' " - Hamilton County Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon, Mr. Deters' mother-in-law. .

Who's counting, but...

Mr. Taft's 18-minute inaugural speech was interrupted by applause eight times.

"I was OK until this moment," she said, pausing for a long time. "Bear with me."

Finally, she told them, "I can't think of anything in 11 years that has brought me to tears like this. I'm overwhelmed."

After a woman in the back yelled, "It's OK," the crowd erupted in laughter and Ms. Bradley regained her composure.

"I can honestly say I've never had a first day on the job like this," she said. "There are moments so extraordinary that... your heart fills with so much emotion it's beyond expression. This is one of those moments."

Stacey Polk, a Cleveland lawyer, said she drove to Columbus to attend the tribute to Ms. Bradley.

"I think her election is like a positive earthquake," Ms. Polk said. "It's a tremor in a state that needs shaking up."

A black woman, Ms. Polk said that too often, women, blacks and other minority groups don't get heard in political circles.

"We want the same things everybody else wants, a good education for our kids, safe communities, affordable lifestyles for our seniors, but because of who is doing the asking we don't get it," she said.

Ms. Polk, a longtime Republican, said she wanted to witness Ms. Bradley make history at her swearing in and she is excited about the possibilities for others in the Republican Party.

"The proof is in the doing," she said, looking at Ms. Bradley on stage. "And here we are."

E-mail djasper@enquirer.com

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