By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS - Two Hamilton County Republicans, J. Kenneth Blackwell and Joe Deters, kept their statewide offices and their political aspirations alive when they took their oaths of office Monday.
Mr. Deters, a former Hamilton County prosecutor, will return for another four years as Ohio treasurer, the man in charge of the state's $150 billion investment portfolio. Mr. Blackwell, a former Cincinnati mayor, will once again serve as secretary of state, Ohio's chief elections official.
Joe Deters began his second term as state treasurer with the oath administered by his mother-in-law, Judge Sylvia Hendon. From left, is his mother, Nancy Deters; Mr. Deters; Joey, 13; his wife, Missy Deters; Elyse, 9, and Jon, 12.|
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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Although neither man mentioned it Monday, both have ambitions to run for higher offices.
Mr. Blackwell wants to run for governor in 2006 after Gov. Bob Taft finishes his second term. He faces competition from Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery and Attorney General Jim Petro, fellow Republicans who also were sworn in Monday.
After losing a pre-primary bid to run for attorney general to Mr. Petro last year, Mr. Deters plans to run for the office in 2006. The attorney general's office is seen by many as the logical stepping stone toward a bid for governor.
During their inaugural celebrations at the statehouse, both chose to talk exclusively about their plans for the next four years.
Mr. Blackwell said he hopes to modernize voting booths across Ohio. Many of Ohio's 88 counties still use punch-card ballots, the source of the problems with the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election.
He's worried that the budget crisis may halt or delay the $150 million project, which he hopes to complete by November 2004. "We're going to have to fight for funding," Mr. Blackwell said.
Mr. Deters said he plans to put the treasurer's office investment performance front and center for voters. He said news stories that similar-sized state treasuries followed better investment strategies and won bigger returns were unfair. "We want to make sure these performance measurements are public knowledge," Mr. Deters said.
The potential three-way fight for governor in 2006 was very much on the mind of Bob Bennett, the state Republican Party chairman.
Mr. Bennett said he hopes that by 2005 one candidate will emerge from the party hierarchy and its financial backers as the GOP's logical choice for governor.
"There is a natural sorting out process that takes place," Mr. Bennett said. "My job is to be an honest broker between all three of them, and keep the lines of communication open. Until then, you have to let that process work."
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