Ken Blackwell Seeks Support From Black Ministers
Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell treated more than 70 black pastors to lunch in Cleveland - and to a speech explaining why he should be Ohio's first black nominee for governor.
The conservative Republican vowed to improve job creation in the black community and limit spending by state and local governments.
His appeal was generally well received - which is significant because the black ministers' flocks are overwhelmingly Democratic.
Blackwell has predicted that he will win as much as half the state's black vote if he is the Republican nominee, which would sharply cut into the African-American support that his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Ted Strickland, would need to be elected governor, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
After the private, 90-minute luncheon at the Antioch Baptist Church on March 14, Rev. Marvin McMickle, pastor of the host church and a former Democratic candidate for Congress, said Blackwell's vote projection is credible.
"Strickland has a formidable challenge when it comes to the African-American vote," McMickle told the Dispatch. "He cannot presume it.
"Strickland must answer one question for black voters: 'Tell me why I shouldn't vote for Ken Blackwell.'"
On the day of the luncheon, Blackwell also had dinner with the predominately black Baptist Ministers Conference.
In an interview before the dinner, Blackwell said: "It would be a fundamental mistake for any person to vote for me on the basis of skin color, just as it would be a fundamental mistake for anybody to vote against me on the basis of skin color."
Instead, he said, voters should support him because of his track record and accomplishments in public office.
Blackwell's contacts with ministers have created controversy this year in Ohio.
A group of Columbus pastors filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that pastors Russell Johnson and Rod Parsley and their churches have improperly promoted Blackwell's campaign by featuring him at large rallies.
The complaint asks that the agency probe whether the two pastors violated federal law barring churches from endorsing candidates for political office, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Blackwell has said his involvement with the pastors was in his capacity as secretary of state or as an elected leader backing a cause - in many cases a 2004 ban on gay marriage.
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