Ken Blackwell, the official in charge of Ohio's close 2004 presidential election, faces a competitive race to replace Republican Gov. Bob Taft. Democrats hope Taft's ethics scandal will help them gain back the governor's mansion while Republicans hope Blackwell, who is black, will attract the African American vote and that his political record will attract conservatives and swing voters.
as a fiscal and cultural conservative, Blackwell based his political
career on opposing taxes and cutting government spending. His
campaign for governor has focused on improving Ohio's education
system, including expanding Ohio's voucher program, creating more
jobs and overseeing the 2004 elections.
Blackwell has the backing of conservative religious organizations and was a leading advocate of Ohio's ban on same-sex marriages. He supports the right to bear arms.
He also takes a strict stance on abortion and has the endorsement of Ohio's Right to Life Political Action Committee. In an interview with National Public Radio in June, Blackwell said, "I am against the intentional killing of babies and that's what the act of abortion is." He called abortion genocide against black Americans.
Race also has become an issue as Republicans hope Blackwell can attract the state's black voters who have historically backed Democrats. In 1994, Blackwell became the first African American elected to a state executive office when he became Ohio treasurer.
A win in the Nov. 7 midterm elections would make Blackwell the first black Republican governor. The only other black governor in American history was Virginia's Democratic Gov. Douglas Wilder, elected in 1989, according to the National Journal's Almanac of American Politics.
Blackwell also has accused his opponent Rep. Ted Strickland of never employing African Americans on his staff, a claim Strickland denies, and of lacking experience dealing with Ohio's minority constituency.
He beat Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro by 12 percentage points in the Republican primary.
Blackwell became secretary of state in 1998. In that role he was responsible for elections, business records and protecting intellectual property and corporate identities. He played a key roll in the 2004 presidential election, and after President Bush narrowly won the state, Democrats blamed him for long lines in heavily Democratic districts.
His political career began in 1977 as a member of Cincinnati's City Council and he went on to become the city's mayor. In 1989 George H.W. Bush appointed him as undersecretary to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In 1991, President Bush promoted him to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. During his term, he led the delegation for the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights and won the State Department's Superior Honor Award for his human rights work from both presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Blackwell is a former chairman of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board and a member of the Federal Elections Commission's advisory panel.
He was born Feb. 28, 1948 in Cincinnati as the son of a meatpacker and a part-time nurse. He earned his bachelor of science and a master's in education from Xavier University, where he played football and later served as a vice president and a member of its faculty. He has been a fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics, the Aspen Institute, the Salzburg Seminar in Austria and the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
In 2004, the American Conservative Union awarded him the John M. Ashbrook Award for his conservative political record and he and his wife Rosa received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Dreamkeeper Award.
He married Rosa while in college at Xavier. The couple has three children: Kimbery, Rahshann and Kristin. Rosa is the superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools.
Blackwell chose Rep. Tom Raga, a three-term legislator from Mason, as his running mate.
Campaign Web site: www.kenblackwell.com
Secretary of State Web site: www.sos.state.oh.us