GOP courts Perrysburg

Republican Ken Blackwell promised Friday to be a new and bold leadership that would halt the “brain drain” epidemic in Ohio if he triumphs over opponent Ted Strickland in November’s race for governor.

“I’ll be the prescription the doctor ordered for Ohio’s economy,” Blackwell told the crowd of over 100 which gathered for the outdoor rally in Perrysburg’s Levis Commons shopping center.

“Too many [young people] are leaving our state,” Blackwell said. “There’s no more important job for the next governor than putting an Ohio option back into the hands of young people so they know with confidence that if they exercise that option, they can build a better life in this state.”

Recognizing Ohio’s sluggish economy as a motive for many college graduates to move to other states, Blackwell said as governor he would work to “usher in a new era of prosperity.”

“This low we’ve hit in the economy is not a permanent condition,” he said, describing plans to reform the tax code to one that promotes economic growth.

Blackwell also detailed how he would improve the standard of living for Ohioans, promising an overhaul of the health care system ensuring no child would go without health care.

While Blackwell said his plans for Ohio public education include increasing all teachers’ starting salaries to $40,000 and putting $1.2 billion back into the classroom, he stressed that the answer to struggling schools and test scores isn’t in funding, but accountability of educators and the government.

“What’s wrong with education isn’t money – it’s attitude,” he said.

Blackwell laced his speech with criticisms of his opponent, saying Strickland’s values – and voting record – were not aligned with the beliefs of the average Ohioan, specifically mentioning Strickland’s “100 percent rating” from NARAL, a pro-choice organization.

“Do you want West Coast liberal Democrat values or good old-fashioned conservative Ohio values?” Blackwell asked the crowd, which cheered despite a group holding Strickland signs standing behind his own supporters.

Bowling Green State University sophomore Nora Hovanic, who attended the rally, said although she shares some of Blackwell’s moral values, she isn’t certain that as governor he will accomplish everything detailed in his speech.

“I think he’s making promises he can’t keep,” she said. “I understand the need to keep people in the state, but I just don’t think anyone’s going to start a teacher at $40,000 a year. It won’t be possible.”

Ohio Senate Minority Whip Teresa Fedor (D), was also unconvinced by Blackwell’s presentation.

“After 16 years of Republican rule, we do have young people leaving our state,” Fedor said. “But these are results of the Republicans’ failed leadership. [Blackwell] is talking about change, but he’s the one who put us here. These are their own results.”

But other University students, like sophomore Kevin Mellott, found hope in Blackwell’s words.

“I guess the biggest problem he talked about is the vacuum of college students leaving Ohio [after graduation], and hopefully he can do something about that.” Mellot said. “Maybe he’ll give us a reason to stay.”