THIS year s newest voters, Ohio s Class of 2006 high school graduates, were toddlers the last time a Democrat served as governor. If some of them are a little cynical about their home state and its gov-ernment, consider what they ve grown up with: 16 years of one-party domination that produced the criminal conviction of their governor and a scandal that continues to resonate through this election season with the felony trial of Tom Noe.
And on a personal level, many of them now ?nd a college education priced out of reach and the job picture depressing.
Without question, the Republicans have worn out whatever welcome they had, and Ohioans, as the polls continue to show, are fed up. Ohio deserves better, and we believe, with great respect for the wisdom of the electorate, that our state is ready to make a change, and that it has a worthy governor-in-waiting in Ted Strickland.
Mr. Strickland s opponent, Ken Blackwell, makes much of the fact that the congress-man has been in Washington for 10 years and has never held statewide of?ce. That s certainly true, but what has Mr. Blackwell s tenure at the state level pro-duced?
As secretary of state, he has presided over two elections that embarrassed this state nationally. Having failed in the job he was elected to do, he now wants a bigger one?
As for the ethical failures of the current administra-tion, Mr. Blackwell tries to put distance between himself and Bob Taft, insisting he has been the governor s biggest critic. But he s a party insider, a product of the same long run of GOP domination that has led Republican of? ce-holders who hold every statewide of? ce except one seat on the Ohio Supreme Court to consider the jobs they have an entitlement.
Mr. Taft should have resigned last year; instead he has dragged his party and his state down. Ohioans who want to repudi-ate Mr. Taft for the disgrace he has brought to the governor s of? ce have an easy rem-edy: they should vote for Mr. Strickland.
The GOP s arrogant sense of privilege for the past 16 years has produced a predict-able result: an attitude within the domi-nant party that their conduct is irrelevant, that they will win elections no matter what. It is an attitude cultivated with the help of the Ohio Democratic Party, whose inepti-tude has produced statewide tickets led by the eminently forgettable Rob Burch in 1994 and the equally undistinguished TimHagan in 2002.
Bob Taft barely worked up a sweat in his re-election bid by dispatching Mr. Hagan with ease, 58 percent to 38 percent, a land-slide by anyone s de? nition. Ohioans, of course, had no indication of what was to come a scandal dubbed Coingate by this newspaper, which uncovered it.
The revelations of Coingate engulfed the Bureau of Workers Compensation and ultimately, as the investigation broadened, produced disclosures that led to a criminal conviction for the governor.
So the political landscape, and the Demo-crats fortunes, look much different in 2006. However, it would be a mistake to make a case for Ted Strickland s election simply on the grounds that he s not a Republican.
Rather than dwell on what Mr. Blackwell does not bring to the job, we d rather con-centrate on what Mr. Strickland does a broad background that should serve him well in Columbus.
Should he win, he might be the only gov-ernor in Ohio s history with a doctorate de-gree. His PhD is in counseling psychology, earned at the University of Kentucky.He might also be the only governor to be an ordained minister in the United Meth-odist Church. He has a master of divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in Ken-tucky, and his bachelor s degree in history from Asbury College.
He has served as a prison psychologist and taught psychology at Shawnee State University.
And, of course, he has represented Ohio s6th congressional district in Washington, winning his ? rst term in 1992, then returning in 1996 for ?ve more terms. It s signi? cant that in a district noted for its cul-tural conservatism, he ran unopposed last time.In addition, Mr. Strick-land would be that rarest of statewide of?cehold-ers: a governor from poor, rural southeast Ohio. As we have noted and la-mented many times overthe years, it is nearly im-possible for a candidate who is not from the Three C s Cleveland, Colum-bus, and Cincinnati to win statewide.
He truly would be a governor from the Other Ohio, and it s about time. Moreover, his running mate, Lee Fisher, is extraordi-narily quali? ed to serve as governor if ever needed.
We certainly understand how dif? cult it is for many Ohioans, and many good Re-publicans, to accept what has become of their party. They put their faith in Repub-licans for 16 years, and that faith was badly abused.
Here in Ohio, the Party of Lincoln has be-come the Party of Noe. For the Republicans, the Three C s have become Complacency, Corruption, and Coingate. Ohio is endur-ing a true crisis of ethics, and it can only be ?xed by change.
Forget about party labels. Democrats, Republicans, and independents should understand that they have a greater call-ing than partisanship this time. They need to join together to give their state a fresh start.
They can do that by electing Ted Strick-land as Ohio s 68th governor on Nov. 7.