More than a year before the 2006 primary election, the three candidates for the Republican nomination for governor stumped for votes in Toledo last night at the Lucas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner.
Kenneth Blackwell, secretary of state, said he was pleased with the direction his campaign has moved since last November's election. "It's going fine. Polls have me up 18 points,'' he said during the event at Erie Street Market downtown.
Mr. Blackwell held national prominence as the chief elections official in Ohio, a key state in the presidential election. "We, in fact, have put the emphasis early on into building name identification,'' which has paid off, he said.
Gene Pierce, a Blackwell campaign advisor, said polls show his client is now about as recognizable as his two opponents -- Attorney General James Petro and state Auditor Betty Montgomery. Mr. Petro said the race for the right to succeed incumbent Gov. Bob Taft as the GOP gubernatorial nominee "needs to be a campaign of ideas.''
Citing his work in past years to reform the state auditor's office before moving over to become state attorney general, he said "my record is that of a fixer."
Ms. Montgomery, a former state senator and state attorney general, said the GOP needs to be politically vigilant to win the governorship next year. She said that complacency could open the door for Democrats.
Michael Coleman, mayor of Columbus, has begun a campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor. Lee Fisher, the 1998 Democratic candidate, said recently he is also considering entering the race. Mr. Coleman and Mr. Fisher ran together on the 1998 ticket.
The Republican Party won the state's top political office in 1990, and has held it in the three elections since. The GOP now controls all statewide executive offices, both houses of the General Assembly, and six of the seven seats on the Ohio Supreme Court.