COLUMBUS - U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland yesterday said his choice of Lee Fisher as his running mate in this year's gubernatorial campaign should send a signal that "we are serious about winning this election," but some Democrats said they were disappointed that an African-American wasn't chosen.
During a news conference in Columbus yesterday afternoon, Mr. Strickland said he wanted a running mate with the "maturity and experience to take the leadership of this state, if that was necessary," who shares his values, and whose priorities are economic development, education, and health care.
Mr. Strickland, from southeast Ohio, introduced Mr. Fisher, a former attorney general from Cleveland, at events in Columbus and Cleveland yesterday. In Columbus, Mr. Strickland stressed the importance of diversity and started the news conference by inviting three African-American elected officials to the lectern.
Mr. Fisher said what's most important in the campaign "is the issues we talk about and the positions we take. While diversity is extremely important on the ticket, it goes beyond who runs for office. It is what those candidates say in regards to diversity and inclusion."
Steve Reece, an African-American businessman from Cincinnati who sought the Ohio Democratic Party chairmanship, said he is considering an independent movement that "would give [African-Americans] a chance to express our concerns to both parties."
"We cannot in 2006 ignore and use any segment of our party as a doormat and relegate them always to third, fourth, and fifth," Mr. Reece said. "I think that is insulting, I think that is disrespectful of a very large constituency."
About 12 percent of Ohio's 11.5 million citizens are African-American, according to census figures.
State Rep. Tyrone Yates (D., Cincinnati), who is African-American, said the "selection of an African-American as lieutenant governor would have been an excellent decision, but that was not the decision that was made."
Mr. Yates was a college classmate of Democrat Michael Coleman, the first African-American mayor of Columbus, who quit the governor's race in November. That was "mishandled by Democratic stalwarts and the old guard," Mr. Yates said.
John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said Mr. Strickland "may have missed an opportunity to appeal to African-American voters," but Mr. Fisher's selection helps in other ways, like fund-raising and credentials.
"In a general election, African-Americans are very strongly Democratic," Mr. Green said. "What if the Republican nominee is an African-American nominee, namely Ken Blackwell? That might overcome the historic trend of black Ohioans to vote Democratic."
Gene Pierce, a Blackwell spokesman, declined comment.
State Rep. Barbara Sykes, of Akron, who is running for state auditor, said it was important that Mr. Strickland selected someone who complemented him on the ticket.
"This is not about black and white," said Ms. Sykes, who is chairman of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. "This is about Republicans and Democrats and whether we want to continue on the road we are going down in Ohio. This is more about a person's character than their race and color."
Contact Steve Eder at: