For Ted Strickland, Republican leaders have squandered Ohio's natural resources, its universities, and the talents of its 11 million residents, "just about everything a state would want to be successful."
"These people are absolutely shameful," the Democratic candidate for governor said yesterday at the Firefighters Local 92 union hall in Toledo. "Those of us who care about this state have been wandering in the wilderness for quite a while."
A U.S. congressman from Lucasville, Ohio, and a former Methodist pastor, Mr. Strickland blamed the GOP leaders in charge of state government during the last decade for Ohio's economic problems, noting the absence of new companies to replace the vanishing manufacturing base and the increasingly steep price of a college education. Ohio has lost almost 200,000 jobs in the last seven years, as America has gained 3.5 million jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"It's a sad fact for Ohio that people are starting to lose confidence in their futures," Mr. Strickland said to the crowd of about 100.
Mr. Strickland said an increased minimum wage, more funding for education, and state assistance for developing alternative fuel sources would help reverse the outflow of jobs.
Jim Martin, president of Local 92, liked "pretty much everything" about Mr. Strickland. "He understands where laborers' families come from," he said.
Tina Skeldon Wozniak, a Democrat who is president of the Lucas County commissioners, said it is crucial for Mr. Strickland to continue visiting the Toledo area as the Novem-
ber election approaches.
"We need constant reminders from our candidate to show that he's the hands-on, grass roots, change-agent that we're looking for," Ms. Wozniak said.
Because the Democratic congressman leads Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell in early polls, Mr. Strickland speculated that GOP strategist Karl Rove is plotting in Washington with Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush about a way to beat him.
"They're going to try to 'swift boat' Ted Strickland," the congressman said, referring to the TV ads in the 2004 presidential election that attacked John Kerry's Vietnam War record.
"John Kerry did not know how to fight politically. I grew up with four brothers and four sisters. I know how to fight."
After a bitter primary, Republicans brought Mr. Blackwell and his opponent, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, together with a "victory discussion" yesterday, said party spokesman John McClelland. Mr. Petro will now head a task force on reorganizing government for Mr. Blackwell.
In primary television ads, Mr. Blackwell called Mr. Petro "asleep at the switch" during statewide investment scandals. Mr. Petro dubbed Mr. Blackwell a "hypocrite" for taking anti-gambling and anti-abortion rights stances but owning stock in firms that make slot machines and an abortion drug.
"I want to give them the benefit of the doubt," Mr. Strickland said. "I think both of them were right."
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