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Published: Thursday, 1/27/2011

Black lawmakers blast Kasich for lack of diverse Cabinet

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Black state lawmakers on Thursday demanded Ohio Gov. John Kasich appoint minorities to his Cabinet — even if it means booting out some of his current picks.

The appointees to the new Republican governor's Cabinet so far are all white, a first for the state since 1962.

Kasich has said he's focused on putting together “the best possible team” without regard for race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

On Thursday, the president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus implored Kasich to make better strides to diversify his Cabinet.

“Feel the need to, you know, get rid of them if you need to because we want our fair share of seats at the table,” said Rep. Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat.

The group also set up an e-mail address, iamqualifiedOhio(at)gmail.com, for minority candidates to send in their resumes.

“We will take those resumes — walk those resumes over to our governor to let him know that there are qualified people of color in this state, and we are demanding employment,” Williams said at a news conference with other caucus members.

The caucus also called on the GOP-led Senate to deny the confirmation of Kasich's Cabinet members until he picks minority candidates for the positions. A message seeking comment was left with the Senate Republican leadership office.

Williams said the caucus has requested a meeting with the governor to discuss inclusion and their legislative agenda. They are waiting to hear back, she said.

Kasich has previously met with some caucus members, and they conceded Thursday that Kasich talked to two minorities from Ohio who turned him down.

Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the governor, confirmed that two African-Americans turned down offers from Kasich for two separate Cabinet posts. Nichols declined to give their names.

“The governor continues to look for qualified people to serve Ohio in his administration, without regard to race. He encourages all Ohioans to apply and welcomes suggestions for qualified applicants,” Nichols said.

“Equally important, he's looking for candidates that share his deep commitment to reducing government spending, reforming programs and reducing taxes,” Nichols said.

State Sen. Charleta Tavares, a Columbus Democrat, said having minorities in the Cabinet is less about politics and more about bringing different viewpoints to important decisions.

“Those of us that come out of racial, ethnic and cultural communities, bring other perspectives to the table,” Tavares said. “That's what we want the governor to understand. He doesn't walk in our shoes. He hasn't gone through the struggles that many of us have gone through.”

Kasich's interim director of job and family services, Michael Colbert, is black. Because he's temporary, though, Colbert is not a permanent Cabinet member.

Kasich could yet make Colbert the social welfare agency's full-fledged director. He also has not yet named a lottery director or head of the Emergency Medicaid Management Administration, an agency the previous Gov. Ted Strickland created by executive order whose fate under Kasich is not known. He will also eventually be able to replace Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.



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