The mayor says he still strongly supports the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams attended a fundraising event for J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican gubernatorial nominee but says that doesn't mean he's backing away from his endorsement of Ted Strickland, the Democratic candidate for the post.
For those who doubt his support, Williams said they should come to a rally today for Strickland at the Grace Evangelistic Temple Church on the city's East Side. Williams is introducing U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a Los Angeles Democrat, the featured speaker at the Strickland rally.
"The beauty of being an independent is I have friends on both sides," said Williams, a registered Democrat who won the 2005 mayoral race as an independent. Many of Williams' major financial donors are Republicans.
Was invited to attend
"No one should perceive this as a mixed signal," Williams said of attending the Blackwell fundraiser last week in Salem.
Williams said supporters and friends, including Columbiana County Republican Chairman Dave Johnson, invited him to attend a Blackwell fundraiser at the Salem home of Bob Sebo, who retired in 1994 as a partner in Paychex Inc.
Williams said he was a guest at the event and, if asked, he would neither contribute money to Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign nor speak on his behalf.
At the event, Williams said he exchanged pleasantries with Blackwell, of Cincinnati, the Ohio secretary of state, and has had conversations with him in the past.
But Williams said that doesn't change his endorsement of Strickland, a U.S. House member from Lisbon, made official in August.
"I endorsed Strickland because I feel he is the best candidate," Williams said. "I believe having Strickland as governor would be in the best interests of the city. But I don't have any personal problems with Ken Blackwell. Also, it doesn't mean that I don't have Republican friends who invited me to this event."
Offered to help Strickland
Williams said he has asked the Strickland campaign if there is anything he can do to help the Democrat. The mayor says the Waters event is the only thing besides his public endorsement in August that the Strickland campaign has asked of him to date.
"Some people have an inability to separate that I can endorse someone because they earned it and at the same time maintain a productive relationship with those who don't share my viewpoint" on who is the best gubernatorial candidate, Williams said.
Williams also attended a Sept. 7 fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Avon, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, at the Canfield home of Bruce and Rori Zoldan.
As with the Blackwell fundraiser, Williams said, he was a guest and didn't pay to attend the event, which featured U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat. Williams said that after the event, he and his wife went to dinner with Brown and his wife.
"The idea is to maintain productive relationships with everyone," Williams said.
Disturbed by attacks
Williams said that although he respects Blackwell, he is "disappointed" by recent attacks by Blackwell against Strickland.
The attacks focus on Strickland's "inexcusable lack of judgment for refusing to investigate a congressional and campaign staffer accused of exposing himself to children," and his "bizarre refusal to condemn a study" in 1999 that said adult-child sex could be healthy for children, according to a statement from Blackwell's campaign Tuesday.
As for the first allegation, Strickland has repeatedly said he'd never knowingly hire anyone who didn't share his values of protecting children. Strickland said that Congress rushed to pass a resolution condemning the study without first reading it and that to suggest he doesn't condemn pedophilia is outrageous.
"I'm disappointed with these tactics," Williams said about Blackwell's campaign. "It's exceptionally disappointing. It's very distasteful to make this the campaign. I would never do something like that."
Regarding two major issues on the Nov. 7 ballot, Williams said he supports a constitutional amendment to increase the minimum wage and opposes Issue 3, which legalizes slot machines.
Williams said gambling is not a proven sustainable way to improve a state's economy. While he supports increasing the minimum wage, Williams said he has reservations about doing so through a constitutional amendment.