TV personality Star Jones said the Ohio elections are key to national politics.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Even with a sizable lead in the polls and the amount of money raised and spent, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, isn't taking the voters for granted as he campaigns in the days leading to the Nov. 7 election.
That includes a Friday rally at the S.P. Phillips Fellowship Hall of the Tabernacle Baptist Church on Arlington Street on the city's North Side.
Most polls show Strickland, of Lisbon, with a double-digit lead over Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell of Cincinnati, the Republican nominee. Strickland's campaign also has raised 15.45 million compared with 11.9 million for the Republican as of Oct. 18.
"I don't think this race is over," Strickland said after the rally. "I'm not taking the voters for granted."
Strickland said he'll end up campaigning in 73 of the state's 88 counties in the final days leading to the election. "I'm not backing off," he said.
Neither is Blackwell, who also has an active campaign schedule.
Also speaking at Friday's rally were three statewide candidates -- Jennifer Brunner of Columbus, running for secretary of state; Richard Cordray of Grove City, running for treasurer; and Barbara Sykes of Akron, running for auditor -- as well as Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and television personality Star Jones.
"You all got the man running for governor," Jones told the audience of about 100 people. "You've got a candidate who will actually provide leadership."
Jones said she is campaigning for Strickland and other Democrats in Ohio because "the way Ohio goes is the way the nation goes. Ohio should matter to everybody in this country."
Ohio is considered one of a handful of swing states that decided the last presidential election.
Williams, who introduced Strickland at the event, stressed the importance of the gubernatorial election and its impact on the 2008 presidential race.
"The state of Ohio will play a critical role in national politics," he said.
Strickland said Ohio has suffered in recent years because of poor political leadership.
"We're going to give Ohio what it desperately wants and needs -- a political leader that makes a difference," he said.
The event had a few amusing moments.
During Jones' opening remarks, she told Williams that she went shopping last night at a Wal-Mart and bought the blouse she was wearing there for 10.80. She joked that she was putting some money into the Youngstown economy, but there are no Wal-Mart stores in the city.
Alluding to her role as fodder for tabloids, Jones told the audience: "I'm supposed to be famous. I'm supposed to be chillin' somewhere" and not campaigning in Ohio. She also said that she is a "real person" and people shouldn't "read those magazines."
When Strickland hugged Jones and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Cleveland (no relation), and someone took a picture of them sitting on the dais during the rally, Jaladah Aslam, who handles minority outreach for the campaign in the Mahoning Valley, jokingly said when people see that picture, it will cause rumors.
Strickland quipped, "I'll tell you what the rumors are going to be: Ted Strickland died and went to heaven."
In Lisbon, Strickland stood outside the Steel Trolley Diner, where Dennis Johnson, the Columbiana County Democratic Party chairman, said Strickland likes the coffee and pie.
Jacquelyn Sue Long of East Liverpool had filed a complaint claiming Strickland doesn't live in Lisbon. She later withdrew the complaint.
Strickland showed photos taken of himself in 2005 sweeping snow from the sidewalk in front of the Lisbon home.
Strickland chalked up the challenge to his residency as politics, adding that he hoped the election would restore integrity to the secretary of state's office.
Also Friday, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Avon, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, and statewide Democratic candidates made get-out-the-vote stops in Warren and Boardman.
The Brown campaign wants to make sure the candidate's supporters remember to vote, said Ben LaBolt, campaign spokesman.
Brown and U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, a Cedarville Republican running for his third six-year term in the Senate, are making numerous campaign stops throughout the state leading up to the election.
CONTRIBUTOR: D.A. Wilkinson, Vindicator Salem Bureau.