A panel of local press will question the candidates.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The two candidates vying to be Ohio's next governor are expected to compare and contrast their ideas and policies in the first of four debates Tuesday.
The debate, between Congressman Ted Strickland of Lisbon, D-6th, and Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell will be presented by The Vindicator; its online edition, Vindy.com; and WFMJ-TV 21, beginning at noon Tuesday in the studios of WFMJ TV-21, West Boardman Street.
The station will air the debate live.
Vindicator columnist and editorial writer Bertram de Souza will be the debate moderator with Dennis Mangan, the newspaper's editorial page editor; Bob Black, WFMJ anchor; Gerry Ricciutti, 33 WYTV reporter; and Joe Bell, 27 WKBN reporter, questioning the candidates.
Keith Dailey, Strickland campaign spokesman, said that for strategic reasons, he couldn't get into specifics about plans for the debate.
"I can tell you that Ted is working every day to really earn the trust of Ohioans across the state," and he hopes to continue that during the debates, Dailey said.
Strickland's agenda includes keeping jobs in the state by improving strengths and attracting new jobs by making sure Ohio has the best educated work force possible, the campaign spokesman said.
"He'll contrast that with Secretary Blackwell's at times irresponsible, over-the-top ideas that don't really amount to an agenda for Ohioans so much as a handful of gimmicks, really," Dailey said.
Turnpike sale proposal
He referred to Blackwell's idea of selling the Ohio Turnpike, which he's touted as possibly generating $4 billion or $6 billion.
But Dailey said the Blackwell campaign neglects to mention that in neighboring states where private companies have bought the turnpikes, tolls have increased. That results in much of the truck traffic foregoing the turnpike in favor of county roads, thereby increasing safety concerns, Dailey said.
He also referred to Blackwell's 65-cent solution for schools. It requires that school districts spend 65 cents of each education dollar on classroom instruction. It follows a national movement with several states considering the issue in upcoming elections.
"It's been vigorously criticized by other conservatives, among them President Bush's former education secretary Rod Paige, who called it as much as gimmick," Dailey said. "It doesn't address the issues in education funding as far as equity."
Strickland, in contrast, offers a responsible, comprehensive plan that's detailed and specific and includes costs, he said.
Blackwell's campaign didn't respond to numerous requests for an interview about the debate.
But his campaign Web site says that controlling government spending and reducing Ohioans' tax burden is a way to spur job growth in the state.
The Web site talks about converting the income tax into a single-rate system over a four-year period, eliminating the stand-alone estate tax, repealing the state sales tax increase and exempting energy consumption from the Commercial Activity Tax.
The other three debates are planned in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, the three largest cities in Ohio.