Blackwell to decide next month whether to run for U.S. Senate

The Republican putting out feelers to fundraisers.

By William Hershey, Columbus Bureau

9:55 PM Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ken Blackwell, the 2006 Republican candidate for governor who lost in a landslide to Democrat Ted Strickland, appears to be seriously considering a 2012 U.S. Senate race and says the GOP would be “stronger and better” with a primary to determine the nominee.

In an interview Wednesday with the Dayton Daily News, Blackwell, 63, said he is talking with fundraisers and supporters and expects to announce a decision next month after the launch of his new book, “Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America.”

“If I decide to run, it will be to win,” Blackwell said in an email to 450 conservatives around the country last week.

Blackwell has not yet formed a campaign committee that would permit him to raise money. Two other Republicans, Treasurer Josh Mandel, 33, and former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin, 41, have formed such committees, but have nor formally announced their candidacies to seek the nomination to challenge first-term Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, Blackwell, who won statewide races for treasurer and secretary of state, emerged with by far the most support for the nomination.

Among Republicans, Blackwell got 33 percent, nearly double Mandel’s 17 percent and nearly seven times the 5 percent for Coughlin. However, 43 percent either were undecided or gave no answer.

The poll found all three Republicans losing to Brown, but Blackwell was in the tightest race, losing 44-35 percent. Against Mandel, from suburban Cleveland, Brown won, 45-31 percent and against Coughlin, Brown prevailed, 44-28 percent.

“Josh and Kevin are good men,” Blackwell said in his email. “We would all be stronger and better prepared for the fall of 2012, if we had a competitive primary focused on our records and experience.”

Strickland defeated Blackwell, 61-37 percent in the 2006 governor’s race. In a separate email that Blackwell provided, Erin DeLullo, an Alexandria, Va.-based GOP fundraiser, noted that Mike DeWine, an incumbent, lost the Senate race to Brown that year, yet rebounded last fall to unseat Democratic Attorney General Rich Cordray.

In her email, DeLullo said that “Mandel’s biggest allies to date are the RINOs (Republicans in name only) in Ohio: Jo Ann Davidson, Kevin DeWine & Bob Bennett.”

Davidson is a former Ohio House Speaker, Kevin DeWine — Mike DeWine’s cousin — is Ohio GOP chairman and Bennett is a former GOP state chairman.

Blackwell did not make the RINO charge, but said “Erin gets it about right,” suggesting that Mandel’s biggest supporters are not true conservatives.

Kevin DeWine responded through an email from spokesman Chris Maloney: “Chairman DeWine and the Ohio Republican Party are committed to ensuring that Sherrod Brown and the tax-hiking, job-crushing Obama agenda are retired in 2012. Any assertion of preference in a Senate primary which has yet to even exist is clearly unfounded.”

In the Daily News interview, Blackwell said that GOP candidates must assert themselves on issues. He said he supports Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 — legislation limiting public employee collective bargaining rights that could be the subject of a Nov. 8 referendum — and also backs U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal to overhaul Medicare.

Ryan’s plan calls for transforming the senior citizen health care program for those younger than 55 into a government subsidized private health coverage plan. Now the government pays doctors and hospitals directly.

Ryan’s Medicare plan was a big issue in a special U.S. House race Tuesday in a heavily Republican district in the Buffalo, N.Y., area in which the Democrat, who opposed Ryan’s plan, upset a Republican who supported it.

But, said Blackwell, “I am unflinchingly supportive of Congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan. It is actually a plan to save Medicare for future generations while not changing it for those of us 55 and older.”

Mandel, a former city councilman, said he supports Senate Bill 5 but has not taken a position on Ryan’s Medicare plan.

Coughlin said he supports both SB 5 and Ryan’s Medicare plan.

“There are very few people my age who believe Medicare is going to be available unless there are some reforms,” he said.

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