Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blogger Conference Call with Ted Strickland

I've been doing so many layers of multi-tasking today that I completely forgot my manners. A big thank you to Jesse Taylor for setting up this conference call, and thank you to Ted Strickland for taking the time to talk with the bloggers and answer some of our questions.

As I mentioned in the comments earlier, today I was scheduled to participate in my first ever blogger conference call. I've heard of these in the past, but had never been invited to participate. Figured I just wasn't one of the "cool kids" in the blogosphere, or something. So I was pretty jazzed about being invited to participate in this one.

As the conference call approached, that thrilled to be invited feeling gave way to "Oh crap--I agreed to take part in a conference call!" Telephone isn't exactly my medium, as I'm sure I've noted in the past.

On the bright side, it wasn't as scary as if it had been, say, radio. Hopefully nobody decides to upload audio. :p I did actually record it myself, and will begin, with this post, to publish a rough transcript, including the gist of the questions, and Ted's answers. I will, as I always do, mercifully edit out any "ums" or accidental word reversals that are corrected by the speaker. My hope is that my fellow bloggers will be as kind to me. :)

Anyway, here's the gist of what I asked...

Renee: As a blogger, when I post anything about the governor's race in Ohio, I am routinely met with pessimism/cynicism.

"Blackwell's got it in the bag--it's a done deal!" More optimistic people, like myself, will just respond that we need to make sure that the margin is big enough that the election can't be stolen.

I won't go through the litany of election irregularities from 2004, but I'm sure we're all familiar with them (not enough machines, challenging voters, Blackwell's dual role as Secretary of State and chair of Bush campaign, voters turned away...)

Dems often seem squeamish about discussing this, as if the sting of name calling ("Sore Loserman") was worse than voters loss of confidence in the electoral process

What are you doing to counter this--and what can I tell readers when they voice these concerns?

Ted Strickland: Well, let me say first of all that I am also concerned about the integrity of our voting system. I think its' a legitimate concern that people have. And I think that there is no question in my mind that Ken Blackwell has used his Secretary of State's position to take actions, to issue opinions that resulted in the vote being suppressed, the people being discouraged and, in some cases, intimidated to vote, and that's a big issue.

One of the things that is available to us now that was not available in the past is early voting. We're going to make a huge effort--I think all the Democratic candidates as well as the coordinating campaign will make an effort to get as many of the people to use early voting as possible.

We also have a very significant number of attorneys who almost on a daily basis are working together to try to make sure that decisions that are made between now and the election--decisions coming out of the Secretary of State's office--are reasonable. And they will be available throughout the campaign, especially as we get to Election Day, to try to be a support to those who feel as if there is an intent to interfere with their right to vote.

We're trying to make sure that the Democrats on the local Boards of Election are aware of the potential problems, and that adequate training is available to them.

So, there are a number of things that are being done, but I continue to be concerned. I think what happened in Cuyahoga County during the primary, and the result of the analysis thta was done by the independent group, raise incredibly serious questions. The inability to verify the vote, and the difference between printed receipts and the votes registered by the machines is a huge problem.

And so, unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation where we've just got to be as vigilant and as aggressive as possible. And I'll just end my comments by saying this. I, and others, have called upon Ken Blackwell to relinquish decision-making over this election, and we suggested that Attorney General Jim Petro, or some retired federal judge, someone that has the capacity to be objective in their decision-making, should be given these responsibilities. We can't force Ken Blackwell to do that, but we will continue to call attention to his behavior, and try to embarrass him into doing the right thing.

The next question came from Cindy of As Ohio Goes, who referenced Blackwell's ability to get his message out there in gimicks and catch-phrases. She asked if Ted Stickland could quickly sum up his TurnAround Ohio economic plan, which she read about on his web site, and which is a rather complicated plan.

Ted Strickland: And our problems are complex, complicated problems. Well, Cindy, let me say this. I am not a sound bite candidate, I'm not a sound bite kind of person--

Cindy interjected that sound bites are easily sold, and asked how we can compete with that.

Ted Strickland: Well, you know, Mr. Blackwell has his 65% solution that has been panned and criticized even by the former Secretary of Education under President Bush. He has his sale of the turnpike solution which I think Ohioans are rejecting. And, you know, he's a glib and talented communicator--I wouldn't discount my opponents ability to communicate in ways that are interesting and attractive perhaps. But, what I really think Ohioans want and need is a candidate that's mature enough to understand the complexity of our problems, and will lay out a plan to deal with them.

But, the heart of our TurnAround Ohio, obviously, is the connection that we believe exists between education and job creation, and I don't think our plans lend themselves to sloganeering--

Cindy mentioned that she was talking to Sherrod Brown on Firedoglake, and that he was talking about becoming the Silicon Valley of the Midwest, which sounds like a great idea and makes a lot of sense for revitalizing the region. She asked if he had any ideas about, for example, alternative energy or other examples of revitalizing regional sectors.

Ted Strickland: Well, certainly alternative energy--I've got a very comprehensive alternative energy proposal. In fact, it was the very first proposal that I revealed, and I did that last December. I am committing 30% of our federal bonding authority, which is likely to be about 250 million dollars per year, to be devoted to encouraging alternative energy research, innovation, and production. And I really think if we look at what can and should be done in terms of energy in Ohio, it's easy to see how our state, because of where we're located, and because of the vastness of our agricultural productivity, because of our significant reserves of coal, because of the manufacturing base that continues to exist in our state, because of our heavy use of ethanol fuel products--we are the third leading state in the use of ethanol fuel products--

So, I think that the potential for Ohio to have an economic renaissance based on our pursuing renewable fuels is *unlimited*. Parts of Ohio are ideal for wind power. I've committed to making sure that our state fleet of vehicles is made up of energy-efficient vehicles. I'm committed to working to see that E 85 filling stations are available across Ohio. And, so I think the potential is incredible. Ohio is getting a late start--other states are farther along than we are--but one of the first things I want to do after being elected is to call a state-wide energy conference that will be more than an afternoon two hour session. This will be a serious attempt to bring together every stakeholder in Ohio, every part of the Ohio agricultural community, the academic community, the business community, to help Ohio devise a plan and timetables in much the same way that John Kennedy said we're going to set a timetable for getting a man on the moon within 10 years.

I don't want to pretend that what I'm doing has that kind of grandiose challenge, but it is a challenge. And we're going to set a timeline, and we're going to do everything to make Ohio a cutting edge state when it comes to renewable energies. I am personally convinced that one of the reasons we're in a war right now is because of our overreliance on Middle Eastern oil for our energy needs. And we can change that and Ohio, I think, can lead the way.

To be continued, as I transcribe more of the conference call. In the meantime, you might check out Ted Strickland's campaign web site, make a donation to his campaign via our Howard-Empowered Act Blue page, or browse some of the Ted Strickland for Governor designs that are now available at Cafe Press.

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