Blackwell Faces Green Challenger in Ohio Governor Race

By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor and National Correspondent
Atlanta Progressive News (September 16, 2006)

(APN) ATLANTA – “People need somebody running who can keep Blackwell from stealing an election. Democrats can’t say ‘Quit stealing,'” Bob Fitrakis, 50, told Atlanta Progressive News.

Fitrakis has won the Green Party Nomination for Governor of Ohio and this November he will be facing Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and Democrat Ted Strickland.

“There’s a socialization process in the media that ‘By god, you don’t challenge the results of the election.’ Because the corporate media would fry them,” Fitrakis said.

Fitrakis is running for many reasons, but one of these is to “give me some [legal] standing,” in case of elections integrity issues in the 2006 Gubernatorial Election in Ohio.

Fitrakis is an amazing person. In addition to running for Governor of Ohio, he is a Professor of Political Science at the Columbus State Community College, the Editor of the Columbus Free Press Newspaper, and an attorney.

Fitrakis’s Republican opponent Blackwell is pretty amazing too.

While apparently treating Blacks not-so-well as Secretary of State during the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio, Blackwell was also the Co-Chair of the Bush/Cheney Reelection Committee in Ohio.

“While conducting the election, he also ran the ‘Issue 1’ Campaign, the constitutional amendment on banning domestic partnerships,” Fitrakis added. “His goal is to get 30-40% of the Black vote by preaching the homosexual threat.”

Currently, Democrat Ted Strickland is up 25% in the polls against Blackwell, Fitrakis said.

“I’ll take a lot of credit for that. Democrats were afraid to attack Blackwell because of his ties to Bush and Rove. On a lot of levels the Democratic Party is gutless and spineless,” Fitrakis said.

Fitrakis is getting between 1 to 2 percent in the polls, with a plus or minus 3 percent margin of error, he says. That means he’s getting anywhere between plus five percent or minus two percent, he jokes.

Fitrakis criticized what he sees as a rightward tilt of the Ohio political spectrum over the last several decades.

“The Democratic Party of Ohio has become the Republican Party of the 1950’s. That left a tremendous gap on the issues,” he said.

“We really haven’t had an independent progressive candidate on the ballot since World War II,” in Ohio, he says.

“The campaign’s been great. We’ve raised about $8,000. We’ve been all over the State of Ohio because we’re talking about real issue. It’s not that hard.”

Fitrakis says he appears not to be taking enough votes away from Strickland to have the Democrats worried.

“What I’m interested in is bringing out a lot of the voters who were disenfranchised,” he says, adding if Strickland were vulnerable, he might urge people to go out and “vote their conscience.”

Fitrakis poses a unique alternative to both Strickland and Blackwell on many issues, and says he would use the Governor’s office in unique ways to pose real challenges to Bush’s policies.

“The President is a war criminal and I believe we can prove that. As Governor I will create a blue ribbon committee,” Fitrakis said.

“I intend to arrest any agents or officers that are spying on Americans in violation of the Constitution,” Fitrakis said.

He said the forgotten half of federalism is that states don’t have to just go along with what the President of the United States dictates if they believe it’s in violation of the law.

“There’s nothing that stops the Governor of Ohio from challenging the President. If the President is spying on Americans, then he’s spying on the people of Ohio. I will declare Ohio a Bill of Rights Enforcement Zone. I intend to provoke constitutional crises on these issues.”

Fitrakis also says he would, as Governor, issue an Executive Order prohibiting the deployment of the Ohio National Guard to Iraq.

While Ted Strickland is not exactly the most progressive candidate, Fitrakis describes him as in between progressive and “centrist.”

“I think Ted’s a nice guy. I’m a recovering Democrat myself. Ted is very pro-worker, and against the war. However, he [supported] the Republican anti-immigrant law. And, he’s not really going to speak out on spying or the war,” Fitrakis told Atlanta Progressive News.

Strickland is “a Methodist Minister. He and Blackwell have been fighting over whose Bible is bigger,” Fitrakis exclaimed.

On the homosexual marriage issue, Blackwell, Strickland, and Fitrakis run the gamut with their positions. Blackwell opposes civil unions and homosexual marriage. Strickland supports civil unions but not homosexual marriage. Fitrakis supports both civil unions and homosexual marriage.

Recently, Fitrakis was excluded from a major candidate debate.

“I think they were really afraid Democracy would break out, that there would be a marketplace of ideas,” he said.

One of the interesting things about Fitrakis is the many roles he occupies, for instance being both a progressive journalist and a university scholar.

“I started out as a political theorist. My whole notion is a lot of [scholars], they’re not talking about real world events. The best knowledge is from doing political work. Muckraking has really shaped public policy in the US,” Fitrakis said.

“To me, it should be seen as a positive that a PhD would be one of the best reporters. I see myself in the tradition of the public intellectual,” he said.

Fitrakis went on a brief sabbatical in 2000 to focus on his reporting he said. He also recently obtained his law degree, which the University paid for, he said, although he had to sign a waiver agreeing not to ever sue them. Fitrakis also recently wrote two books on the Ohio debacle.

“We gave [the texts] to Bobby Kennedy, which he used as a basis for his article in Rolling Stone [Magazine],” he said.

“On Election Day, I was the mobile attorney in two inner city wards, 55 and 5, for the Election Protection Coalition, including 9 precincts and 8 polling places. We had lines for 3 to 7 hours,” Fitrakis recalls of the Ohio 2004 debacle.

“I called public hearings and took testimony under oath and preserved much of the evidence,” Fitrakis said.

Indeed, Fitrakis’s journalistic leadership during this time was one of the few examples of coverage of the elections integrity issues going on in Ohio. At that time–when the independent media scene on the Internet was just beginning to come about–Fitrakis’s articles in the Free Press were an essential resource.

“This was used on the Moss v. Bush lawsuit. I was one of the attorneys and coordinated most of the research,” he said.

Recently, Kenneth Blackwell tried to destroy all the ballots from 2004 and Fitrakis helped fight to preserve them as possible evidence of crimes. A judge ordered the ballots be preserved on September 7, 2006.

Some of the problems with ballots that have been identified include ballots that were prepunched, 93,000 machine rejected ballots, a lot of ballots spoiled in areas that were 12-1 Kerry, and 20,000 ballots that were deliberately double-punched only in the inner city, Fitrakis told Atlanta Progressive News.

“The ballots are showing massive evidence of theft and fraud. We’ve only been able to count 50,000 ballots out of 5 million,” Fitrakis said.

“Ken Blackwell has said you can’t see the ballots unless you go to the prosecuting attorney, who acts like they are criminal files. We’ve seen about 1 percent of the ballots. They’ve resisted showing us for two years now,” he said.

“They’ll say everyone’s seen them. That’s a lie. They know the more we look at them, the more likely someone is going to jail,” Fitrakis said.

“They’ve already in two counties destroyed unused ballots,” he said.

Fitrakis pointed to a number of exciting lawsuits going on in Ohio; there are several of them. Three African American civic associations are suing Blackwell, saying he violated the rights of African Americans through disparate treatment in the 2004 Election.

An Ohio judge recently struck down their version of the Voter ID law recently as well.

Another lawsuit from the League of Women Voters is challenging the entire elections process in Ohio, saying it’s all messed up, Fitrakis said.





Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor and National Correspondent for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at matthew @ Syndication policy:   

This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.
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