East Cleveland’s African-American mayor, Eric Brewer, a Democrat, is a strong supporter of Ohio’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell.

In a rally held in East Cleveland last week, Brewer told the assembled audience that the decision to support Blackwell instead of the Democratic contender Ted Strickland should be an easy one for African Americans to make:

It only takes about two minutes to turn an African-American voter who is a Democrat from making the wrong choice and voting for Ted Strickland to making the right choice and voting for Ken Blackwell. All you have to do is look at the record of the two men and you will see that Ken Blackwell has a concrete program for economic advancement. We’ve got to break the habit of voting for Democrats when all they have to promise is more welfare dependency.

After the rally, Brewer explained to WND: “Most black people want to vote for Ken Blackwell, and they need to see African American politicians willing to stand with Blackwell. That’s why I’m out here supporting Ken. His record is one that promises economic advancement for Ohio and for the African-American community in Ohio.”

Ken Blackwell speaking, with Mayor Eric Brewer

In writing “Rebuilding America: A Prescription for Creating Strong Families, Building the Wealth of Working People, and Ending Welfare,” Blackwell and this author focused much of Chapter 8, “Revitalizing the Urban Landscape,” on Eric Brewer and the turnaround he is forging for East Cleveland.

We noted how East Cleveland had transformed from being one of the most prestigious suburbs in the 1950s, with a population that was less than 1 percent nonwhite, to today, where the city has segregated into a predominately black community of some 27,000 residents that are 94 percent nonwhite.

In his first year in office, Brewer is fighting to get a grip on the city’s troubled finances. The mayor’s view is optimistic. In the book we quoted Brewer as saying that “African-Americans cannot blame whites or Republicans for their city and school district’s fiscal emergencies, jailed elected officials, reduced quality of life, or vacant and abandoned buildings.”

Since the 1970s, now for more than 30 years, East Cleveland has been governed by African-Americans, and every elected official with the exception of two have been Democrats, including those elected to serve East Cleveland in the U.S. Congress and the Ohio Legislature.

In the 2006 Ohio gubernatorial contest, a lot depends on whether on not African-Americans break their traditional allegiance to the Democratic Party to vote for Republican Ken Blackwell. Democratic pundits in Ohio may be facing a “November Surprise” if as many as 40 to 45 percent of Ohio’s African-American voters defy the Democratic Party’s expectations and vote for Blackwell.

In his interview with WND, Brewer posed an important question for Ohio’s African-American voters:

Ken Blackwell has been fired up in his campaign stops this past week. He is asking black audiences, “Why am I here defending my record to you. You all know what I have done to elevate black people. Why don’t you have Ted Strickland here defending what he has not done?”

Brewer also challenged the assumption of the Democratic Party that African-Americans will vote Democratic almost automatically.

I’m supposed to support Ted Strickland because he is a Democrat. But do any of the black Democratic leaders really believe they are going to get a better deal from Ted Strickland than they will get from Ken Blackwell?

Thinking back to the 1965 mayoral election in Cleveland when Democrat Carl Stokes beat Republican Seth Taft to become one of the first African-American mayors in the nation, Brewer posed the following questions:

I’m asking black people in Ohio these questions. Did you root for Carl Stokes over Seth Taft? Did you root for Max Schmeling over Joe Louis? Did you make James Earl Ray a national hero after he assassinated Martin Luther King? Of course, not. So then why won’t you support Ken Blackwell instead of Ted Strickland? Why should black people be expected to back the Great White Hope?

Brewer gives Blackwell and the Republic Party credit:

“That Ken Blackwell has managed to survive and rise to the top in Ohio’s Republican Party is a testament to him and to the Republican Party,” Brewer said.

Brewer ended the interview by challenging Strickland to commit to equal or exceed what he called “Blackwell’s unprecedented record of hiring and doing business with black people.”

Blackwell’s top management team in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office is 47 percent black. Brewer noted that 38 percent of all those employed by Blackwell are “minority,” and that Blackwell has spent as much as 41 percent of his state budget with black businesses in the last eight years.

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“Rebuilding America: A Prescription for Creating Strong Families, Building the Wealth of Working People, and Ending Welfare”

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