Ken Blackwell, a former U.N. ambassador and former Ohio secretary of state, has become the second black man to plunge into the heated contest for Republican National Committee chairman, The Washington Times has learned.
Mr. Blackwell, 60, joins former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the other black Republican seeking to be the next national chairman when the 168-member Republican National Committee meets Jan. 28-31 in Washington.
Mr. Blackwell has worked with economic, national security and religious conservatives in his party.
"I am a full-portfolio conservative," Mr. Blackwell, 60, said in a phone interview Saturday from his home in Cincinnati. He noted that he is a board member of of the National Taxpayers Union, the Club for Growth and the National Rifle Association and holds fellowships at the Family Research Council and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
In a letter to RNC members announcing his candidacy, Mr. Blackwell notes that he "vocally opposed tax increases offered" by his state's Republican governor and "helped to successfully lead the fight to amend the Ohio Constitution to ban government recognition of same-sex marriages."
The marriage amendment passed with 61 percent of the vote, he said, "despite opposition from many of Ohio's leading Republicans."
"Along the way, I've made some Ohio Republicans angry, but I've always tried to take the side of less government and more freedom."
Mr. Blackwell said he can claim more breadth of experience in elected and appointed offices involving local, state, federal and foreign affairs -- from Ohio secretary of state to ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission -- than any of the other candidates seeking to lead the GOP for the next two years when the party will no longer hold the White House and has seen its minority status shrink further in both houses of Congress and in the state legislatures.
He said he has been in charge of large organizations and can re-energize the national party's chief fundraising committee.
"The RNC is a big agency that is too focused inside the Beltway and is in the hands of consultants and vendors who are not philosophically based and don't have a real interest in building capacity outside the Beltway, where the game is going to have to be played."
He claims to be "the only candidate in this field who has visited all 50 states," noting that he did so as chairman of the U.S. census monitoring board, a congressionally mandated group created in 1999 when the Republicans controlled both houses.
"We fought the Democrats' effort to have statistical sampling, to count people where they didn't exist. We used modern technology to make sure we counted real people where they do exist," Mr. Blackwell said.
He was also national general chairman of Steve Forbes' unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
Other announced candidates for national chairmen include Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, South Carolina Chairman Katon Dawson and former Tennessee GOP Chairman Chip Saltsman.