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Monday, January 21, 2008

OH-02 Dem Steve Black: New Campaign Chief Is Union President's Son

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- As things stand now, voters can expect at least two televised joint appearances/debates next month by OH-02 Democratic candidates Steve Black and Vic Wulsin. Final details have not yet been ironed out, but the candidates are expected to appear on WKRC-TV, Channel 12 and WCET, the public broadcasting outlet in Cincinnati. Dan Herkert, Black's campaign manager, told The Daily Bellwether today that details are being set. (Prediction: Expect to see this in the Cincinnati Enquirer after you read it here first.)

Herkert, 26, is an Illinois native who became Black's manager in mid-December. His father is the president of a Painter's Union local in Alton, Ill., and is chairman of the Democratic Party in Calhoun County, which is where the Illinois and Mississippi rivers converge. Herkert said he was a consultant to U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, a Democrat elected in 2006. He has also worked on local races in southern Illinois.

"My dad has been involved in politics since he got out of the service. I actually walked door-to-door for the first time (1988) for Dukakis and Bentsen. I'm as diehard Democrat as you can be. If my right hand tried to vote for a Republican, my left hand would cut it off. I'm a very strong partisan. The joke in my family is that if I had a death wish it would be to become a Republican and join the Navy. My dad was a Marine."

Herkert, a graduate of the University of Illinois/Springfield, said he knows that Black was a Republican who changed parties to seek the OH-02 nomination against Wulsin. He said Black's conversion is genuine. He also said OH-02 -- which borders the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Portsmouth -- is quite alike to the area of Illinois where he cut his political teeth.

"The thing is, the district is very similar to the St. Louis metro area. The issues are very close to being the same."

And what are the big issues? Economy and jobs; health care, the Iraq War. Mostly, says Herkert, "kitchen table issues." Also, pushing Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt aside. "Jean Schmidt can be beat. I think Steve Black is the guy to do it."

Herkert predicts Feb. 9 could give a hint how strongly Black -- who has a well-financed campaign -- is competing against Wulsin for the Dem nomination. The Clermont County Democratic Party holds a forum that night followed by a straw poll. If Black comes close, Southwest and Southern Ohio Dems can expect a real showdown.

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