Democrats Say Poll Included Racially Motivated Question

AP, August 30, 2006

Columbus, Ohio—Democrats have accused the Republican candidate for state auditor of conducting a poll with a racially motivated question intended to point out that her opponent is black.

The telephone poll on behalf of Republican state Rep. Mary Taylor asks a series of questions about the voting record of Democratic state Rep. Barbara Sykes of Akron. Another question asks voters for their opinion of Sykes being president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.

“I cannot think of any reason why it would matter if someone knew she was president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, unless they are blatantly trying to gauge race in this election,” said Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.

Taylor, who is white, said her campaign is testing information about her opponent’s strengths. Taylor said she considers Sykes’ leadership in the black caucus to be one of those strengths.

“It’s outrageous for her to claim that she would pay pollsters to say something nice about her opponent,” Rothenberg said. “This is clearly a racial push poll call.”

The Ohio Republican Party said it was unaware of Taylor’s polling and said Democrats are coming to a wrong conclusion.

“Our candidates would not engage and have not engaged in race-baiting, and it is disingenuous for Democrats to suggest otherwise,” said party spokesman John McClelland, who pointed out that the GOP’s candidate for governor, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, is black.

Sykes, who has said one reason she decided to run for auditor was to add diversity to the otherwise all-white Democratic statewide ticket for executive offices this year, called Taylor’s poll question pathetic.

“I guess the Republicans have not come as far as they would want us to think, even though they have a black man at the top of their ticket. It’s just pitifully pathetic,” Sykes said.

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, founded in 1967, has 18 members from the Ohio House and Senate and exists to help educate minority groups about the political process.

The poll came to light Tuesday when a handful of voters who said they were offended called or e-mailed Ohio Democratic Party headquarters after receiving a call on Monday evening.

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