New Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, a popular establishment figure within the GOP and a former Fox News TV host, finds himself and his administration embroiled in a racially-tinged controversy surrounding the make-up and diversity of his cabinet, as well as comments made by the governor in regard to the situation.
Kasich has filled out 22 of 23 different positions without choosing any minority; every job is held by a white person, the first such instance in Ohio since 1962.
It’s a sensitive issue in a state with a history of troubled race relations and past prejudices against black residents of the Buckeye State.
The absence of any minority in Kasich’s cabinet has drawn fire from African-American state lawmakers. They have complained directly to the governor and publicly criticized the lack of diversity in the cabinet, accusing Kasich of “governing as if it were 1811″ instead of 2011.
A group of Statehouse Democrats — black, white, Indian-American and Hispanic — accused Gov. John Kasich Thursday of racial discrimination and demanded that he name minorities to his cabinet.
Kasich’s early record of hiring only white people for his cabinet — and his defiant defense of it, likening diversity to quotas — has ignited a firestorm of racial tension for the Republican governor.
“Through his actions and deeds, Gov. Kasich has declared that Ohio is open for business,” said state Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat. “But if you are African-American, you need not apply. If you are Hispanic, you need not apply. If you are Asian or Indian, you need not apply.”
Instead of 2011, Turner said, Kasich is governing as if it were 1811, during the days of slavery. “The governor’s stance is eerily similar to that of those in the not-so-distant past who determined that African-Americans and other people of color were not qualified and they did not bring value to this country,” she said.
The controversy hit a new level when Kasich told Sen. Nina Turner, one the black lawmakers critical of the cabinet, that “I’m not going to hire your people.”
Was it racially motivated? Kasich’s office denies it, and instead insists that it was about “party identification,” as in Kasich won’t hire Democrats; Turner’s “people” (she is a Democrat). A spokesman said it was “taken totally out of context.”
In that meeting last week, Turner said she offered to help Kasich find qualified minorities. But in a heated exchange, she said, the governor told her, “I’m not going to hire your people.”
Turner said she wondered if “your people” meant black people.
Nichols, Kasich’s spokesman, confirmed the governor made the statement but said by “your people” Kasich meant partisan Democrats.
“That was a party identification and that is it,” Nichols said. “That is taken totally out of context.”
Kasich still has an all-white cabinet, and a group of black lawmakers are considering a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination.
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