Editorial: Diversity: Where is the line drawn?

December 1, 2010

Chris Redfern is making too much of it, but the Ohio Democratic Party chairman raises a interesting point about diversity. Where do you draw the line? Everyone wants a government that is made up of the people it represents. At the same time, we want the most qualified government, too.

Gov.-elect John Kasich is aiming for the most qualified Cabinet possible, we assume. Redfern is sounding the alarm — a bit early, but that’s politics — that Kasich’s administration is starting out looking a lot like Kasich.

Kasich had made five of 23 likely appointments by the time Redfern issued a news release criticizing the lack of diversity. As the Democratic chairman pointed out, all five are white males — Republican white males. Three have served in previous Republican administrations, and two are Lima-area Republican legislators.

The first and most important question — one we hope Kasich asked — is whether each appointee is the best person for the job. State Rep. Jim Zehringer, R-Fort Recovery, comes from a farm business background. He’ll be director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture under Kasich. If the governor-elect isn’t going to scrap the department, as Republicans including Zehringer have advocated, Zehringer makes sense to lead it.

Democrats might not like this, but Kasich believes in business. He’s more likely to want someone who has similar beliefs running an agency than someone who believes in the heavy hand of government regulation. Zehringer fits.

State Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, told The Lima News that Redfern likely is focusing on race and gender solely for political gain. We agree. We’d also add that it’s early in the process. We’d further add that Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland appointed a diverse group of people who didn’t always do the best job for Ohio.

Still, it’s worth remembering that this state of 11.5 million people is 51 percent female, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ohio is 12 percent black. It is almost 3 percent Hispanic, a number that will continue to grow.

There are qualified people — qualified Republicans — in those demographics. Kasich should consider them. Those particular demographics help pay the salaries of the people Kasich will appoint. They should be able to expect that someone with similar experiences will represent them in executive decisions.