Black Lives Matter pushes back on Ohio Senate endorsement after local group backs Republican

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Rob Portman.
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Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A local Black Lives Matter group endorsed the Republican candidate for Senate in Ohio, Politico reported.

Rob Portman, the Republican incumbent in the state, landed the endorsement of a Black Lives Matter group in Cuyahoga County – the state’s most populous county and home to Cleveland, host city of last week’s GOP convention.

However, Cleveland Scene reported that the group is not affiliated with the national Black Lives Matter network; Black Lives Matter in Cleveland is the only group that is.

The organization has pushed back in the hours since the story broke.

“This is not our chapter nor are we affiliated with them,” BLM in Cleveland spokesperson Latonya Goldsby – a cousin of Tamir Rice – told Cleveland Scene in an email. “The Black Lives Matter Network that we represent is not connected with this organization.”

David Bergstein, Strickland’s campaign spokesman, called the original Politico report “incorrect,” citing the Cleveland Scene story.

“Black Lives Matter Cleveland is the group’s local organization in the area. Ted has a strong record of fighting for Ohio’s African American communities and working families, and will continue to do so in the Senate,” he said in a statement.

Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the national Black Lives Matter network, said Friday that the group is “not an official chapter of our BLM network.”

The unaffiliated group ripped Portman’s challenger, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, in the endorsement. It said the Ohio Democrat “managed to destroy Ohio’s budget and deplete its billions-dollar Rainy Day Fund.”

“In the current atmosphere of identity politics, BLMCC understands that endorsing even a well-qualified Republican such as Portman seems controversial; despite the fact that it was minorities who suffered the brunt of Ted Strickland’s gross financial mismanagement,” Jeff Mixon, president of the organization, said in a statement.

Mixon, who sits on the Democratic Party’s executive committee in the county, praised Portman for helping put major anti-opioid legislation into law earlier this month.

“Ted Strickland devoted little time to the cause of helping – rather than punishing – addicts,” Mixon wrote. “One thing that we at BLMCC feel confident about is this: the definition of ‘rational’ is not doing the same thing over and over – with little or no thought – expecting a different result. At some point, minority communities must carefully examine the impact of relying solely on the Democratic Sample Ballot on Election Day.”

This past weekend, Mixon fired back at what he deemed “the Strickland campaign’s effort to belittle our group,” adding he “was shocked and outraged.”

“Black Live Matter in Cuyahoga is deeply committed to making this country safer for Black children – ALL CHILDREN – as well as for the honorable and courageous men and women who risk their lives protecting and serving others,” he said in a statement. “We won’t allow any politician to hinder our effort to bring healing and justice to this nation. Our mission is bigger than Ted Strickland. If he doesn’t understand this today, he definitely will come November.”

The group endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in February.

“We are honored that Rob’s positive vision for the future has attracted support from all corners of Ohio,” Michawn Rich, a Portman campaign spokesperson, said in a statement to Business Insider. “Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are joining Rob’s campaign because they all agree Ohio cannot afford to go backwards to the days of Ted Strickland when the state lost more than 350,000 jobs and ranked 48th in job creation.”

Portman, who was also endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police earlier in the week, is locked in a tough reelection bout with Strickland. The Ohio Republican is up 4 points on the former governor in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

This story has been updated