Ohio Democrats held their largest annual gathering Saturday night in Columbus, where the 1,100 attendees who wait staff were ready to serve listened to a roster of speakers that included Ohio Democratic Chairman Redfern, Senator Sherrod Brown, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and the evening’s keynote speaker, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
The State Dinner is the largest annual gathering of Ohio Democrats from across the state. In addition to ODP’s chairman, the lone Democratic candidate to announce his candidacy to take on first-term incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich, FitzGerald, and the first women US Senator from the Gopher State, other speakers included State Senator Lou Gentile, Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley, who won the Democrat of the Year award and is running for Mayor of Dayton, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Ohio House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard, State Senator Nina Turner, Ohio Senate Democratic Leader Eric Kearney and State Representatives John Patrick Carney and Connie Pillich.
Sen. Turner is expected to announce her candidacy soon for Secretary of State, while Reps. Carney and Pillich have already announced their candidacy for Auditor and Treasurer, respectively.
Guests and others dined on an entrées of chicken with a glazed reduction of peaches with sautéed baby spinach, beet and orange marmalade and roasted Roma tomatoes. But for reasons that went unexplained, maybe to cut down on costs or maybe because the American Medical Association last week declared for the first time that obesity is a disease, dessert went missing from the menu, something one server said was unusual.
Gene Branstool, a former active farmer from Licking County who served as Chairman of ODP in the early 1990s and later served under President Bill Clinton as an assistant Secretary of Agriculture, opined that for Democrats to win next year, when all statewide offices currently occupied by Republicans are on the ballot, Ohioans have to stop voting against their own interests. “Joe Blow is asleep,” Branstool told CGE, one of two media to attend. He said Ohio workers are worried about unimportant things and should worry about what’s important to their own interests.
Ted Celeste, the younger brother of former Ohio Governor Richard Celeste who tried but failed to win a newly configured congressional district in central Ohio, said Gov. Kasich will get caught with his “hand in the cookie jar,” an indirect reference to Kasich’s on-going battle with the public and media over secrecy surrounding his pet project, JobsOhio, and maybe other issues like bonding Ohio Turnpike revenues as his friends and close confidants take in big revenue as lobbyists from special interests who want to do business with the state.
David Leland, an attorney in Columbus and another former ODP chairman, said people have yet to see the results from Gov. Kasich’s days in office. Leland also surmised that the Ohio Supreme Court, which is stacked 6-1 for Republicans, won’t take up the constitutionality of JobsOhio, and even if they did, won’t rule on it until after the 2014 General Election.
Spencer Dirrig, a junior in high school, was among the most optimistic last night that Kasich can be beat. Watch Spencer make his case on 60 Seconds Ohio for why Delaware County will become the bellwether telltale next year.
Chris Redfern, who again represents Port Clinton in the Ohio House of Representatives, recalled that Ohio voted to re-elect its senior US Senator Sherrod Brown and return President Obama to a second term. In doing so, he said, corporate candidates like Ohio’s first-term treasurer Josh Mandel and Mitt Romney, the Republicans choice to take on Obama, lost.
Redfern told those in Battelle Hall at the Columbus Convention Center to remember SB 5, a frontal attack on collective bargaining that a Republican legislature passed and Gov. Kasich signed in 2011 that appeared on the ballot as Issue 2. The issue was approved by a nearly 2-1 margin, which nullified SB 5 as an active law. ODP’s chairman reminded listeners that “state government has not been on their side” over the 30 months Kasich has been governor and the legislature, both Senate and House, are again controlled by Republicans as a result of the wave election in 2010 and last year, when GOP lawmakers achieved a supermajority in the House and Senate.
“We have to hold John Kasich accountable for what he’s done in the last four years next November,” Redfern said of Kasich’s record of raising taxes to subsidize tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest while embracing layoffs of service workers, police, firefighters, teachers and nurses.
Redfern, as Sens Brown and Klobuchar would echo later, said the GOP’s continued attacks of worker’s, women’s and voter’s rights will be the battle lines Democrats will win on next year.
Democrats said the good news about the elections next year is that Democrats are so united and organized this early.
Ohio Congressman Marcy Kaptur, who defeated former congressman Dennis Kucinich when their legislative districts were eliminated when GOP officeholders redrew their districts, forcing them to run against each other, said the GOP in Washington is so inept that it couldn’t even pass a farm bill, major legislation that both parties historically have agreed to work together on. Kaptur said the penchant for GOP lawmakers to take aware food from hungry people is a sign of just how low they have sunk. A recent Gallup Poll says the nation’s favorable outlook about Congress has dropped to historic lows.
Awards went to former Congressman Betty Sutton, Fred Strahorn, an Ohio House Member from Dayton, volunteers Carol DePaolo and Andy DiPalma, Bridgette Tupes, Pamela Watson, Stuart Garson and Nan Whaley, a Montgomery County Commissioner who hopes to become the next Mayor of Dayton, home of the Wright Brothers and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Amy Klobuchar, the granddaughter of a Slovenian grandfather who worked deep in the iron ore mines of Northern Minnesota, got a laugh from the crowd when she said Minnesota had the only museum dedicated to spam — the “GuggenHam” she said it’s called. Klobuchar arrived in the Senate when Brown did, in 2006, and said “Made in the United States of America” should be the label the world needs to see more of. Rewards should go to job creators, not tax cuts to Wall Street.
As one of the 20 women in the US Senate, Klobuchar said with a laugh that for the first time ever, “there was a traffic jam” in the women’s room in the US Senate.
She called for a Constitutional Amendment to override the US Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens-United, which removed allowed individuals, corporations and other groups to give limitless amounts of money to third party groups to influence elections.
She also bragged that Minnesota has the highest voter turnout because same day voter registration is legal there. Klobuchar said she wants a national same day voter registration law, but that’s impossible as long as Republicans control the House, as they do now, or the Senate as could happen next year if Democrats cannot defend their 3-seat majority. Two senators caucus with Democrats giving them a 55-45 majority over Republicans. She’s also a fan of the so-called standing philibuster, saying she wants them to “speak, speak and speak.”
One of the interesting features of last night’s annual dinner was an electric guitar rendition of the National Anthem, played in a style that for some in the crowd, recalled the now famous rendition played by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in the State of New York in 1969 that simulated the sounds of dropping bombs and transitioned into Purple Haze, one of Hendrix’s great psychedelic masterpieces of the day.
Earlier in the day, at a meeting of the State Executive Committee, resolutions opposing SB 47 and voting restrictions, among others, were adopted by acclimation.
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