Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Monday, September 25

Sen: Party for Brown (D) Down on the Farm

Last Friday night my wife and I attended a fundraiser for Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) at the John Gaynor Family Farm in Ashtabula County. I've been to many rousing political events while blogging this momentous election year in Ohio, but Friday's was the most fun and one I'll always remember.

The John Gaynor Family Farm is on a two lane highway pretty far from any big town. When we arrived the lawn around the farmhouse was already full of parked cars and trucks, so we squeezed into a space near the barn and were greeted by this amazing donkey with illuminated eyes. I don't know where the Ashtabula Democrats came up with this, but I think that every county party across the state should have one. Then my wife and I met Betty Layport, who had invited us to the party, and her husband Duane Feher, Chairperson of the Ashtabula County Democratic Party, who urged us to help ourselves to dinner from the long buffet table set up next to the barn.

The food was incredible, beginning with wonderful fried chicken and roast beef and moving on to dozens of homemade side dishes, highlighted by powerful pickles made by State Rep. George Distel (D-Conneaut). Above is a shot of the sheet cake, on a special dessert table inside the barn, decorated with a photograph and the words "Our Man, Sherrod Brown." We shared the piece with the "B" on it. Good cake!

The folding tables set up diagonally across the dirt floor of the barn were packed. In the corner was a hay wagon for a stage, with a microphone and big speakers on the near side and bales of hay pushed to the back, and a footladder was lashed to one end so people could climb on and off. While my wife and I stood at one end to eat (plates propped on a stack of lumber against the wall), the entertainment began: a singer named Kathleen Horvath (pretty sure, although I couldn't confirm on Google) belted out some good country tunes with recorded accompaniment provided by a DJ with a big sound system.

Congressional candidate Lew Katz (D-Chesterland) and his wife Jan arrived after we were done eating, as did Sherrod Brown and his wife Connie Schultz. For Connie it was a homecoming of sorts, having grown up in Ashtabula County. Sherrod seemed right at home as well, having grown up on a family farm near Mansfield. We talked to him a bit about his appearance in the "nondebate debate" on WTAM Radio 1100 in Cleveland that afternoon, before Connie pulled him over to the buffet. I'm not sure how much they actually had a chance to eat, as there were many people wanting their attention.

The program started appropriately enough with the host, John Gaynor, working from notes on the back of an old envelope, who welcomed everybody and thanked the organizers and got some laughs with purely local humor having to do with the small size of the unincorporated settlement in which the farm is located. His family has been working the farm since the 1870s and he totally looks and sounds the part, right down to the cap and plaid shirt and the unaffected manner. A very nice man.

Gaynor was followed by Bryan Wolfe, an Ashtabula dairy farmer and President of the Geauga, Ashtabula, and Lake County Farmers Union. He talked about how the policies in Washington and Columbus seem to be designed to drive family farms to extinction, so a big change is needed. He revealed that he is a registered Repubublican, but he's supporting Sherrod Brown.

County party chairperson Duane Feher thanked the crowd for their dedication and compared them to the Minutemen of 1776. He said that it is going to be a big Democratic year, and joked that "we aren't even in office yet and we've brought down the price of gasoline by 75 cents."

Lew Katz had only a few minutes to speak but he was terrific. Picking up on Feher's reference to 1776, he said that it was time once again to "control a King George" by working against his rubberstamps, Mike DeWine and Steve LaTourette. Katz zeroed in on LaTourette's broken promises: his 1994 "Contract with America" promise to only serve four terms (he's running for his seventh); saying "you can count on me" to oppose CAFTA and then casting the deciding late-night vote in favor of it; and saying again "you can count on me" to vote against Bush's "lousy budget" but once again casting the deciding vote in favor. "He's turned his back on you, and it's time to turn our backs on him," Katz declared, to thunderous applause.

Sherrod Brown was more relaxed than usual, with his hands sometimes in his pockets and clearly very comfortable with the crowd. He started with a joke that made his wife groan, having to do with an Amish dairy farmer, purportedly a friend of his father, who is slow to anger as his cow repeatedly kicks over the milk pail. Finally the farmer confronts the cow and says "Cow, thou knowest that I shall not curse thee and thou knowest I shall not strike thee, but what thou doesn't knoweth is that I shall sell thee to the Lutheran farmer down the road who will beat the heck out of thee!" He thanked a lot of people by name, including former Congressman Dennis Eckard.

I love this shot of the other speakers all relaxing on bales of hay while Sherrod talks to the crowd. He reminded everyone that John Kerry won Ashtabula County in 2004. He recalled that everyone worked hard that year and thought that we had won -- "and maybe we did win" -- but promised that if we have the kind of sweep we should have in 2006 then things are going to be very different in 2008.

Here's a group shot after the program, with all the speakers, candidates, and organizers of the event posed by Betty Layport. I had to hold my camera up high because I was behind part of the buffet table (that's the handle of a bread basket in the foreground). In the front row (left to right) are Mardy Townsend, Judge Tom Harris, Marge Townsend, Diana Wolfe, Bryan Wolfe, Kim Whitcroft-Parker, and Tracey Housel. In the back row are Roger Corlett, State Rep. George Distel, Rep. Sherrod Brown, Lew Katz, John Gaynor, former congressman Dennis Eckart, county commissioner candidate Dan Claypool, and county party chair Duane Feher. We had a wonderful time at this event and I want to especially thank Betty and Duane for their warm welcome. As Betty said in an email afterward, it was a tremendous showing of Democrats and some Republicans "and it just doesn't get any better than that."


At 5:55 PM, Blogger Jill said...

How fun! Bloggers have the best jobs. Well, except for the pay. And the hours. And the...oh well - sounds like it was a great time.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Joe R said...

Nice pictures, can I steal them. (just kidding)

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