Last Sunday afternoon, July 9th, I attended a meet-and-greet for Democratic candidates at the upscale Eton Collection shopping mall in the Village of Woodmere, Ohio, a tiny but prosperous and predominantly African-American municipality in Cleveland's eastern suburbs. The event was organized by Woodmere resident Clover Elliot, and Woodmere Mayor Yolanda Brody was on hand to welcome the candidates.
The stated purpose of the event was to encourage voters to get to know the candidates personally, and to that end the hosts had set up a circle of large color photographs on easels, with the idea that voters could use the photographs to identify and greet the candidates as they stood nearby. This was a good plan, but unfortunately most of the candidates arrived late, and Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Brunner had to cancel her appearance. Nevertheless, former state senator and current Supreme Court candidate Ben Espy stood dutifully by his photograph and greeted many people, and Ohio Democratic Party Chair Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island)
and 8th Ohio House District candidate Armond Budish (D-Beachwood), who is running unopposed, were also on hand to talk to voters. I spoke briefly to all three, Redfern telling me that he never reads blogs (and then reversing himself to say that of course he has read my stuff), Budish giving me his usual warm and friendly greeting, and Espy impressing me with a very concise, impromptu discussion of the school funding issue. Espy also promised to get me the URL for his future campaign web site
, which will be activated soon.
Above is a shot of Budish talking to Espy. I have met Budish several times and like him a lot. He is a partner in a small Beachwood law firm and has written a column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the law for years, especially as it relates to his special interest of protecting the rights of seniors. His spouse was also present.
Above is Redfern talking to a couple of voters. He had a stack of cards and handed them out freely, so I also gave him mine when we spoke. I praised his energy as Chairman and his efforts to take on the Republicans in all 88 counties.
In addition to candidates, I enjoyed talking to frequent blog commenter Ambercat, blogger Rob Hawkins of NEO Hawk
and Planet NEO
, and blogger Jill Miller Zimon of Writes Like She Talks
. (Jill blogged about this event on Monday here
.) I also met Becky Thomas and Judy Kramer of the interesting grassroots organization Patriots for Change
, based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, which works in a bipartisan way for change in the political direction of Ohio and the nation.
The principal organizer, Clover Elliot, welcomed the crowd and began the presentations.
Supreme Court candidate Ben Espy was the first candidate to speak. He said that he is running because he could see that the issues he worked on as a state senator for many years were not being handled properly by the Ohio Supreme Court. In particular, he said that it is appalling that the DeRolph
school funding litigation has dragged on for a decade with no remedy imposed to fix the unconstitutional system. He stressed the importance of having different viewpoints on the court, both with respect to party affiliation (retiring Justice Alice Robie Resnick, whose seat Espy seeks, is currently the only Democrat on the seven member court) and legal background (Espy has never been a judge but has served as a military lawyer in the JAG Corps, in the Ohio Attorney General's office, and in the legislature, as well as in private practice representing primarily labor unions). The Ohio State Bar Association has awarded Espy their highest ranking. Did you know that Espy played football for Woody Hayes at OSU?
Chris Redfern spoke briefly, thanking the organizers and Mayor Brody, and later brandishing a weeding tool that he had just purchased at the Smith & Hawken store in the mall. He suggested that all Democrats should buy one, to help weed out the Republicans.
Lieutenant Governor candidate Lee Fisher (D-Cleveland) spoke after Redfern and was very forceful and direct. (Unfortunately, my photos of him came out blurry because I was very close and he moved around a lot.) He said that there are three reasons why this is the most important statewide election in our lifetimes: (1) Ohio is in trouble (citing awful statistics on foreclosures, jobs, and the economy), which is a direct result of one-party Republican rule, (2) "all the marbles are in the state of Ohio," meaning that whoever is in the Governor's office will help determine who is elected President in 2008, and (3) maybe most important, gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) is running against a man "who has repeatedly violated the trust of the people of Ohio," citing abuses by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) that have deprived people of their right to vote. Fisher quoted the bumper sticker that says, "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention."
Armond Budish followed Fisher, saying that he is running because the state is in trouble and is falling further and further behind. He emphasized his work with seniors as well as the sorry state of education and health care. He asserted that health care should be a right, and contrasted the lack of movement in the Ohio General Assembly with steps taken in Vermont and Massachussetts to get health insurance coverage to people who don't have it.
After a period of waiting for additional candidates to arrive (during which I had a chance to talk to my politically active friends Ericka, Shana, and Wendy, who don't especially relish appearing in my blog so I won't say anything else about them), senatorial candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown addressed the crowd. He seemed unusually energetic and upbeat on Sunday, which in retrospect may have had something to do with his meeting with Paul Hackett the day before, and the fact that the unity rally had been set for the following day in Cincinnati. He emphasized the writing of legislation by corporations under Republican rule as exemplifying the "pay-to-play" culture of this administration, and contrasted his vote against the Iraq War with DeWine's support for it. He talked about meeting with military families and hearing about shortages of armor for soldiers and their Humvees, and about the underfunding of care for Veterans. He said that "this crowd in Columbus and Washington DC have betrayed the middle class, and have betrayed families who are struggling, who work hard and play by the rules." He asked the assembled crowd (there may have been about a hundred at the peak of attendance) to engage in the campaign to raise the minimum wage, and he asked each person to find five other people and get them to vote for the Democratic ticket. After an anecdote about his wife, Connie Schultz, and a mix up involving her car (it is also related in the transcript I posted of his remarks at the unity rally in Cincinnati on Monday), he closed by saying that if we all do what we know how to do between now and the election, we will wake up the morning after election day and see two headlines: "Democrats Win House and Senate" and "Ohio Turns Blue." During the Q and A he talked a bit about the Bush administration having no strategy to win the war or to get out of Iraq, and said that we should "declare victory based on getting rid of Saddam and make plans, based on what military officers say (not the civilians in the Pentagon) to get out in the next 1 1/2 to 2 years." He also fielded questions about gas prices (he linked this to developing alternative energy sources) and health care (mentioning the need for the Medicare program to be able to negotiate drug prices, and saying that employer-based providing of health care coverage should be reconsidered).
Ted Strickland followed Sherrod Brown. Strickland was animated and enthusiastic, calling out "Are you ready for change in Ohio?" and eventually abandoning the podium and microphone (the sound system wasn't working very well anyway) to roam around the front of the atrium. He asked if everybody was ready to work hard for the next 119 days, thanked us for our concern for the condition of the State of Ohio, and decried one-party rule in Columbus and Washington.
Strickland said that the Republican party has developed a callousness to ordinary people and have used their power to enrich themselves and their special interest friends. He called on the audience to vote to raise the minimum wage, speaking of his 80-year-old sister who at one time was forced to work for minimum wage for five years. On how to improve things in Ohio, he focussed on providing quality education ("We're getting to the place where class matters in getting a quality college education -- we can't allow this!") and making Ohio a leader in renewable alternative energy. In closing, he said that the other party has held onto power by using fear and hatred, and causing division, and people in Ohio are better than that. "We are going to call forth the best in Ohioans!" he declared.
Strickland called State Auditor candidate Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) to the podium, totally eclipsing the gentleman who was scheduled to introduce her. The chemistry between these two is great, as I saw at the OBLC pre-event before the ODP 2006 State Dinner in June.
Above is a shot of Sykes giving her "talk." Really it was like a pep rally. She exudes energy, speaking loudly and rhythmically and making sweeping gestures with her arms. She said that she was proud to have Sherrod Brown as her Congressman, and recognized Rep. Annie Keys (D-Cleveland) in the audience, as well as her husband, Ohio House of Representatives candidate Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), and her daughter, Amelia, who had travelled to the event with her. As to her race for Auditor, her pitch was very straightforward. Her job will be to make sure our money is safe, so it is there when we need it. We need to know where every penny goes, because every penny is needed. As State Auditor, she said, she will bring transparency ("opening the doors and raising the windows" is how she described it), and will tolerate no misuse or abuse of funds. "It is simple - it is not complicated," she sang out, "it is about protecting your money." ("I am the woman who can do it, I am the woman who will do it!") In closing she said that "we've got to do it for the children, for the helpless -- we've got to be the voice for the voiceless. Let's do it!"
Mayor Yolanda Brody closed the event by saying of Woodmere, which she described as a "beautiful place for beautiful people," that "although we're small, we're expecting big things out of change in Columbus."