Elected officials, candidates and local activists filled the room of the Elks Lodge in Marietta at the Washington County Spring Democratic Dinner Friday evening with a call to action to keep and bring more Democrats into office.
Local judges, council members, mayors, Democratic committee members and candidates for positions in Ohio's House and U.S. Congress joined together for the biannual event held just before the primary elections on May 6.
With keynote speaker Joan Johntony, the state president of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, the evening highlighted a push for Democrats of Washington and surrounding counties to continue to fight for Democratic policies and candidates all the way through to November.
JACKIE RUNION The Marietta Times
Keynote Speaker Joan Johntony, the president of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, addresses the crowd at the Washington County Spring Democratic Dinner on Friday evening.
"It's important for all of us Democrats to be out there, working for this," Johntony said. "And there is no excuse to not be at the polls."
In a fiery and laugh-driven speech, Johntony, who has served as the president of OAPSE for almost 30 years, warned the audience of what a future will look like with Republicans in office.
"The Democrats take care of families, and the Republicans want to screw them," Johntony said. "They don't know the struggle."
Primary election: Tuesday, May 6
Charlie Daniels-Running for 95th Ohio House District
Jennifer Garrison-Running for 6th Congressional District
Greg Howard-Running for 6th Congressional District
Johntony highlighted the need to get current governor John Kasich and fellow Republicans out of office immediately, describing him as "vicious," a problem that cannot be solved, she said, by constantly putting them all back in office year after year.
"Teach those principles to your kids and grandkids, and make sure they're Democrats," Johntony said. "If you're Democrats, you will survive, but if you're Republicans, you will suffer, your businesses will suffer, and your families will suffer."
Candidates currently running for office offered their comments at the dinner and asked for community support in the primary and general elections, where voters will choose their party's candidates to run in the November election.
Jennifer Garrison, running for the Democratic ticket for the 6th U.S. Congressional District, is the endorsed candidate of the Ohio Democratic Party.
"We need to change the people we are sending to Washington," Garrison said.
Garrison pleaded to fellow Democrats about the necessity to draw attention back to the middle class, noting that current incumbent Republican Bill Johnson has voted against what is best for the region.
"He cares more about being in Congress than he cares about representing a group of people," Garrison said.
She also noted her concern about the state of finance reform in relationship to Citizens United, the court case that is closely tied to the idea of a corporation being held on equal footing as an individual.
"It needs to be about 'one person, one vote' and I'm concerned it has become 'one dollar, one vote,'" Garrison said.
Greg Howard, who is running against Garrison for the Democratic nomination for the 6th District, said he decided to run because he realized he needed to help bring change himself.
"One of the reasons I'm running is my wife, and the old saying 'Shut up and do something about it,' so here I am," Howard said.
Howard spoke about the importance of labor unions, which were well-represented at the dinner, from pipefitters to teachers.
"I'd much rather work a union job, because it's the union workers who are trained, have that apprenticeship and know what they're doing," he said.
Charlie Daniels, who is running against incumbent Republican Andy Thompson for the Ohio House's 95th District, touted his lifelong ties to the Ohio Valley.
"Andy grew up in Iowa; and I grew up up the river," Daniels said. "This area is important to me, and I need your help, I need letters to the editors, and I need you to reach out to family."
Daniels, like other candidates, urged Democrats to get family and friends registered and reach out with the messages and platforms.
He also stressed the importance of fighting for the jobs in Ohio for Ohioans, and said opponent Thompson has been avoiding the issue and taking the governor's position.
"Andy has worked more for Columbus than he has for his own hometown," Daniels said.
Also at the dinner, finishing up her eight-year tenure as the chairwoman of the Washington County Democratic Party, Molly Varner was recognized for her achievements and credited for helping to bring more Democrats into local office.
Local attorney Dennis Sipe, serving as emcee for the event, took Varner's shoes and held them up the crowd.
"Thank God they are small, but we still have to fill them," Sipe said.
Varner urged everyone to continue to fight through the primaries, through the general election and onward.
"We have to combat, and we have to be active, and we have to understand what roadblocks are in our way," Varner said. "As Democrats, we have to head out and strategize on how to get out our message and get it out to the community."