ASHTABULA, Ohio — Labor, civil rights, family farm and community allies rallied here Aug. 21 to kick off the campaign to elect Democrats in November.
The occasion was the opening of the county Democratic headquarters, but the event had been initiated by a grassroots progressive coalition.
Wally Kaufman, vice president of the AFL-CIO Retirees Council, said he and activists from the NAACP, the Farmers Union and other groups had planned a picnic to mobilize for the elections, but at the request of the Democrats, agreed to combine the event with the opening of the party’s headquarters.
“We plan to set up an Ashtabula Progressive Forum to hear speakers and discuss issues, especially in relation to the elections,” he said.
Kim Parker, president of the Democratic Women’s Caucus welcomed about 50 people in attendance to the brightly lit storefront stressing the critical battle shaping up. George Williams, president of the NAACP, also gave words of greetings and an invocation.
Ray Gruber, president of the Ashtabula AFL-CIO, said labor was already making 20,000 calls a week, on behalf of its endorsed candidates, out of phone banks throughout the state.
He said the race for the U.S. Senate seat left open by the retirement of Republican Senator George Voinovich was critical. There could not be a clearer choice, he said, than between Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, the Democrat, and Rob Portman, the Republican, who served as trade representative and budget director under President George W. Bush.
“Portman was the architect of the Free Trade Agreements and budget policies that have cost Ohio hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said.
Diana Sowry, secretary of the AFL-CIO, warned about the intense anger felt by many young people in the community.
“They feel they have no future. We need to hit the streets and fight back against the dark force,” she said, referring to the Republicans. She urged people to take part in the national march on Washington for jobs, peace, education and justice set for Oct. 2.
Bill O’Neill, Democratic candidate for Congress, said there is deep-seated anger about the bailout of the banks and the unfunded wars.
“Now there is also growing fear,” he said. “Young people are in debt. The dreams of a safe, secure retirement are disappearing. Home values are gone.”
He called for efforts to stop the continuing loss of jobs by ending tax breaks for corporations that go overseas and insisting that wind turbines and other equipment in new green energy industries be manufactured in the United States. He also called for tax incentives for small business to create jobs.
Kevin Boyce, candidate for state Treasurer, stressed the importance of re-electing Gov. Ted Strickland and the Democratic slate of statewide candidates.
Strickland, he said, a “people’s candidate, you can trust.” His opponent, John Kasich, however, was an executive with Lehman Brothers, the giant Wall St. bank that collapsed last September. Kasich is calling for privatizing the state’s department of economic development, which would end transparency and open the door to corruption.
Photo: Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce, right, files petitions to be on the 2010 ballot. (ProgressOhio/CC)