CANTON, Ohio - At a packed, enthusiastic meeting at Mayfield Manor, a local housing development for the elderly, the Alliance for Retired Americans, representing 19,000 retired Ohioans and more than four million retirees nationally, endorsed Rep. John Boccieri, D-Ohio, for reelection against Republican challenger Jim Renacci.
ARA Executive Director Ed Coyle said that he was "proud to be able to issue a strong and heartfelt endorsement of Congressman Boccieri, for his courageous stand defending retirees, his votes to protect Social Security, as well as his vote in favor of the new health care legislation, which contained many gains for senior Americans."
"It is disgusting," Coyle stated, "that the other side has resorted to lies directed at retirees and seniors, attempting to frighten them into voting against their own interests."
Boccieri said that he was honored to accept the retirees' endorsement, and that the thought "never crossed his mind to vote against seniors and retirees, no matter what the cost."
Ohio ARA Director Norm Wernet stated that his organization's endorsement was issued to counter the "lies" put out by groups like "60-plus," which, like a number of others, is a "phony front groups for the Chamber of Commerce and the insurance companies."
"They are unable to deal with the fact that Congress passed a reform that has allowed seniors to get health care coverage for preventative services, stopped insurance companies from using 'preexisting conditions' to deny coverage and that allows adults and seniors to keep their young relatives on their coverage," Wernet continued. "Instead, they've created front groups to lie to seniors and try to frighten them," Wernet stated.
Also present at the Mayfield meeting were members of the United Steelworkers of America, who also endorsed the incumbent, and SOAR, the USWA's retiree organization.
Speaking for the steelworkers, Dave Leasure, a Vietnam vet, stated that he was angry that he'd "fought in the jungles of Vietnam only to return home to America to see rich and greedy corporations steal the pensions we worked our entire lives to earn."
Paul Santilli, president of the Massillon chapter of SOAR, said that he had come to give Rep. Boccieri SOAR's endorsement, but also to ask the legislator to help them fight for the return of their pensions.
"This is one of the worst injustices I've ever witnessed," Boccieri stated, referring to the ongoing thefts of seniors' pensions. He went on to state that he was working in coordination with Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Betty Sutton, Democrats of Ohio, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to set up a Congressional field hearing to expose these injustices and to fight for the steelworker's pension rights.
Dan Fonte, the Mayfield Center's director, said that he was proud to welcome Boccieri.
"It amazes me," Fonte said,"how these front groups can take the fact that Congress passed legislation to stop overpaying private insurance companies out of Medicare's funds and call that 'cutting Medicare.' They strengthened Medicare, they did just the opposite of cutting it, and these guys still find a way to lie about this fine man!"
Boccieri stayed for over an hour, answering questions from the audience and exchanging with those present.
"I wasn't going to stay at first," said Angel Verro, a medical assistant at Mayfield. "I'm sure glad I did. I had a chance to talk with Congressman Boccieri and meet some people that are concerned about the same things I'm frustrated about. It was a great event!"
Photo: Boccieri with senior citizens // Boccieri for Congress