District Notebook - Candidates connect with voters via fairs and festivals
By Edd Pritchard
With summer winding down, the number of opportunities for candidates to meet voters at fairs and festivals are becoming fewer.
So the two men state senators John Boccieri and Kirk Schuring who seek to replace U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula in Congress are taking advantage of every chance to meet with voters.
Both have booths at the Stark County Fair under the grandstand. Schuring, R-Jackson Township, actually has a booth at each entrance, getting to use space that had been used by Regula.
Boccieri, D-Alliance, has been holding "fairside chats" during the fair, hoping to engage voters in conversations on different issues. Education was the topic Thursday, the economy was Friday, and health care was Saturday. Monday will be a surprise topic, Boccieri's staff said.
Thursday's education discussions were backed up by educators Kathleen Purdy, a Plain Local Schools teacher, and Sue Ryan, an Alliance resident who has served as principal in area Catholic schools.
Both argued that school financing must be changed and questioned the emphasis on student test scores. "We actually spend time telling them how to fill in the spaces," Purdy said of the focus on testing.
Schuring had no special programs for fair week, other than talking with voters. The conversations have covered education, gasoline prices, the economy and immigration issues, Schuring said. "People right now are concerned. They're concerned about a lot of issues in Washington that aren't being addressed."
MORE TO COME
Both campaigns expect to take advantage of upcoming fairs in Wayne and Ashland counties. A few festivals still remain, and there always are high school football games when the candidates and their supporters can campaign.
Going to the crowd makes it a little easier to get the message out, the candidates said.
"It's like a huge town hall meeting," Schuring said of the events. "They pick the subjects, and I listen to what's on their mind."
Boccieri said the events are a way to get beyond the 30-second sound bite.
"It's important to get in front of voters and hear what their concerns are," he said.
SUPPORT FOR SCHURING
Schuring has been named as a "friend of agriculture" by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's Agriculture for Good Government Political Action Committee. Recognition goes to candidates deemed best able to represent the interests of Ohio's citizens and Farm Bureau members.
Naturally, Schuring appreciates receiving the designation, which is based on a current legislator's voting record on bills the Farm Bureau identifies as top priority.
"Much of Northeast Ohio is supported by small family farms, and it's an integral part of our economy," Schuring said.
LIKES VP CHOICE
Schuring praised Republican presidential candidate John McCain's decision to choose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
It's a bold choice, Schuring said, adding that he considers Palin a proven leader who has strong values.
"Moreover, she is a reformer who will work with John McCain to fix Washington and address issues like enhancing our competitiveness in the global economy, reducing energy costs and making health care more affordable," Schuring said.
Dennis Johnson, listed as a tracker for the Ohio Democratic Party, has kept a close watch on Schuring's campaign. So close that Schuring folks weren't surprised to see Johnson at the Stark County Fair this past week.
Johnson always has a digital camera to record Schuring. Thursday evening he filmed near the Boccieri and Schuring booths, drawing raised eyebrows from those who didn't know him.
Eventually he drew the attention of fair officials.
Johnson showed his Ohio Democratic Party credentials, and fair officials determined he shouldn't be filming around the grandstand. After talking with fair officials, Johnson decided to leave.
But Johnson likely will be around when Schuring attends other events. Schuring believes the goal is to catch him in a gaffe, saying the wrong thing. "They're after the 'YouTube' moment," he said.
That's not the case, counters Alex Goepfert, the state party's communications director. "We obviously want a camera rolling in the event that Kirk Schuring finally decides to address issues like his vote for the single biggest tax increase in state history," Goepfert said.
Both parties have been using trackers for several years to film opposing candidates at events. And yes, some of those films have landed on YouTube and other Web sites.