By Dave DeWitt
Athens County Democrats kicked off the general election season Saturday by opening campaign headquarters on East State Street in Athens, an event headlined by Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, the party's nominee for U.S. Senate.
Many city and country Democratic elected officials came out for the event to show their support for Fisher, as well as for the county Commissioner Lenny Eliason and state Rep. Debbie Phillips, both up for re-election.
Athens County Democratic Party chair Bill Bias made introductions during the event, which was part of a much larger grassroots kick-off happening statewide. Bias said similar events were being held at over 100 locations across the state.
Fisher said that this election is different from recent ones for Democrats, because instead of the wind being at the party's back, it is now in its face.
"When the wind is in your face, it's the real test," he said. "The test of whether your values and your principles were just a fad or a fleeting moment, or whether they are actually the bedrock of what we are all about."
He said he wants this election to reaffirm the commitment to values that got Democrats elected in previous election cycles.
Being in the middle of a deep recession, Fisher said, it is important to remind voters how the country got here.
"It was brought to us by those who got us into a war on a mistaken premise, who wanted to privatize Social Security... people who believe that if you give tax cuts to the wealthiest it will trickle down to the people in Athens County," he said, referring to the Republicans.
He said that since Democrats have taken office, Republicans have been nay-saying and attempting to obstruct progress.
"If it weren't for the Democrats in this country, we would be over the cliff, not backing away from it," he said. "And now we find ourselves in a position where the choice in all these races will be for the past or for the future."
He slammed the Republican gubernatorial candidate, former U.S. Rep. John Kasich, for his history in investment banking with Lehman Brothers, which was responsible for the largest bankruptcy in American history back in 2008. He also slammed his Republican opponent for the U.S. Senate, former U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, for serving as former President George W. Bush's Office of Management and Budget Director.
"He was the one who said if you have the tax cuts for the wealthiest and privatize Social Security and you deregulate Wall Street then we will all benefit," Fisher said. "This was the person, along with John Kasich, who was holding the shovel as they dug the deepest economic ditch in our lifetime."
In an interview following his speech, Fisher acknowledged that independent voters would be a crucial group to reach this election.
"I think that Democrats, Republican and independents are all angry." he said. "But it is not a question of whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. It's whether you're an Ohioan for common sense values who will stop trying to score cheap political points and will get things done for the people by focusing on good jobs and good wages and not tax breaks for people who send jobs overseas."
He said he has confidence in the fairness and common sense of Ohio voters in seeing that Washington needs to be fixed and it's time to focus on the future and not return to the same people and same policies that got the country into this economic turmoil in the first place.
For her part, Rep. Phillips said that this is a very challenging time for a lot of people in southeast Ohio and across the state.
"Having Ted Strickland in the Governor's office, and having out leadership in the House, we've got people who care about regular folks, and who have these issues in the forefront of our mind," she said.
She criticized the partisanship and political games that are being played at a time when government needs to step up and help the most.
Phillips faces former Ohio State Patrol Athens Post commander Mike Hunter, a Republican, and Ty Collinsworth, a Green Party candidate, in the general election.
Commissioner Eliason said he looks forward to working with Phillips and Fisher after they are all elected in the fall because it is important to have friends at various levels of government to help provide services for the people.
"This race is important because if we let the Republicans get control of the commissioners office, while maintaining control of the (county) auditor's office, there are huge implications for the Democratic office holders of this county," he said.
Eliason faces Larry Conrath Realty agent Matt Gaiser in the general election.