Sunday, October 2, 2005
Republicans rally to energize Event comes as GOP officials, hopefuls deal with challenges
By Dan Klepal
Enquirer staff writer
LEBANON - Candidates at times outnumbered voters at the Republicans Rock! event Saturday at the Warren County Fairgrounds, with local, state and national GOP officials and hopefuls stumping to define - or redefine - the image of a party facing a number of serious challenges after scandals in the governor's office, a razor-thin victory in a Congressional race in a Republican stronghold, and declining national support for the president.
Joel Schapp, a 40-year-old Maineville man who is a lifelong Republican, said recent events will cause him to take a very careful look at all the candidates in next year's primary.
"My political persuasion doesn't mean I believe everything in the party all the time," Schapp said. "Sometimes you need different types of leadership because people have been in too long and you need some fresh ideas. I'll be looking hard at all the candidates. That's why I get more out of (an event) like this, because I have time to absorb it."
Ken Blackwell, current secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate and a former Hamilton County commissioner, said voters are tired of candidates who "campaign like Ronald Reagan and govern like Dick Celeste," the later referring to Ohio's governor from 1983 until 1991 who held office during a time of large increases in the state income tax.
The other three GOP candidates for the governor's office - Betty Montgomery, Jim Petro and Pete Draganic - also were at the festival.
"The only way we're going to win in 2006 is to convince independents that the top of the ticket isn't hugging the status quo," Blackwell said. "We've got to get spending under control, and we've got to be honest - runaway spending happened on our watch. We need new leadership to come to Columbus and encourage Republican leaders to act like Republicans."
The day was all about energizing the Republican base, in one of the reddest districts in a red state. The event even garnered some national attention in Republican circles, given that it is the first event during a non-presidential election year geared toward raising awareness of GOP candidates and talking about ballot issues.
U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, who barely defeated Democratic challenger Paul Hackett in an August special election, said she doesn't think Saturday's event was a response to Republican woes. "This was planned last March," she said. "No party is ever 100 percent healthy. You always look internally to energize your base, and that's what we're doing today."