MOUNT VERNON — The celebration was muted at the 2009 Knox County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, held Monday evening at The Dan Emmett Conference Center. Speakers Kevin DeWine and State Sen. Jon Husted spoke of rebuilding and refocusing the party after national and state loses in recent elections, but praised the local organization, saying that the way to restore the party was from the grassroots up.
Not all the evening was somber, however, as Shirley A. Fletcher was named the 2009 Knox County Republican of the Year, immediately following spirited bidding on a year’s supply of Fletcher’s fresh-made pies.
“Her dedication and tireless efforts working on behalf of the Knox County Republican Party are well known and span several decades,” said Carol Sue Owens, who presented the award.
Not knowing about the award beforehand, Fletcher was nonetheless ready to speak her mind in support of the party and against elements of the Democrats’ recently passed economic stimulus package, including making fun of funding in Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district for the conservation of wetlands which would protect, among other animals, the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.
“I don’t even know if they’re good to eat,” Fletcher quipped. “They might be, on a stick, if you French fried them, dip them in hot sauce.”
DeWine, the Ohio Republican Party chairman, was the keynote speaker, addressing the future of the party. He didn’t mince words when it came to the party’s losses in recent elections.
“We failed to lead when it mattered,” DeWine said, quoting Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes who said “there’s nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.” DeWine said the task now is to rebuild the Republican Party from the grassroots up, not from the top down.
“We will earn back the voters’ trust,” DeWine said, by focusing on the traditional Republican platform, fielding strong candidates and developing relationships with local organizations.
DeWine went on to criticize Ohio Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland for proposing a budget full of new fees, which Strickland says are not taxes. DeWine said such leadership is not sufficient.
“I’m not going to stand up here and tell you it’s easy to be governor of this state, right now,” DeWine said. “But what this state needs is a leader, not a caretaker.”
Husted followed DeWine with a speech that dwelt mainly on uniting people around conservative values, which he said the party had strayed away from at the federal level. Like DeWine, he drew particular attention to the issue of the future elections of Ohio governor, state auditor and secretary of state, who will be in charge of the next drawing of the state’s legislative districts.
Other state politicians were also on hand, passing out campaign literature, including 17th District Rep. Josh Mandel, who is testing the waters for a possible run for Ohio state treasurer.
Toastmaster Lou Petros hosted the evening, which included contributions by Thom Collier, Bill Moody, Margaret Ann Ruhl, Jennifer Springer and Paul Dove. When it came time to salute the volunteers who staffed the 2008 presidential election Republican headquarters office, Petros unrolled a scroll which spilled over the podium, stretching onto the floor.
For the fundraising auction, bidding opened at $1,000 for a year’s supply of Fletcher’s pies, which auctioneer Jerry Scott affirmed were of the highest quality, and tasted better the more one paid for them. Mount Vernon auditor Terry Scott won the bidding at $1,700, over county coroner Jennifer Ogle, but when Ogle agreed to match the price, the auctioneer asked Fletcher if she would be willing to bake a second set of pies. She agreed.
Fletcher ended the program with her acceptance speech for Republican of the Year, saying that Lincoln said it best at the end of his Gettysburg Address: “Of the people, by the people, for the people ...”
“That sums up what we need to do,” Fletcher said.