LIMA — Due to the “Meet the Candidates” legislative reception held Wednesday night, attendees will be able to attach faces to the names they’ll see when they head to the voting booth this November.
The hour-long event served as a non-partisan forum that gave each candidate five minutes to expound upon their ideas, abilities and visions for the offices they’ve been pursuing over the last year. In total, seven candidates stepped behind the podium. Four of the seven — Court of Appeals Judge John Willamowski, Common Pleas court judicial candidate Terri Kohlrieser, Allen County Auditor candidate Rachael Gilroy and Allen County Treasurer candidate Evalyn Shaffner — are running unopposed this election.
The remaining three — Democratic candidate Janet Garrett running for Ohio’s 4th Congressional District, her Republican opponent Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and state Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, running for re-election — have opponents in November. Cupp’s Democratic opponent, Tristam Cheeseman, was invited to the event, but he did not appear.
Due to Jordan and Garrett pursuing offices on the federal level, they were each given 10 minutes to address the crowd. Their brief speeches offered not only competing visions for the country to voters, but they relied on competing narratives as the foundation for their ideas.
“We need more representatives that care. We need more people who are willing to reach across the deep divide that we have in this country. I am very concerned about the deep divide,” Garrett said.
Along proof of what the “deep divide” may lead to, Garrett referenced national news that revealed that major Democratic leaders, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, recently received pipe bombs in the mail. Offices at CNN were also sent bombs.
“I believe what our leaders say matters. What our leaders say sets the tone and what our leaders should be doing is helping to unite us and help us reach across the aisle and towards each other instead of clenching our fists,” Garrett said.
A question from the crowd asked Garrett if she supported some Democratic protesters who have worked to publicly shame conservative leaders like Sen. Ted Cruz and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in restaurants.
“I want you to know that I don’t support that. I am very strongly opposed to that as a tactic. I think that we can disagree without being disagreeable,” Garrett said.
In comparison, Jordan presented the election as a choice between either a Trump-led country or a country restricting free speech.
”I don’t think the choice could be any clearer. When you think about this election across the country, look at the vision in where the Democrats want to take the country versus the leadership of the president for the last 21 months,” Jordan said.
“I don’t mean this to sound overly dramatic, but I do believe this. I think there is an attack on freedom taking place in our country right now.” Jordan said. “Jefferson had a great line: ‘When government fears the people there is liberty. When people fear the government, there is tyranny.’ Just ask yourself which direction you think we are trending as a nation.”
As evidence of these “attacks,” Jordan presented four events that hit the national news cycle in the last decade — social media shadow-banning of conservative officials, the IRS using intense scrutiny when challenging conservative political groups, free speech zones at universities and the Steele dossier’s role in investigations into President Donald Trump.
Jordan said such restrictions on free speech can lead to situations experienced by communist countries in the late 1980s.
“When you restrict free enterprise, bad things happen. That’s what happens when you move in that direction,” Jordan said.
After the forum, Garrett had plans to attend a “Jim Jordan retirement party” at the Allen County Democrat campaign headquarters, and Jordan visited the Allen County Patriots.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.