Monday, September 08, 2008

OH 07: My Day with Sharen Neuhardt

I had the opportunity to get away from my keyboard and get out into the world of the real campaigns Sunday as I was invited by Sharen Neuhardt to travel with her for a day on the campaign trail. Sharen who is the Democratic Candidate for Congress in the 7th district has been a workhouse traveling hundreds of miles every week through out her very long district that encompasses at least part or all of Clark, Fairfield, Franklin, Fayette, Pickaway, Greene, Ross and Perry Counties. The district is 2848 square miles and over 110 miles from end to end.

Sunday which was a light day for her schedule began at 9 am at her home in Greene County, traveling over to Powell ohio, northwest of Columbus to attend the Teamsters local 413 Family Picnic at the Columbus Zoo and Zoombezi Bay.

Though I was not yet with Sharen at this stop its my understanding she had to opportunity to introduce herself and talk to a number of the union members and their families.

The next stop was in Northwest Fairfield County to meet up with two more members of her staff and to pick me up at a local restaurant in Pickerington. A bit of small world irony here as we all got a chuckle at what else was at the same restaurant.

We then began our hour and a half trip to the town of Corning in Perry County. Along the way I had the opportunity to get to know Sharen. I was impressed on her grip and understanding of the issues and the needs of her district. This is no small task considering her district encompasses everything from the military families and workers in Fairborne who work at the Wright Patterson Air force Base, affluent families in suburbs of major cities such as the residents of Beavercreek near Dayton and Pickerington near Columbus, to small rural towns in Appalachia that had their hey day in the coal mining boom.

I asked Sharen why with her comfortable career as an attorney why she would decide to put in all this work, travel and sleep deprivation to run for Congress. She had an answer I respect. Because she got mad. She watched what was going on in this country and how things were going in Congress and she felt she had the ability to do something about it now, rather then let these problems be passed on to her children's generation as they were passed on unsolved to ours.

We discussed how the 7th district has been represented by a Republican since 1932 and though the Hobson put most of his attention on the western part of the district, the central and eastern parts, such as Circleville, Lancaster and New Lexington had little attention during his tenor.

Along our drive through the hills of Perry county we took notes of towns like Shawnee that were clearly once bustling towns in the past now decaying and show the poverty that is now evident in an area that has lost its primary industry, coal. We arrived at the Perry County Democratic Club Picnic and Forum at a community park in Corning Ohio around 3:15pm

After listening to one of the local residents giving a historical presentation about Perry County Democratic Politics in the 1960's the candidates and a representative of the Obama campaign had the opportunity to speak for a few moments.

Sharen spoke to the group about the importance of electing Democrats from Barrack Obama and to Congress and to local races, such as Sheriff and County Clerk. She talked about how Steve Austria her Republican opponent was the "hand picked" one to be appointed to Congress in the 7th district by the Republican party. But Sharen said that we changed that kind of politics in 1776. She also pointed out on the issues that effect Perry County that "We do not ever get anything done unless we change the people in office."

From Corning we then traveled over to U.S. 33 up through Lancaster and arrived at the Violet Township Bicentennial Picnic in Pickerington Ohio.

Here I watched Sharen as she moved through the crowd listening and talking to citizens in attendance at the event. She introduced her self and listened to and discussed issues that concerned the people she talked to. Sharen told me she had talked to a woman who ran the Pickerington Food Bank, and what was surprising to me is that in what is seen as a fairly affluent area, the food bank is serving more and more people every day. She spoke of some elderly citizens that asked for less items in assistance from the Food Bank as they were concerned that there would be enough for the children and families also having need to use the services. She also stated that some were coming to the food bank less often due to the inability to afford the gas to get there.

Also at this event I had the opportunity to speak with some of Sharen's very talented staff. There are media and logistic challenges because of the shape and size of the 7th District but a unique challenge this year was attracting volunteers. The good news is there are legions of volunteers working with the Obama campaign the bad news is that leaves few to work on the down ticket races. However, the assistance and cooperation between the campaigns is helping a great deal.

I arrived back at my car at about 7pm and was exhausted. I can't imagine doing this every day as they do.

A few points of observation in summary. Sharen is an impressive hard working candidate. She has an understanding and can relate to the most affluent in Pickerington, to the union workers of the teamsters, to the struggling unemployed in Appalachia. One thing for sure, no matter how this race turns out, it will not be because Sharen didn't give her all.

It is imperative that all of us not only work for Barrack Obama but for our congressional candidates as well. To achieve the change and progress we all hope for and this country needs, it will take more then any President it will take people like Sharen Neuhardt in Congress. So fellow bloggers and readers, write away, but also get away from that keyboard and hit the streets for our candidates.

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Blogger mud_rake said...

Thank you for that complete and detailed report. I find it odd that a county could vote GOP for 70 years in a row. How mindless!

11:08 PM  

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