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Conservatives gathered for a "citizens' town hall" meeting yesterday and said that if they organize and work hard enough, they can elect people to office, including Congress.
About 300 people attended the two-hour forum in the Maumee Indoor Theatre organized by local conservative groups with the goal of promoting what they consider to be founding principles of the United States.
Among them were a handful of candidates, including several planning to run for the 9th Congressional District seat held for 26 years by Toledo Democrat Marcy Kaptur.
Jeff Lydy, a Sylvania lawyer affiliated with the group Perrysburg Patriots, closed the meeting by urging political action.
"Next November, there will be an election in which we decide whether our freedom will continue to be taken away," Mr. Lydy said. "We need to commit to attending meetings, make phone calls, and support candidates who believe in the founding principles of our country, and if we do, we'll take back our country in 2010."
There may be some differences to iron out first. Ralph Harrison, 65, of Sandusky, who said he's planning to take on Miss Kaptur, drew muttering and boos when he called the War on Terror "blowback for our being over there."
The speakers included former Toledo Police Chief Jack Smith, who said the fear he experienced on duty doesn't compare to the fear he feels for his country.
"There are obviously issues that are of concern to a lot of people in the country. I see a coalescing of conservatives on both sides of the aisle," he said.
Chris Joseph, a Toledo lawyer, said he is unhappy with Miss Kaptur. He said he disagrees with the "cap and trade" environmental legislation she supported aimed at forcing utilities to shift from fossil fuel energy sources such as coal to renewable sources such as sunlight and wind. He said it's not good for Toledo's economy.
"I'm very upset with Marcy. She won't meet with us. She won't have [health care] town halls. I don't agree with most of her votes," Mr. Joseph said.
Miss Kaptur said last night that she has met with groups who have come to Washington to oppose the health-care bill, and noted she had a "tele-town meeting" on the bill before the vote. Everyone who had contacted her office about the bill was contacted and invited to participate.
"I've been meeting with people on a regular basis," she said.
Miss Kaptur, meanwhile, voted for the environmental bill in June, but she won passage of a $3.5-billion borrowing authority to develop public infrastructure in the Great Lakes states.
Miss Kaptur reacted to the conservatives' targeting of her seat in Congress by saying, "We have a free system. I think people can run. I think it's healthy for our republic."
The group also heard from Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski, a Republican, who said he got elected two years ago by reaching out to voters who felt they weren't being heard. He said the group needs to bring in more people.
The tone was largely businesslike and informative, with some people saying they came just to hear what was being said.
There was none of the homemade posters seen at conservative "tea party" rallies that have attacked President Obama with references to Nazis and socialism.
Outside the theater, three people protested the conservative gathering by pretending to be wealthy protectors of the current health-care system. Wearing fake diamonds and carrying champagne glasses, the "Billionaires for Wealthcare" also waved signs saying, "Thank You for Protecting Our Wealth."
Inside the theater, several speakers said the protesters proved that those at the meeting were making an impact.
"We have protesters out front. I find that extremely exciting," said Linda Bowyer of Perrysburg, the emcee for the event. "I honor that they're here. Maybe we can change their minds. I doubt it."
Despite the emphasis on politics, Ms. Bowyer said their purpose is to educate, not to recruit and endorse candidates.
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