Local Democratic supporters celebrate, work to strengthen ties ahead of inauguration



Sen Sherrod Brown and wife Connie Schultz at an Ohio gala at the Mayflower Hotel on Saturday.
Sen Sherrod Brown and wife Connie Schultz at an Ohio gala at the Mayflower Hotel on Saturday.

Updated: Last paragraph has been replaced

WASHINGTON — Ohio Democrats started arriving in force Saturday for Monday’s inauguration of Democratic President Obama, some to sightsee until the swearing-in ceremony, some to party with fellow Dems at the swanky Mayflower Hotel, and some to keep working on politics.

The state party sponsored a gala at the Mayflower on Connecticut Avenue with about 500 tickets sold, according to Bill DeMora, president of the 2013 Ohio Celebration Committee.

“I would say over 200 tickets were bought the last week and a half. Since Wednesday, we’ve been over 500. I’ve been nonstop answering phone calls,” Mr. DeMora said.

Democrats decked out in suits or gowns filled the hotel for the party that started at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $250 a person, and the price included dinner and an open bar.

Guests were welcomed by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Among the guests was Ed FitzGerald, executive of Cuyahoga County, an all-but-announced candidate for governor of Ohio in 2014.

Mr. Brown told the crowd that his mother and father met in the Mayflower in 1945 at a social event sponsored for returning World War II soldiers.

He thanked the crowd for supporting his and the President’s re-election campaigns in 2012. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Pell Grants, a lot of work to do to move this country forward and to grow this economy,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. FitzGerald said Ohio Democrats were taking “a little extra pride because Ohio was so central to this election a second time in a row — in the face of an unprecedented amount of spending from the other side.”

He said the gala was an important place for a statewide candidate to be Saturday night.

“I think it’s important, not just this event but other ones like it, to start building those statewide connections,” Mr. FitzGerald said. He said he’ll make his announcement sometime in the first quarter of this year.

Present were U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Niles) and recent former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton (D., Barberton), who also are exploring a run for governor against Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Mr. Strickland, who has decided not to run again, said of the political candidates who were on hand: “This is an important gathering because the people here tend to be the most active people within the party. Anyone who has any intention of running statewide ought to be here.”

One oft-mentioned potential candidate not present was Richard Cordray, former Ohio treasurer and attorney general, and now director of the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Several people said restrictions on federal employees attending political events prevented his attendance.

The Miami University of Ohio Marching Band, which will march in the Inaugural Parade, performed in the lobby as the party got started.

Former Toledoan Joan Coleman, now a resident of Potomac Falls, Va., where her daughter, Linda Coleman, lives with her husband and son, was present, as was her son, Michael Coleman, 1973 graduate of St. John’s Jesuit High School and now in his 14th year as Columbus’ mayor.

Mr. Coleman said beating Mr. Kasich “is a substantial challenge, but he’s beatable.”

Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern said the party has a “deep bench” when it comes to fielding a statewide slate next year. He said the party’s job will include reminding Ohioans who was “on their side” when the auto manufacturers were threatened with being forced out of business by the recession of 2008.

President Obama and Democrats in Congress backed a taxpayer-funded bailout that rescued both Chrysler and General Motors, and the auto rescue helped the President carry Ohio, which attracted the most advertising and presidential visits of any state in the 2012 campaign.

Among those arriving in Washington on Saturday were Cathleen and Brian Johns of Sylvania. Mrs. Johns, 54, was the Obama campaign’s regional volunteer coordinator for western Lucas County.

“I know quite a few people who are coming. We made a pledge to each other if we pulled this out, we were going to go [to the inauguration],” said Mrs. Johns, a homemaker. Mr. Johns owns a heating and air conditioning business. They are staying at the Capitol Hilton. Mrs. Johns is scheduled to speak this morning at an event that focuses on plans to carry out Mr. Obama’s agenda the next four years.

Another Obama campaign volunteer from Lucas County, 18-year-old Peter Funk of Maumee, toured the downtown museums with his mother, Julie Funk. The young Funk was a team leader and fall organizing fellow serving mostly in east Maumee.

“I maybe swayed a few votes. It was more making sure people had all the information,” he said of his political work. He’s a senior at Maumee Valley Country Day School.

“Maumee’s a fairly Democratic town, so it was mostly reinforcing facts about the President,” Mr. Funk said. He was planning to meet up with his girlfriend, Madeline Reeve, who lives in Florida.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.