JEFFERSON – The Ashtabula County Republican Party gathered Feb. 25 for its annual Lincoln Day fundraiser dinner at the Jefferson Community Center, the largest gathering in many years, coming as it does in the heels of historic wins for the party in the 2016 election season.
A triumphal attitude permeated remarks throughout the event, beginning with opening speaker Austinburg Township Fiscal Officer David Thomas.
“It's a great time to be a Republican,” Thomas said. “We have six elected officials in Ashtabula County under age 30. We believe it's the people of the community, not the government, that work for change. We believe it's the people, not the government, who should decide our fate – as we saw in our last election.”
Ashtabula Republican Party Chair Charlie Frye said the over-200 crowd, filling the available seats at the Jefferson Community Center for the fundraiser, was well over the 70 to 100 typically seen in recent years.
Saybrook Township Trustee Bob Brobst presented the 2017 Legacy Patriot Award to Dave and Myra Brown of Andover for their longstanding support for the party.
“I've been a Republican since I registered,” Myra Brown said. “It shows how old I am, but I volunteered for the Eisenhower campaign. I wasn't old enough to vote, but I handed out literature at the schoolhouse.”
Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken celebrated turning Ashtabula County red.
“We're all a part of the largest change election in our lifetimes,” Timken said. “We all had a part in flipping Ashtabula County from a 55-percent Obama victory in 2012 to a 56-percent Trump victory in 2016 – I expect a lot from Ashtabula County Republicans.”
Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, a native of Saybrook Township who now represents Ohio Senate District 22, said it's more important than ever for Ashtabula County Republicans to work toward further victories.
“Remember why we're here,” Obhof said. “It's not because we're so much smarter. It's because of all of your hard work, because of your financial support, because you were out there volunteering, knocking on doors to get out the vote.”
Obhof pointed out the difference Frye's leadership had made for the party.
“Your chairman has a game plan,” Obhof said. “In 1992 and 1996, we came in with less than 35 percent of the vote. The winds have really changed. Donald Trump won Ashtabula County by 20 points. All three county commissioners are Republicans for the first time since the 1960s.”
However, Obhof cautioned against complacency and taking victory for granted.
“Promises need to be kept,” Obhof said. “Ideas really do matter. We can never rest on our laurels, you can never rely on success – the work is never done. Winning all these races is great, but we need to keep our foot on the gas.”