Jackson Day Dinner 2014

By LINDA HALL Staff Writer Published

ORRVILLE — The 159th consecutive annual Jackson Day Dinner served as a celebration of the local Democratic party and as a campaign stop for two of its candidates.

Pete Crossland, a candidate for the 16th House District, and George Rusiska, a candidate for Ohio’s 27th Senate District, were on hand at Friday’s event to give a pitch for their objectives in running.

Jim Donenwirth, competing against Crossland for the Democratic nomination in the primary and the chance to run against Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, in the general election, did not make it to the dinner because he was detained, said Jim Bird, who serves as the first vice chairman of the Wayne County Democrats.

“I’ve tried to go around and say hello to everybody,” Crossland said in his opening remarks, commending the local Democrats for giving him “all of your energy (in his attempt to oppose Renacci).

“I got into the race at the very last minute,” Crossland said, when “I didn’t think there was going to be an opponent for (Renacci).”

What really prompted him to run, Crossland said, was Renacci’s vote against ending the government shut-down and extending the debt limit.

Lacking in compromise, “that particular vote really defines (Renacci), and we need to focus on that.”

Crossland also took exception to Renacci’s position that immigrants who have “entered the country illegally should never be afforded citizenship,” a stand Crossland called “silly and wrong.”

He laid out the challenge to talk about the congressional race to independents and Republicans, noting some Republicans are moderates who would not want to support Renacci.

Crossland labeled “what we’re fighting” as those who “want to destroy government bit by bit as much as they can.”

Dan Starcher photo/www.buydrphotos.com George Rusiska (left), a candidate for Ohio's 27th Senate District, and Pete Crossland, a candidate for the 16th House District, talk with Betsy Sheets, chairwoman of the Wayne County Democratic Party at the annual Jackson Day Dinner.

“I’m kind of a new face around here,” said Rusiska, who has “been in this area for over 10 years,” calling it “a beautiful place to raise a family. I’m very happy living in Wooster, and I’m going to continue to stay here.”

Rusiska listed many areas of public involvement, among which were serving with the Air National Guard, Mansfield charter commission, Richland County Mental Health Board, Richland County United Way drive and Mansfield City School board before moving to Wooster.

Two of the key election issues he identified were job development and post-secondary education.

“(Students have) got to go to secondary education somehow somewhere,” Rusiska said. “There are jobs out there; you’ve got to be qualified to get them. We’re going to come up with a plan to make sure every good student can get into secondary education.”

He also pledged to come up with a plan of “how to approach school funding in Ohio” by September, as well as one to raise minimum wage, making special mention of women, many of whom are single mothers, living on minimum wage.

Rusiska promised to get issues to the floor for a vote, “to see where people stand,” stressing, “I’m going down there (to Columbus) to get something done.

“I have labor roots; I’m not ashamed of them,” Rusiska said. “I will wear my labor affiliations on my sleeve.”

Ninth District Court of Appeals Judge Eve V. Belfance also had the opportunity to speak at the event held at The Pines.

“A lot of people feel disconnected from the court of appeals,” Belfance said, but actually the decisions made there, concerning what is fair, what is just and how the law should be applied, “affect your lives in ways you don’t know.”

Brad Gowins was given the Ruby Award, based on being a participating, active member of the party.

“He gets up and volunteers,” Betsy Sheets, chairwoman of the Wayne County Democratic Party said of Gowins, commending his work in several areas, including as a member of the central committee, Freedom Ohio and social media for the party.

Bob Maglio made the Old Hickory Award presentation to Rich Corfman, an Orrville councilman who has served on the Wayne County Democratic central committee for 18 years and as its treasurer for the past four years.

Sheets praised “the party faithful” and told the crowd of about 100 attendees, “It’s OK to be a Democrat in Wayne County; it’s really OK.”

For those who see “something (that) didn’t go the way it really ought to have,” Sheets said, “You and I can change that. We all have to do what we can when we can.”

Bird gave a slide presentation outlining the history of the Democratic party, its tenets and ideals and reminded the audience their Jackson Day Dinner is “the longest running, consecutive (one) in the country — really a milestone.”

“You folks are not blessed with a Democratic majority, but you have a very vital Democratic party,” Crossland said.

Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230, or lhall@the-daily-record.com.

(Story can be found online here)