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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

OH-16: Boccieri (D) Declares for Congress

State Sen. John Boccieri thanks the crowd as he begins his remarks.

About 100 people gathered on a bright sunny afternoon in a small North Canton municipal park, across the street from the big brick Hoover vacuum factory that is doomed to close later this year, to support State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown) as he launched his campaign for the 16th Ohio Congressional District seat of 83-year-old Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Navarre). There were many party officials, lawmakers, labor leaders, and veterans in the throng. The master of ceremonies was Stark County Democratic Chair Johnny Maier, who introduced the party chairs of the other counties in the district and pointedly remarked that is it "significant" that they were all present "in unity, to show their support." Maier then introduced North Canton Mayor David Held, who welcomed the crowd and praised Gov. Strickland for his "bipartisan approach" and "availability and responsiveness."

Treasurer Rich Cordray and Gov. Ted Strickland joined in supporting the candidate. Campaign treasurer State Rep. Mark Okey is visible in the background.

Maier returned to note the significance of the location, given the "sad story" of the closing of the Hoover plant, which is "very symbolic of what is going on in this country today under the failed policies of the leadership of this country," with "jobs moving out and workers being left behind." He then introduced Treasurer Rich Cordray, with whom Maier once served in the Ohio General Assembly. Cordray said that as his legislative intern, Boccieri was "one of the finest young men I had ever met" and absolutely dependable, reliable, and true to his word. Boccieri was "the kind of person who if you could pick them out and work with them all life long you would do it," and it makes Cordray proud to say that he was one of Boccieri's mentors. Boccieri will make "the finest Congressman that you could have," having proved himself not only as a legislator but serving multiple tours of duty in Iraq, "when people depend on you not only for the success of the mission, not only for their safety, but for their very lives, and John does not let people down."

Boccieri shakes hands with Stark County Democratic Chair Johnny Maier immediately after speaking. State Sen. Capri Cafaro is between and a little behind them.

Strickland noted the Mayor's praise for his bipartisanship in getting things done for Ohio, and said that Americans increasingly want a Congress that "will act to get things done for America." He said that he had started the day by attending the funeral of a 21-year-old from Tuscarawas County killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq. He related the funeral to Boccieri's candidacy by saying that "we must make sure that our men and women who are fighting this war are equipped with everything that can be given to them to keep them as safe as possible," and that they "are given everything they need to readjust and reenter as they return to this country." Boccieri will "go to the Congress with a special sensitivity to those needs because he is one of them." Strickland also noted that he had visited a medical clinic that day, where he heard about the struggles of Stark County residents with health care expenses, and said that Boccieri will fight for those folks. "I love John Boccieri as a brother," the governor and former Congressman said, "I have urged him for quite some time to seek Congressional office."

Strickland said that Boccieri is in his judgment "the perfect Congressional candidate," because he deeply cares about his community, is devoted to his family, loves his church, and has served his country. He told of visiting the Boccieri family the day of his fourth and most recent deployment, and watching the C-130 military transport depart. "John Boccieri deserves our support for this office," Strickland said. "He has paid the price. And in this community and in this district, whether you are black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, you will be proud to have John Boccieri as your representative in the United States Congress."

Boccieri pumps a fist to the crowd as he hugs Wayne County Democratic Chair Jean Mohr.

Boccieri thanked Strickland for being his mentor and giving him the "attitudes, values, and beliefs" that he will carry to Congress, and said that it was an honor to have Cordray present. He recalled dropping to his knee in the barracks after a dangerous mission in Iraq and saying a prayer that what they were doing was worth fighting for, and that "this process, this government, and the American way of life" are worth the lives of the injured and fallen. It only takes one step outside the nation, he said, to see that it is worth fighting for. He acknowledged his family and parents, present at the event, and recalled their teaching him that "to whom much is given, much is expected." Boccieri said that he has taken those words to heart more than ever, and that his pride in this country and the story of his grandparents' emigration to this country seeking a better life has motivated him to run for Congress. "My family like yours is fitted with something special," he said. "It has a spirit about it, an American spirit."

Boccieri then said that his family's story and the American spirit is in jeopardy due to "very bad decisions in Washington." Like many Ohioans, Boccieri is concerned that this country is headed in the wrong direction. Unfair trade agreements and the resulting loss of jobs "are costing us the dream that my grandparents emigrated to this great country for." Boccieri said that he "hears people who say that we spending too much time abroad, fighting a civil war in Iraq, when we need to focus on the problems so much closer to home." The Hoover factory behind him represents "the policies of the past, decisions that have been made that cost us a little of who we are," he continued, referring by name to workers whose families will suffer because of the closing of the plant. "I know that we can provide more security for our workers, more security for our borders, and more security for our returning veterans," he said, "if only we had a Congressman that put America first. I want to be that Congressman." He called for putting aside party politics and "solving the real problems that face our nation and our families." Denouncing the defining of the country as red states and blue states, he said "we are all Americans" and called on the president to "sit down with the leadership in Washington and find an American solution" to the conflict in Iraq. We "must demand from this administration that we bring our troops home safely, honorably and soon."

"Is it too much to ask," he queried, "for a Congressman who demands that if our soldiers are wounded in battle, they have every medical condition covered," and that our troops are properly trained and equipped and cared for on their return? Boccieri promised that when he goes to Washington he will fight for "the things that matter most" to Americans and to Ohioans, which are fair and free trade, a living wage, and protecting jobs from leaving the country. From his parents' teaching, Boccieri said, he will say in the campaign that "what lies behind us and what lies in front of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us," and as Americans "we will have an answer to all the dilemmas that are in front of us."

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