Teamsters Picnic in Cleveland Yesterday
Yesterday afternoon, the Teamsters threw a family picnic at their headquarters in Cleveland. They invited candidates to come and mingle with the crowd. Numerous candidates for the state legislature and judicial seats were there, along with House minority leader Armond Budish and Cuyahoga Democratic Party chair Stuart Garson. Teamsters leaders, including Fred Crow, Bill Lichtenwald and Sonny Nardi, addressed the crowd.
Congresswomen Betty Sutton and Marcy Kaptur were the featured speakers, and they really fired the crowd up. Both women emphasized their unflagging support for regular working people and keeping in place programs and benefits that unions fought for. Both had choice words for Mitt Romney's newly minted running mate Paul Ryan. Sutton is what GOP loyalists dream Ryan is — attractive, energetic, articulate, and charismatic — AND she has the advantage of actually supporting ideas that are fair and compassionate.
Betty Sutton: THIS is how much Mitt Romney & Paul Ryan will do for America's working people!
Kaptur mentioned that she sits two seats away from her on the House Budget committee (where she'll be snatching the gavel away from him in January if the Democrats retake the House) and tore into his hypocrisy of benefiting from government programs such as Social Security's survivor benefits or going to college at Miami University partly at the expense of the taxpayers of Ohio — but now he wants to deny those benefits to others. She pointed out that John Kasich has a similar situation. His parents were postal workers, which allowed his family to be middle class but now he wants to take away those kinds of decent, union-protected jobs.
She said, "I really don't understand them. I do't understand what makes them tick."
She also talked about a report called "NAFTA at 10" that detailed the failed promises of the 1994 trade agreement that promised to create more and better job and stem immigration — but did the opposite.
She praised her younger colleague, saying ""if we had 218 Betty Suttons in Congress, what a different country this would be!"
She said, "I tell people, find one in Arizona, find one in Kentucky, find one in South Carolina even. We could get another one or two in New York. We've got a few up there who love Wall Street more than Main Street."
A couple of the labor leaders talked about what a difficult position they had been in earlier this year, forced to choose in a primary between two outstanding fighters for ordinary people — Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich — when Republican district mapmakers pitted them against each other in a bizarre little strip of a district clinging to the lake between Toledo and Cleveland. Sutton talked about the mischief that the same mapmakers did to her by eliminating her Democratic-friendly district and pitting her against teabagger Jim Renacci in a more Republican district (but one it looks like she's got a decent shot to win).
And Kaptur talked at some length about a lesser-known motivation for the horrific map. It draws tentacles of Republican districts into major urban media markets, so that ads for those races are heard in those markets and can outnumber and outshout the Democratic voices. When extreme rightwinger Jim Jordan, who lives in Urbana in central-southwestern has a district that sneaks into the Cleveland media market, there's a problem.
So it surprised me that none of the speakers mentioned Voters First Ohio which will be on the ballot in November, and would undo the absurd and unfair map we've got. I mentioned this to Kaptur afterward, and she agreed we've got to spotlight this. She added that she thought we should have pursued campaign finance reform as well, and I can't argue with that – but one thing at a time!
Although I know many in the room were disappointed to lose Dennis, it's clear that Kaptur is not taking her new constituency for granted. She hung out and talked to people afterward before heading out to Marblehead for a peach festival (that sounded lovely!) and was one of the last to leave. She won't be an absentee congresswoman to Cuyahoga County.