ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney talked "friendship" with Belmont County Democrats Thursday and encouraged them to support his family friend - President Barack Obama - and other friends seeking office in Belmont County.
Kearney, D-Cincinnati, was the keynote speaker for the annual Belmont County Jefferson-Jackson Democrat Dinner at Undo's West. Before joining the Ohio Senate in December 2005, Kearney founded and built one of the largest African-American owned publishing companies, Sesh Communications.
He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Kearney spoke of how in 2006 he saw a newspaper article about a state senator seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois and how he had been impressed enough with what he read to ask his wife, Jan-Michele, if they should support him. She immediately recognized him as a good friend and former college classmate, Barack Obama, and reminded Kearney they had attended the Obama's wedding in Chicago.
Kearney said he next began to make calls and arrange a fundraiser in Ohio, and he noted people frequently asked him why they should support a candidate in Illinois.
"I'll tell you why - issues aren't local," he said. "Issues that are important in Belmont County are important in Washington, D.C., and they're important in Columbus. You need to have people who have a voice wherever they are - the voice is important. To get the issues out is the important thing."
A friendship next evolved between him and Obama, Kearney said. He added he also formed a bond with Charlie Wilson, then an Ohio senator. Wilson would move on to the U.S. House, but was defeated in 2010 after two terms. Among other things, Wilson taught him "you have to make tough votes" as a lawmaker.
"The way I understand it, the only reason we're not calling him 'congressman' here tonight, is that he took a tough vote" in favor of health care reform legislation," Kearney said. "He stood by his friend, the president of the United States, and people punished him for that. Frankly, I would rather have somebody who will stand up, take the tough vote, and do what is right."
Other candidates speaking briefly at the dinner were Wilson, Democrat nominee seeking election in the 6th Congressional District; Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, seeking re-election in the 30th Senate District; and Charles Daniels, a Democrat seeking election in the 95th Ohio House District.
The five Democrat candidates seeking to succeed Belmont County Western Division Court Judge Harry White addressed those present: Charles Bean, Todd Kildow, Kevin Flanagan, William Thomas and Helen Yonak.