Strickland celebrates birthday

Article found in the Portsmouth Daily Times online by By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer

Click here for more images of the Governor's Birthday

Local artist Steve Free, left, is shown singing with Frances, center, and Governor Ted Strickland on Saturday at his annual birthday party at Scioto County Fairgrounds.

PDT Staff Writer
Gov. Ted Strickland's birthday is Aug. 4, the same day as the presidential candidate he is campaigning for -- Democrat Sen. Barack Obama -- so why does he celebrate it in September every year?

"The truth is the (Scioto County) fair takes place in early August, and we found out if we have the birthday celebration here at the (Scioto County) fairgrounds, there's a lot of manure in the barns, and the flies tend to like our food," Strickland said. "So we decided to celebrate it in the fall, and it has worked out pretty well."

A large crowd was on hand to welcome Strickland when he arrived on the Obama tour vehicle, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Richard Cordray, Democratic candidate for Ohio Attorney General.

Strickland stepped onto the stage, where Ohio artist-of-the-year Steve Free and his band were performing, and didn't miss a beat as he joined in with the singing of "I Won't Back Down."

"I sang it at a rally for Ted once, and he liked it and it sort of stuck," Free said.

The crowd began cheering one of Scioto County's favorite sons, a Duck Run native, as he introduced each of his guests.

One by one, Brown, Cordray and others attacked Sen. John McCain and what they said are the close ties with the Bush Administration.

"John McCain sided with George Bush in wanting to privatize Social Security. He wanted to take your hard-earned money and invest it in the stock market," Brown said. "But you, the people said 'no', and if they had done that, after what has happened on Wall Street, some day soon you would be opening your Social Security statement and it would be greatly diminished."

Strickland also took the opportunity to repeat the fact that he had supported Hillary Clinton in the Ohio primary, "and you gave her 81 percent of the vote in Scioto County," Strickland said. "Just last week, I was talking with Hillary on the phone and she said it is very important we work hard to elect Barack Obama as the next President of the United States."

Strickland also went after what he said was McCain's record on lack of support for veterans, asking veterans present to raise their hands.

"He (McCain) won't even support the new G.I. bill," Strickland said.

At one point, Strickland was interrupted by a passing train.

"Coal! That's our energy right there," Strickland shouted into the microphone. "That's Ohio, that's American energy passing us by. We love it. That's jobs you see right there. Isn't that beautiful? That's American energy, mined by American workers, making us less dependent on the Middle East for our energy needs."

Strickland was joined on the stage by his wife, Frances Strickland, who had borrowed Free's guitar. Strickland, an accomplished guitarist, played and sang an Obama/Biden campaign song to the cheers of the crowd.

The crowd, made up of people wanting to take photos with him and those who had photos and shirts to be signed, thronged the governor as he left the stage.

He was then led to a woman in a wheelchair.

Eileen Syroney, a 100-year-old Scioto County resident had made a quilt for Strickland, and he seemed to enjoy a conversation with her about how the two are linked.

"He (Strickland) was a senior when the high schools were joined together. He was a senior from McDermott and my daughter was a senior from Rarden, so we've been good friends for a long time," Syroney said.

"I want to tell you, her brain is as good as mine," Strickland said. "There is not a speck of deterioration."

Free continued to entertain the crowd as Strickland made his way through the well-wishers.

In an interview following his appearance, Strickland said, "I've been going around talking about the race issue, and I don't believe southern Ohioans or any Ohioans are racist," Strickland said. "But we are more comfortable with what we are familiar with. And when I went to school, everybody in school looked like me. And now for the first time in the history of the country, we have one of the major parties with an African-American as a candidate, and I want people to move beyond that and not let that be any part of their decision. They may choose to vote for John McCain or they may choose to vote for Barack Obama for a lot of reasons, but I don't want race to be one of those reasons."

Strickland said earlier in the week he asked Obama to tour southern Ohio with him, and noted the senator said he would like to make that possible. No plans, however, have yet been announced.

Scioto County Democratic Party official and former Hillary Clinton delegate Tom Lindsay told the Portsmouth Daily Times, "Barack Obama has said he has to come to southeastern Ohio, so I can tell you, Obama will be coming. I don't know when, but he will be here.".

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