GOP members, candidates gather for discussion

Congressman Steve Stivers speaks at the Athens County Republican Fall Dinner at the American Legion Hall. Stivers is running for re-election in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. (Katharine Egli | Picture Editor)

About 50 Republicans from throughout Athens County gathered at the American Legion Hall on Thursday night for a dinner with candidates running for positions ranging from commissioners to congressmen.

The dinner served both as a fundraiser and a gathering of GOP members and candidates in the region. Many candidates running for positions this November were in attendance, including Congressman Steve Stivers, who is running for re-election in Ohio’s newly redrawn 15th Congressional District.

The annual dinner helps local Republicans get excited for the party’s candidates and what they are bringing to the table, said Pete Couladis, chairman of the Athens County Republican Party.

“They are able to listen to all of our candidates and meet the ones that they don’t know,” Couladis said. “Especially the ones that aren’t in the high-profile races. We use this to get people interested, informed and fired up.” 
During his speech, Stivers spoke at length about the economy and specifically  focused on regulations and energy reform in relation to fracking.

He said regulations are killing the economy, adding that he wants to see a balanced budget amendment added to the Constitution. He also mentioned that science should be at the forefront of fracking.

“He is clearly the better candidate,” Couladis said. “Lang has a plan that isn’t connecting with a lot of people. Outside the ‘people’s republic of Athens,’ that isn’t working.”

In Athens County, which voted 65 percent Democratic in 2008, Republicans must do what needs to be done to win votes, Couladis said.

“We have to outwork the other side in order to win,” Couladis said.

Charles Richter, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Debbie Phillips for the 94th District’s seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, said he believes there is a simple formula for a Republican to win in Athens.

“We have to get out, knock on doors and talk to citizens of Athens County,” Richter said. “The more they know me, the more they like.”

Stivers said he believes events like Thursday’s are the perfect way to build up a base in Athens.

“You’ve got to start by rallying the base and making sure they come out and support me,” Stivers said. “We have had some meet and greets around Athens and even toured campus. I’m working hard to meet folks everywhere.”

Stivers wants OU students, who comprise a large portion of Athens’ voting population, to consider what he has worked for while in office.

“I think students should know that I have worked hard to keep student rates down and to keep money in the system for Pell Grants,” he said.

For a victory in Athens County, Stivers believes it comes down to the relationships he is able to build on the campaign trail.

“It takes someone who is accessible and gets to know folks,” Stivers said. “I have to work hard and make them proud. Hopefully, they will know.”

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