County auditor#039;s persistence pays off with Bush visit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ray T. "Moose" Dutey was still on cloud nine late Friday night.

His persistence paid off, he said.

After making history in a number of political roles throughout Lawrence County, the county's auditor and co-chair of Bush's southeast Ohio campaign made a bit more on Friday by playing a key role in President George W. Bush's unscheduled stop in Ironton.

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"It was great that he did stop down there," Dutey said, referring to a mid-day, unscheduled stop in front of the Lawrence County Courthouse in Ironton on Friday.

"As far as I know, it was history," he said. "To my knowledge he is the first sitting president to come to Ironton."

The long-time Lawrence County Republican began lobbying for Bush to visit Lawrence County a few week's ago at the Republican National Convention in New York City. Dutey was selected as one of Ohio's delegates this year, his first time.

It was there he met with Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who represents the 2nd Congressional District.

Dutey said Portman is close to the president and set up the trip and even helped make sure the president would drive through Ironton. Although the drive through Ironton was not officially released until late Thursday night, the stop was never scheduled. But Dutey and other county Republicans kicked into action.

"We called people," he said. "We called the schools and got them coming. We said 'I'm sure if we have a good crowd, he'll stop.'"

Dutey was in contact with party officials and White House security before the visit, trying to lobby an official stop in Lawrence County.

"They said that nobody knows what he's going to do," Dutey said. "I was persistent with them, but they still wouldn't tell me.

"I just kept telling them that they'd get a good crowd there and it would help him carry the county."

Dutey said he didn't know the president would stop until they actually arrived in Ironton.

"When we saw that crowd, they said, that did," Dutey said. "Coming in on Park Avenue, it really looked nice. When we got to the courthouse, well, that was just awesome."

Dutey was one of a handful of locals who shook hands with the president and had a moment to speak with him.

"I thanked him for stopping in Ironton," Dutey said. "He said, 'It was a nice crowd.'"

"I said, 'Yes, especially since we could release it.'"

"He said, "I want to thank you for all the hard work you are doing. Keep working hard. We're going to win Ohio,'" Dutey said.

Dutey managed to his photograph taken with the president. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) volunteered to be the photographer using Dutey's camera.

In an effort to really get the Ironton crowd stirred up, Dutey arranged for the president to have an Ironton Fighting Tigers football jersey on the bus.

"I told (a Secret Service contact) 'If you can get him to put that on, I can pick up another thousand votes,'" Dutey said, adding that he knew the jersey was on the bus, but did not know why it wasn't worn.

For Dutey, the trip to the convention and now the president's trip to Ironton mark the pinnacle of a long political career. His term as county auditor expires in 2006.

"I'm going to hang it up then," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better way to go.

"It's just been a whirlwind, but it's been good," he said. "It doesn't dawn on you and hit you until it's happened, but history has been made."