Lawrence County Republicans meet for annual dinner (WITH GALLERY)

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 3, 2024

SOUTH POINT — With the Ohio primary only weeks away, Republicans in Lawrence County met on Monday for their party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner at South Point High School.

“Welcome to the southernmost Lincoln Day dinner in the State of Ohio,” Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens, who serves as county party chair, told the crowd.

In addition to members of the party from the county, this year’s event hosted multiple candidates hoping to win the Republican nomination for the open 2nd Congressional District race.

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The seat is currently held by Republican Brad Wenstrup, who is retiring when his term ends after this year.

The dinner also served as something of a victory lap for the party, whose dominance in the county continues.

In addition to Stephens, who is starting his second year as speaker, the room was filled with many officeholders, including county commissioners DeAnna Holliday, Mike Finley and Colton Copley, South Mayor Jeff Gaskin, Coal Grove Mayor Andy Holmes, County Auditor Paul David Knipp, County Treasurer Tresa Baker and school board members, such as Uriah Cade, who became president of the board at Symmes Valley this year.

This year, most countywide races saw no Democrats file to run, a trend that has continued from the last such elections in 2022.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless, who led the pledge of allegiance at the start of the event, noted that candidates could still face a challenge from independents who collect signatures to appear on the fall ballot, but he said, even if a candidate is unopposed (as he now is), voters should not pass over those races when voting.

“Your vote shows the strength of our party,” he said.

The keynote speech for the evening was given by State Rep. Jay Edwards, of Athens County, who serves as the House Finance Committee chair.

State Rep. Jay Edwards, of Athens County, chair of the House Finance Committee, delivers the keynote address at the Lawrence County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner on Monday. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Stephens said he and Edwards have one thing in common in the areas they represent.

“We are different than other places,” he said of their home counties. “We don’t have the tax base of other parts of Ohio and we have to explain ourselves. Jay is a fantastic advocate.”

After taking the podium, Edwards praised Stephens as someone who “takes Lawrence County into the statehouse every day.”

He said he recalls many a strategy conversation with Stephens that involves the phrase “Let me tell you how ‘Moose’ Dutey did it,” referring to the longtime Lawrence County auditor and county Republican chair, who preceded Stephens in the position.

Edwards said he and Stephens fought hard for accomplishments in the past year, such as the biggest tax cut in the state’s history and a transportation bill, which has secured funding for the long-sought Chesapeake Bypass.

Mention of that recent news got a large round of applause from the room.

Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens, R-Getaway, speaks at the Lawrence County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner on Monday at South Point High School. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Edwards said this year is an important year at both the state and national level and urged the crowd to talk about it with their community.

“We need to talk about where we want to go and about the ‘America First’ policies we represent,” he said.

The dinner also served as a tribute for a longtime county official, who is retiring at the end of the year.

Lawrence County Recorder Sharon Gossett Hager has served in her office since being appointed in 2004.

County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson delivered remarks in tribute to her and noted she had been re-elected five times.

“She has done a marvelous job as recorder,” he said. “Think about the timeframe since she started and how much technology has advanced. A lot of the other counties’ websites are not as good, but Lawrence County’s site is wonderful and I attribute that to her. We honor her service to the Lawrence County Republican Party and as our county recorder.”

An award was accepted by a representative for Hager, who was not able to be present, while a card for her at the entrance was signed by attendees of the dinner.