A former state chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party told party faithful in Highland County Monday night that the Constitution is responsible for American exceptionalism, that President Trump’s attacks on the media and the judiciary are dangerous, and that Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election need to be thoroughly investigated.
David Leland, state representative from the 22nd House District, was the featured speaker Monday at the annual Highland County Democratic Party carry-in dinner at the county Administration Building in Hillsboro.
Leland was previously elected to four terms as chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, a position he held form 1995-2002, and he chaired the Ohio delegations to the 1996 and 2000 Democratic National Conventions.
In an interview with The Times-Gazette prior to the dinner, Leland said he planned to tell attendees that respect for an independent judiciary and a free press are crucial cornerstones of American democracy.
Trump has criticized the judiciary several times, including during the campaign over a Trump University case, and lately over decisions against his proposed travel ban. He often accuses the news media of reporting “fake news.”
Leland quoted Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, who said last month that attacking the press “is how dictators get started.”
Leland said Russia’s efforts to influence last year’s election should concern all Americans.
“We’ve got to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Leland pulled a copy of the U.S. Constitution from his pocket, saying he always carries it with him and reminds people that material things or economic superiority are not what make America exceptional. “The Constitution is American exceptionalism,” he said.
Leland said he enjoys traveling to southern Ohio, noting that the rural farmland and towns in the region remind him of his youth growing up in a town of 8,000 people in Kansas, where he lived until moving to Columbus at the age of 16.
Leland’s name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Ohio governor in 2018. He declined to speculate on whether he would enter the race, saying only, “I’m thinking about it.”
Dinah Phillips, chair of the county Democratic Party, said that the spring carry-in dinner is always a popular event, and the homemade recipes are eagerly anticipated.
Phillips said she is proud of the recruitment effort that resulted in several Democratic candidates on the ballot this year for Hillsboro city offices, most of whom were on hand Monday.
Candidates for municipal offices in Hillsboro on the Democratic Party ticket include: David McKenna, municipal court judge; Patricia Burns, treasurer; Brandon Leeth, council at large; Robert “Lee” Smith, council, Ward 1; Jason Burns, council, Ward 2; Tim Countryman, council, Ward 3; and Mary Stanforth, council, Ward 4. A number of candidates running for the non-partisan township trustee races were also on hand.
Phillips said that Greenfield attorney Conrad Curren was recognized at the dinner after his recovery from a fall a few months ago.
The evening concluded with an auction with Layton Grover, and Phillips said the auction raised “a lot more than anticipated.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at [email protected]