Nearly 200 GOP faithful turned out Wednesday evening for the annual Lincoln Day Dinner sponsored by the Highland County Republican Party.
The audience heard U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) discuss his appreciation for Highland County, and offer his take on foreign affairs and America’s challenges around the world.
The event was covered by a reporter from The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, leading local GOP chair Kay Ayres to joke about topping that level of coverage next year.
Stolberg is a national correspondent for the Times based in Washington. She was covering the dinner and Portman’s appearance as part of a story she was writing about the stand taken by Senate Republicans in regard to filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Portman has said that the Senate should wait to confirm a nominee until a new president takes office next year, and Stolberg interviewed several attendees Wednesday about whether they agreed with Portman, and whether they thought his stance would harm him in his re-election bid this year.
GOP Central Committee member Barbara Hodge of the village of Highland was named the Republican of the Year, with Ayres calling her a “super volunteer” who works tirelessly door-to-door for the party. She was greeted with a standing ovation as she accepted the award.
Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin introduced Portman on Wednesday, calling him a friend to Highland County and touting economic development issues on which he said Portman has been invaluable. Portman, in turn, praised Wilkin for his leadership for the county.
Later in the dinner, Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings was introduced and received a standing ovation from the crowd. Hastings was the subject of a civil suit filed by five Hillsboro residents charging malfeasance. The case was dismissed, but the mayor has also been the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. Numerous attendees at Wednesday’s dinner expressed support for Hastings and dismay at how the investigation has been conducted.
“That was nice for Drew,” Ayres said later of the ovation. “I think he really appreciated that.”
J.D. McConnaughey, a GOP student volunteer, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and local government teacher Jarrod Weiss offered the invocation. County commissioner Jeff Duncan introduced county officeholders and candidates, and county auditor Bill Fawley introduced out-of-town guests.
Former county clerk of courts Paulette Donley introduced city officeholders, while city auditor Gary Lewis and county engineer Dean Otworth conducted a Republican Club drawing. County recorder Chad McConnaughey offered the benediction, and county clerk of courts Ike Hodson led the crowd in singing “God Bless America.”
Catering was provided by Shoelaces Catering.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.