By Nate Smith, Staff Writer
Although 2006 was not a banner year for the Republican Party nationally, one couldn’t tell that Thursday night at the county’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.
Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, the keynote speaker, reminded the large crowd at the Washington Conservation Club the GOP is the party that is best when it is together.
“You can do a lot of powerful things as a team and one of those things is win,” Rokita said. “And we win when we run as a team.”
Rokita, who won re-election in 2006, quoted the dinner’s namesakes of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan to inspire county GOP members to stick together as group and as a team to win.
“We need to be absolute and proud of our history,” Rokita said. “I think we’ve forgotten how to do that. I think we’ve forgotten sometimes what we’re about and the national media doesn’t help us in that regard and the liberals certainly don’t help us in that regard.
“In a sense, that’s what they are there to do and we can’t blame them. What we have to do is remind ourselves of what we’ve done for this country and what we’re going to do for this country...that we are still the party of purpose and not the party of ‘No,’” Rokita added.
Rokita spent some time revisiting the party’s history, especially concerning the African-American vote. He said that African-Americans vote 90 percent Democrat and questioned why.
“How can that be?” Rokita said. “90 to 10. Who’s the master and who’s the slave in that relationship? How can that be healthy?”
Lincoln, Rokita mentioned, was a Republican and asked spectator Kelci Newton, 14, if she knew the abolition and reconstruction movements were created by Republicans. She said “No.” Then the Secretary of State made what he called a “strong statement.”
“We have everything to be proud of,” Rokita said. “And the reason is because — to the core — this party is made up of more true leaders than any party on the face of the earth.”
He challenged local Republicans not to accept the status quo, but to be true leaders, like President George W. Bush and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels because they were not afraid to make the tough decisions while in office.
“Everyone of these men and women (candidates) that stood up tonight and briefly said what they are about and asked for your vote, they deserve our applause simply for that and they deserve our inspection,” Rokita said. “Because they are true leaders.”
He noted that some great civilizations such as Rome and Constantine, thrive about 200 years and then a new civilization emerges. The United States has been around for 240.
“It is Republicans under God that will save this country if it is to be saved,” Rokita said. “Just as we did when we founded this party in the mid 1800s.”
Before Rokita’s speech, Daviess County deputy prosecuting attorney and emcee Dan Murrie introduced county and city officeholders.
Washington Mayor David Abel, who is running for re-election in November against Democrat Larry Haag, asked for support and gave the faithful a synopsis of what he and Clerk-Treasurer Elaine Wellman have done.
“We started off with a financial crisis,” Abel said. “We didn’t have enough money coming in to pay utility loans to pay for our utilities.
“The last three years we’ve been buying stuff that I bought 20 years ago as mayor. We bought a line truck, two bucket trucks, three backhoes and a packer truck. It just seems like deja-vu,” Abel later added.
The incumbent said the city, through its managers and workers, have come through in times of crisis. Abel mentioned five water mains breaking at the same time, snow and the winds of April 2006 as times when the city has come together.
“We have done more than come together in a crisis though, we have looked ahead,” Abel said. “Four years ago, we talked about renewing hope and we have been.”
Those steps Abel mentioned include the Vision and Values Network, workforce development, economic development with county government at the Westgate@Crane tech park and Olon Industries and new development at B-W Services.
“We have a vision that our community is going to be a better place,” Abel said. “And it’s going to be based upon people making themselves better, being more responsible, doing all the things we know people need to do. That’s the vision we have for our community and I need your help to get that done. I want to keep doing it because it’s important and it means a lot to the people who are still struggling to get them the help they need.”
Introduced by Murrie were city council candidates Ralph Brummett and James Jones, at-large incumbents; Allen Brown, District 2 candidate; Jackson Phelps, District 3 candidate; Jeremy Wimmenauer, District 4 candidate and John Dosch, District 5 candidate.
Former County Council member John Myers was recognized after his many years of service as county and District 8 chairman. Past county party officers Loretta Kendall, Carolyn Newton and Marcella Flint were also honored for their service.
The Helen M. Jones award, given annually for outstanding service and dedication, went to former Daviess County Sheriff Everett Beasley.