Blackwell speaking at GOP dinner

Around 200 area residents will be able to see former Ohio Secretary of State and author J. Kenneth Blackwell speak in Marietta this weekend.

Blackwell will be the featured speaker for the Washington County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Dinner Saturday at the Marietta Shrine Club. He serves as the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council. He has served in the past as the mayor of Cincinnati, Undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

He became the first African-American elected to a statewide elected office in 1994 when he was elected treasurer of the state. He was subsequently elected as the Secretary of State. In 2004, the American Conservative Union awarded Blackwell with the John M. Ashbrook Award for his steadfast conservative leadership.

Blackwell said his speech will focus on the constitution.

“We find ourselves in a period of American history where there is a clash of competing interpretations of the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “Depending on who wins that contest, it will shape the future of America.”

Blackwell said of the two sides, where one side believes the constitution is based on enduring principles and the other believes in a living constitution, where it is malleable and constantly changing, he believes President Barack Obama is the latter and the Republican party is the former.

Washington County Republican Chairwoman Leslie Haas said Tuesday attendance was nearing 200 and that attendance fluctuates year to year.

“At the last minute, there’s a rush to get tickets,” she said.

Anita White, event coordinator for the county Republican party, said tickets for the event are extremely limited.

“I still do have a few tickets available,” she said. “The tickets will be $35 and they can be (received) by calling me. However there are absolutely no sales at the door.”

White said the cutoff for purchasing tickets would be at 6 p.m. today.

A silent auction will start the event at 5:30 p.m., with dinner following at 6:30 p.m.

Haas said the event is always lively.

“It’s always a festive occasion where we have a good meal, lots of good fellowship, and we try to bring in speakers who are interesting and relative to our supporters around the region,” she said.

Blackwell will be joined by a few candidates for the May primary, in an opportunity for event goers to meet the candidates.

“Many people probably haven’t had the opportunity to meet these candidates before,” Haas said.

Washington County Republican Party Vice Chairman Jon Grimm said he’s looking forward to Blackwell’s speech.

“I’m excited to hear it,” he said. “I haven’t heard him speak before and I’ve heard he’s a good speaker.”

Haas said there could even be something extra.

“There might be one or two surprise speakers,” she said.

Democrats gather, too

Also on Saturday, the Ohio Democratic Party will hold its annual Legacy Dinner in Columbus at the Columbus Athenaeum.

Washington County Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Varner said some members of the party would be making the trip to Columbus.

“I expect there will be at least three of us,” she said, adding, “I’m absolutely certain we’ll have all the statewide candidates.”

Speakers will range from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and go through all of the Democratic candidates across the state.

The Washington County Democratic Party will host its annual spring dinner on April 25 at the Elks Lodge at 414 Colegate Drive. The event will start at 5:30 p.m. No speaker has been determined at this time.