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Corn Festival popular with candidates

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    Mike and Fran DeWine arrive at the Corn Festival in North Ridgeville Aug. 11.


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    Mike DeWine talks with his grandson, Theo DeWine, 2, who is held by his wife, Fran DeWine, Saturday at the North Ridgeville Corn Festival.



NORTH RIDGEVILLE — A staple at most festivals and events leading up to November, politicians representing Lorain County made stops at the city’s Corn Festival, talking to voters, posing for photos and getting their fill of sweet corn at the annual event.

As in years past, the Republican and Democratic parties of Lorain County both had booths at the festival, with candidates for state and federal positions making appearances, including Mike DeWine, Gayle Manning, Sharon Sweda and Ken Harbaugh.

Republican candidates

Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate, stopped by the Lorain County Republican Party’s tent on Bainbridge Road early in the day. DeWine, with members of his family in tow, posed for pictures and grabbed some sweet corn between other events in Northeast Ohio. Like other politicians in the county, it was far from DeWine’s first time at the festival, but said he was glad to be back.

“I like festivals because it gives me, as the candidate, the opportunity to talk very informally to people,” he said. “And people are more likely to come up and talk to me at a festival than they are someplace else. So when you’re walking around (talking) to people, you really get the feeling of what they’re thinking, what’s in their heart, what they’re worried about.”

He recognized the achievements Ohio has made in the past eight years, but said his platform plans to “create hope and opportunity for every Ohioan,” investing in early childhood development, health care and local government to do so.

State Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville and Republican candidate for 55th District of the Ohio Hous,, agreed with DeWine on the importance of education and the opportunity festivals give for candidates to talk to people on a more personal level.

“I think sometimes people feel uncomfortable or they always think that we live in Columbus now and we don’t, (I) live in my hometown — Ridgeville — and I always feel bad when they think they have to drive down to Columbus or call me in Columbus when they can call me here, they can talk to me here,” she said. “I want to hear their concerns, I don’t care about the concerns of people in other counties, I only care about the concerns of people we represent, so it gives them an opportunity to weigh in.”

Democratic candidates

Sharon Sweda, running against state Rep. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, for Ohio Senate’s 13th District seat, came to the Corn Festival out of tradition —her husband is a North Ridgeville alum and her brother-in-law was a former mayor — as much as she came to campaign.

“I like when you can chat with people, you have the opportunity not so much to campaign as you do to connect with people, get to know them, they get to know a little bit more about you, your style, your personality,” she said. “I get to hear what they’re passionate about. People really open up to you when you’re in this environment, as well as I see so many friends, I get to connect with people I haven’t seen since maybe the last year or the year before, and it’s fun.”

Much like the other side of the aisle, she said Lorain County needs to invest in affordable education and good-paying jobs, along with getting funding to local governments.

“I think we need to strengthen just the overall life for the folks who live here,” she said.

While many candidates spent the day in their tents, Ken Harbaugh took a different approach to bringing attention to his campaign. Running for Ohio’s 7th Congressional district, Harbaugh entered into the annual corn-eating contest, along with a couple of his supporters.

“This is what we do in Ohio in the summer,” he said. “We do corn-eating contests, we do frog-jumping contests in Valley City, we do Rough Trucks in Knox County, and I got sick and tired of politicians who don’t love the things we love and don’t show up to the things we show up at.”

Though he lost the corn-eating contest, it didn’t dampen his resolve running for the district.

“Voters are sick and tired of paying someone to do nothing,” he said. “Our motto from Day One has been ‘country over party’ and that’s not just a campaign slogan, it’s how I lived my life. From being a Navy intelligence pilot, to leading a disaster relief organization to now running for Congress, I see this as an extension of my service to my country.”

Voters’ reactions

As politicians shook hands and smiled for pictures, the party’s booths worked to register voters and hand out information on area candidates. While each party attempted to excite constituents and sway votes in their favor, some

festival-goers found it had little effect.

“They’re just here. I just don’t get that involved in politics,” said Kelly Kozar, of Avon Lake. “Some people might feel differently.”

While others, who were less decided, appreciated the information and chance to talk to candidates and staffers about the issues at hand.

“I think it’s good they’re here, because they give a lot of information about their stand on things,” Jill Krise, of North Ridgeville said. “And this is a good place for people to learn about it because some people don’t really (research it).”

For those who missed the parties’ booths Saturday, staffers will be back noon to 6 p.m. today, handing out information and answering questions about candidates in preparation for the November election. The Republican tent is near the senior center on Bainbridge Road, while the Democrats are across from the Beer Tent, next to the police station.

Contact Carissa Woytach at 440-329-7245 or

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