Washington County's Democrats and Republicans gathered for their annual dinners and a final push for the upcoming election Friday.
"We want to gather the energy together ... bring (the candidates) here, let them feel the energy of the people who are willing to help them get elected," said Molly Varner, county Democratic Party chairwoman, at her party's fall dinner at American Legion Post 64 in Marietta.
Less than two miles away, the county GOP gathered at the Marietta Shrine Club for its annual Reagan Day Dinner.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Marietta resident Rose Marie Thomas, left, greets Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz, right, and his wife Joyce Friday at the Washington County Democratic Party dinner.
"It rallies the troops," said Marietta mayoral hopeful Jon Grimm, currently the 3rd Ward city councilman. "It pulls everyone together right at the right time."
While Grimm and his opponent, former Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews, a Democrat, will be out trying to win votes in the days leading up to the Nov. 8 general election, they and other candidates were surrounded by supporters Friday night.
Local races weren't the only topics of conversation Friday, as party leaders stumped for and against state issue 2 - the attempted repeal of Senate Bill 5, which creates sweeping changes to Ohio's collective bargaining laws for public employees - and issue 3 - which would amend the constitution to opt the state out of the national health care overhaul.
The 2011 general election will be held Nov. 8.
The deadline for partisan candidates to register for the 2012 primary is Dec. 7.
The filing deadline for U.S. House and presidential hopefuls is three months later, due to uncertainty about district lines.
State Rep. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, came to the Washington County dinner to urge Democrats to continue the fight against SB5.
"I want to deliver an encouraging message to these people - get out and keep working to defeat issue 2," said Gentile, who served as assistant director of the Governor's Office on Appalachia under former Gov. Ted Strickland.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, encouraged support of issue 3 to stop "federal intrusions" in people's affairs.
He also spoke about the man the Republicans were honoring at the dinner, saying the party is still looking for a standard bearer who combines Ronald Reagan's skills of conviction and oration.
"Now is a time in Ohio when we need to demonstrate moral courage to do what's right in Ohio," he said prior to his speech. "We use him as a role model and hopefully we'll be on the right path in the state and in our country."
At the Democratic dinner, Phillips planned to speak against issue 2 and also update listeners on situations in Columbus, including the battle over congressional district lines. A Democratic coalition is attempting to put the Republican-drawn map on the ballot in 2012, leading to uncertainty about who will be running in which district.
"Either they'll have to come up with a better map and pass something different or it's possible a judge would have to draw new lines," Phillips said.
Among those awaiting that outcome is former Congressman Charlie Wilson, a Democrat considering a run for the seat he occupied before losing to Republican Bill Johnson in 2010. He's also watching the SB5 vote.
"It'll show how the Democrats turn out," Wilson said at the dinner. "And I have a feeling they're going to come rolling."
Wilson said the results of the new lines and some polling he plans to do will be factors in his decision on whether to run.
Johnson, meanwhile, served as master of ceremonies at the Reagan Day dinner. It was his second Republican dinner as a resident of Washington County, having moved to Marietta earlier this year.
"I love getting out among the people that I represent," he said. "That's what I think a U.S. representative is supposed to do."
Although the 2011 election is still a week-and-a-half away, some candidates were using Friday as an opportunity to prepare for the 2012 election. Among them was Washington County Commissioner Steve Weber, who was getting close to the 50 petition signatures he needs to run for a second term.
"You can do pretty good in one evening, save a lot of time," he laughed.