Experience will be one to remember for Commissioner –
By Patricia Beech –
Adams County Commissioner Stephen Caraway spent a hectic four days last week in Cleveland as an Ohio delegate to the Republican National Convention. He was on the convention floor Monday for Melania Trump’s opening speech, Tuesday he witnessed history in the making as Donald Trump officially clinched the nomination for President of the United States, Wednesday he watched as Ted Cruz was booed from the stage, and Thursday he listened as Trump laid out his vision for America’s future.
“I was sitting in the hall, confetti and balloons dropping from above, and I thought what an honor it is to be part of this,” said Caraway. “Here’s this guy from Blue Creek. I would never have thought that I’d have the opportunity to join Ohio’s delegation to the national convention.”
Caraway’s interest in politics most likely paved his way to the convention floor, but it was his love of history that made the event even more meaningful.
“I’ve served my community through elected service, and I’ve always loved politics and public service,” he says. “Obviously in the past I’ve been at home watching on television as the Republican nominee accepted the nomination, but this time I was fortunate enough to be in the arena, to hear the speeches in person, and to reach out and touch the confetti and balloons as they fell.”
Ever the diplomat, he adds, “I would like to point out, that I watch both the Republican and Democratic conventions every four years. I think it is very important to the political process. Make no mistake, I am a conservative, but I find both to be educational and historic.”
The heavy media presence at the 2016 convention dwarfed the number of delegates by more than ten to one. “Cameras and print journalists were everywhere,” said Caraway, who was himself interviewed on live television by a reporter from a Virginia/DC metro station.
While live media coverage reported ongoing problems with the convention, claiming the event was disorganized and lacked real leadership, Caraway takes the opposite view. “The program went very smoothly,” he says. “Many people thought there would be trouble with the rules committee because it was sensationalized by the media, but it was a very smooth convention. Our team leaders did an incredible job.”
It’s been 80 years since the RNC was last held in Cleveland, and according to Caraway, Ohio delegates are hopeful that the convention will provide a future economic boost to Ohio. “There were tens of thousands of people there and they’re going to come back for conferences, vacations, and business trips, because they discovered that Cleveland is a great place,” he said. “Another thing people kept saying was, “Wow, Ohioans are really nice people.”
In addition to seeing sights such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and “The Christmas Story” house, Caraway attended a Lynryd Skynyrd concert benefitting Ohio’s veterans. He also had the opportunity to do some hobnobbing with many of Ohio’s political elite and powers-that-be.
“I wanted to talk to nearly all of the statewide office holders, members of the Congressional delegation, and members of the General Assembly about issues that have an effect on Southern Ohio – specifically, Adams County.” He spoke with Attorney General Mike DeWine, Governor John Kasich, Secretary Jon Husted, Treasurer Josh Mandel, Auditor Dave Yost, and Senator Rob Portman. Additionally, he had the opportunity to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan and many other national political figures during the delegation breakfasts each day.
Early on in the convention, the media reported friction had arisen between Kasich and the Republican nominee when Trump’s top adviser, Paul Manafort, accused the governor of being “petulant” and “embarrassing his party in Ohio”.
Caraway says unequivocally that the Ohio delegation supports Donald Trump. “We cast our votes for Governor Kasich because we were bound to – he won the state. Most of us supported the governor in the primary, but the opinion of the majority of the delegates was Donald Trump won and we supported him.”
“It’s politics,” he says. “I always say primaries are like family fights, and after the fight, the family all come together again. A lot of the Democrats don’t like Hilary, they liked Bernie, but those folks are going to follow Hilary, that’s just how it works. It’s a unique dynamic.”
Concerning the Ted Cruz debacle on Wednesday night, Caraway says, “You couldn’t hear a word Ted Cruz was saying. I’m sure you could hear it through the news feed, but in the hall the booing was deafening, then Trump walked in, and you could tell something was happening because folks started to turn. It was an extremely awkward moment.”
Whether or not Cruz shut the proverbial political door on his own foot, most Republicans agree he should not have allowed animosity to rule his judgement.
“I believe the situation is comparable to the 1976 convention when Gerald Ford defeated Ronald Reagan,” said Caraway. “There was strong animosity between the two of them, but Reagan came to the floor and delivered a speech that left his opportunities open for the future, and he supported the nominee. It was a defining moment for the Republican party.”
Caraway points to another defining moment in convention history, “In 2004 at John Kerry’s convention, a young Senator named Barack Obama came on the radar screen. No one knew who the man was, yet four years later he’s elected President. So these conventions have the ability to elevate political leaders from both parties, and also dampen their chances.”
Late Thursday night Caraway capped off his whirlwind week by affixing his signature to the Ohio sign from the convention floor.
“I wrote my name on it with a black sharpie marker,” he said. “The sign will be given to the Ohio Historical Connection where it will have a permanent home.”