The first thing Gov. Ted Strickland did when he stepped from his car in front of the Huron County Courthouse Saturday afternoon was request that the U.S. flag be lowered to half-mast.
Norwalk Police Officer Chris Hipp lowered the flag in honor of Staff Sgt. Jon Martin, of Bellevue, who died Thanksgiving Day of injuries he suffered in Iraq. Martin was buried Saturday with military honors.
Strickland then proceeded to press the flesh of everyone he met in the uptown region from toddlers to seniors in their 90s to gather support for fellow Democrat Robin Weirauch, the 5th Congressional District candidate in the Dec. 11 special election.
Weirauch also was on hand to talk to voters, her second visit to Norwalk in a week. More than 60 people waited at the courthouse for Strickland and Weirauch to make their appearance. Both politicians gave short speeches and then they walked around the uptown area to meet people.
Strickland said at the end of the visit, which lasted about an hour and a half, his most important accomplishment during his first year as governor was to pass a budget that gave property tax cuts to senior homeowners, froze college tuition for two years and expanded health care for children.
"The fact is that it is balanced and we did not raise taxes," he said.
The next goal for his administration, Strickland said, is to get an emergency energy bill passed to keep heating prices from skyrocketing, to make Ohio competitive for businesses and to protect consumers.
Strickland said this wasn't his first visit to Norwalk, but he had never seen the town dressed up for Christmas. "It's a beautiful little town," he said, noting the Christmas carols piped over loudspeakers, holiday decorations, the horse-drawn sleigh giving free rides and families visiting uptown to see Santa and check out specials in many businesses.
In his speech, Strickland echoed several of the themes Weirauch has highlighted for her campaign, including job loss due to "unwise, unfair trade policies" and the fiscal policies of Congress.
"These are serious times in America," Strickland said. He asked all local politicians present to stand and face the crowd beside him. Mayors, county office holders and state representatives stepped forward. Strickland said Democratic and Republican officials work together at the local level and that needs to happen in Washington.
"We're all in this together," he said.
He also urged voters to elect Weirauch because too many politicians in Washington are "removed from real life." He vowed that she would take small-town values and common sense to Congress.
Weirauch urged voters to send her to Washington if they want to see change in federal government. "You name the issue and there needs to be a change," she said, urging people to "wrestle the power away" from politicians who have lost touch with the middle class.
She also vowed to work for bi-partisan efforts in Congress. "We've had enough of party politics," she said. "The status quo is not acceptable."
Strickland and Weirauch and their entourage visited Berry's, Colonial Flower & Gift Shoppe, LaPatea and the Chamber of Commerce/United Fund office before heading for a another campaign stop in Fremont. They got coffee at Berry's, a rose from Colonial, sandwiches at LaPatea and an inscribed book from First Book Huron County at the Chamber office. Strickland said he would put the book in the collection at the governor's mansion.