On the rainy evening of Sept. 20, members and supporters of the Kosciusko County Democratic Party gathered at Champagne Jam in Warsaw for the annual Jefferson Jackson dinner.
Amongst the modest crowd was Indiana House of Representatives District 22 candidate, David Kolbe, US Congress Indiana Third District candidate, Justin Kuhnle, Kosciusko County Commissioner – Southern candidate, Gale Owens and Kosciusko County Council District 4 candidate, Dan Damron.
Attendees mingled and socialized as local musician Megan King performed songs for the crowd during the social hour. Koble shared his experience walking in the parade at the Nappanee Apple Festival earlier in the day. Kuhnle took the opportunity to do a little campaigning.
After dinner was served, Kosciusko County Democratic Party Chairman John Bonitati took to the podium. He read a letter from Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody. Zody was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the evening, but was unable to attend because he and his wife are expecting their first child in the near future, and he felt it was best to stay close to home.
The theme of Zody’s correspondence was “we can do better,” and he criticized Governor Mike Pence for being “more focused on running for President than” acting as Indiana’s governor.
After concluding Zody’s letter, the four present candidates were given an opportunity to speak. Each shared a desire to “step across the aisle,” and work with Republicans for the benefit of Hoosiers. The candidates also shared a fiscally conservative stance.
Dan Damron stated his 15 years of experience with the highway department makes him a suitable candidate for solving the county’s financial woes. “I do know what goes wrong with budgets,” he said.
“We have the same-ole-same-ole in the courthouse,” continued Damron. “I know I can do a good job for the taxpayers.”
“The thing that really bothers me,” said Owens during his speech. “There’s too much politics for the rich.”
“All we ever see from [Republicans] is raising taxes,” Owens stated. “When you start paying almost 45 percent taxes, there’s something wrong.”
“There’s got to be a fair way to treat everybody,” Owens continued. “I don’t think our government has been fairly treating everybody.”
Then Kolbe took the podium. He opened lightheartedly.
“In the closest elections, the decision goes to the tallest candidate,” he joked. Earlier in the evening, Kolbe, who stands approximately six-and-a-half feet tall, utilized his 78-inch wingspan to sell arm’s lengths of raffle tickets for $10.
“I’m part of what’s called the New Democrat Alliance,” said Kolbe, donning his reading glasses and turning to a more serious tone. “We’re fiscal conservatives. We believe there’s not a conflict between liberty and justice.”
“The middle class is suffering terribly,” Kolbe continued, expressing a desire to reboot the middle class. One of his ideas is to give businesses incentives to treat their employees better.
“Big businesses are being rewarded, schools are being punished,” said Kolbe, who also has plans to reform the state’s education system. “I do not care for the Common Core. Most education is local.” Kuhnle would later echo this sentiment.
In closing, Kolbe put the metaphorical ball in the voters’ court, saying, “every people gets the leader it deserves.”
Kuhnle started his speech saying he hears from many citizens, “when are we going to have a candidate who listens and will roll up their sleeves and do something.”
“Now you’ve got a time for change,” he answered. Kuhnle went on to say he was not in favor of balancing budgets by cutting funding to education and that Common Core curriculum is “something we need to get rid of.”
“We need to replace it with something that’s going to work,” Kuhnle said. “My vision is to put in a national guideline for each grade.” He also said he wanted to give resources to local community schools to provide for the needs of their students.
“Balanced budgets are a great tool, and its something the federal government has been without for some time,” continued Kuhnle. “But you cannot put the cuts of the middle class, the cuts towards education as your first line because that is our future.”
Kuhnle went on to criticize the current cast of Washington’s political theatre. “There’s no more adults in D.C,” he said. “We have to be united and not divisive.” He also spoke in favor of reforming the Affordable Care Act.
After Kuhnle’s speech, the Democrat of the Year Award was given to Merlin and Ruth Yoder, who were unable to attend the event. Kolbe also selected the winner for the 50/50 raffle. Matt Scott held the winning ticket, and he announced he would be donating his winnings to Kolbe’s campaign.