GREENFIELD — The next election is more than a year away, but some Republicans were already testing the waters Friday by campaigning at Hancock County’s largest annual GOP event.
The Lincoln Day Dinner was held at Adaggios, and roughly 230 people came to the fundraiser to hear the keynote speaker, first-term 6th District Congressman Luke Messer.
While most years the campaigning is obvious with tables full of brochures and candidate buttons, Friday’s event was more subdued. The 2014 election will feature several open seats in county government, and many incumbents advertised in the dinner brochure or sponsored the event.
But some challengers are also on the horizon. Brent Eaton plans to run again for the GOP nomination for county prosecutor against incumbent Republican Michael Griffin.
Eaton said because campaigns take a lot of time, effort and money, it’s important to begin campaigning now.
“There isn’t any doubt in my mind this is what I want to do,” he said. “There’s no point in waiting around.”
Griffin, who just returned from an eight-month military deployment to Cuba, said he looks forward to running for re-election. Griffin beat Eaton four years ago for the same nomination.
Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore will have a Republican competitor this year. Patte Cole, a former clerk for the prosecutor’s office, will run in the 2014 primary election. Cole said she’s running because she wants to give voters a choice. An advertisement in the Lincoln Day program was her first formal announcement.
Moore said time has passed quickly in her first term, and she’s been too busy running the office to begin campaigning for re-election.
“I’m just hoping the citizens look at what we’ve accomplished at bringing dignity back to the office of the clerk,” Moore said.
The dinner marked the first under the party’s new leadership. Janice Silvey is chairwoman, and Steve Leonard, Glenda Prewitt and Joe Copeland are officers of the central committee.
Former county Councilwoman Rosalie Richardson was presented with the Chairman’s Award for her years of public service. Several state officials were also at the event, including Rep. Bob Cherry, Sen. Mike Crider and House Speaker Brian Bosma.
Referring to the Boston Marathon bombing, Messer said in an interview prior to his speech that it has been a difficult week in which Americans have felt a new vulnerability
“I think it was a wake-up call to all of us; you can’t help but be heartbroken by the tragedy and carnage in Boston,” Messer said. “In many ways, it’s remarkable we haven’t had more of these types of events.”
Messer’s speech focused on his time so far on Capitol Hill, from how he wants to protect second amendment rights to how he wants federal spending to be cut.
“I got to meet with the president privately,” Messer said. “It turns out privately, he believes in a lot of the same things he says publicly.”
Messer said there have been “many premature obituaries written about the Republican Party” recently, but encouraged the group to stick with GOP principles.
Strangely, his vision for the GOP sounded much like a famous quote from former Democratic President Bill Clinton.
“I believe there is nothing wrong with this country that can’t be fixed by the things that have been right within this country for several hundred years,” Messer said.
He went on to encourage a new Republican Party of sorts, one that is welcoming to newcomers.
“A lot of times it sounds like (Democrats) are selling ice cream and we’re selling spinach,” Messer said. “But there’s nothing boring about freedom. There’s nothing old about opportunity.”