BRUNSWICK –– Keeping to his working man persona, Sen. Sherrod Brown used a Brunswick company Wednesday as the stage for the first stop of his multistate “The Dignity of Work” tour.
Up next, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and a possible run for the presidency.
Brown, D-Cleveland, said Wednesday that he is not ready to announce his decision on a campaign for the White House. The tour is a clear indicator that the 66-year-old wants to see how the message plays in states that cast pivotal early votes in the 2020 presidential primary.
The message behind “Dignity of Work” emphasizes decent wages, health care and working conditions for American workers. Brown’s message is that hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter what kind of work they do.
“When work has dignity, we honor the pensions people earned. When work has dignity, everyone can afford health care, education, and housing,” Brown said. “They have power over their schedules and the economic security to start a family, pay for day care and college, take time off to care for themselves or their families when they’re sick, and save for retirement.
“When work has dignity, people come before corporate profits and Wall Street greed. When work has dignity, our country has a strong middle class.”
Wednesday’s message was the same message Brown used as the backbone of a successful re-election campaign, winning a third term in November and proving that a Democrat can win a statewide election in Ohio.
Brown spent much of the appearance thanking those who came out to support him as well as recognizing members of the Democratic Party who are working to bring progressive values to the forefront.
“Too often, people act like our party has to choose between advocating for strong progressive values that excite our base, or talking to working class voters about their lives. For us it’s not either/or –– it’s both,” Brown said. “Together, we’ve fought for workers’ rights and voting rights and civil rights, and women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. With your support, I voted against NAFTA and the misnamed Defense of Marriage Act and the Iraq war. I’ve stood up to Wall Street and the gun lobby. And you’ve stood with me.
“And together, we’ve won re-election time and again in a state that went for Trump,” Brown added. “We fight for our progressive values. We fight for the dignity of work. It’s who we are. It’s how we govern. It’s how we won. And it’s how we’ll win in 2020.”
Many people from Medina County and neighboring counties surrounded a small stage cheering on Brown as he shared his ideas, centered on themes relatable to blue-collar workers.
“I think Sherrod is a super strong progressive in a Midwest state,” said Anna Brichacek of Shaker Heights. “I think it resonates with a lot of people.”
There is apparent intention behind Brown selecting Supply Side USA, located at 1120 W. 130th St., Brunswick, as the first stop on his tour. He made an appearance there in 2016 when the company first opened and had the honor of cutting the ribbon during the grand opening.
Ansir Junaid, who serves as the chairman of SupplySide USA, a wholesaler of shipping, packaging, office supplies, gifts, retail products and greeting cards, said Brown had the same ideas about the workforce then as he does now.
“We’re so honored, we’re so proud,” Junaid said. “He was here at the ribbon cutting for us in 2016 and I lost him for like half an hour. He went out and talked to all the workers to make sure he understood their personal life as well as their work life. He advocates for working people.”
While Brown found at receptive audience at Supply Side, he did not choose an Ohio county that leans Democratic on Election Day.
Medina County is a Republican stronghold, a community that during the November 2016 general election voted for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence with a nearly 2-to-1 margin, giving roughly 60 percent of the vote to the GOP ticket.
In November, Brown beat U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, to hold onto his seat. But he did not take Medina County. Brown garnered 46 percent of the vote against Renacci’s 54 percent, according to numbers from the Medina County Board of Elections.
His visit to Medina County pulled supporters from across the region.
“I really appreciate Sherrod Brown’s politics and I really appreciate his message,” said Matt Rambo, a Geauga County resident. “Jobs like this, good paying blue-collar jobs, are disappearing and they need to be brought back.”
As Brown spoke, people cheered. Every thank you, every moment of recognition and every point made resulted in the crowed erupting in applause.
“I think he would be a tremendous candidate. I think he has the right message for the country right now,” said Ken Evans of Summit County.
Heading to Creston, Iowa today with plans to make several stops in the state, Brown will not be alone in eyeing the state as a potential first stop on the road to the White House.
More than a half-dozen Democrats have either moved toward a campaign or declared their candidacy including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro has also joined the race.
On Wednesday, Democrat Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, jumped into the campaign.
A number of high-profile candidates remain on the sidelines including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
And as the Democratic field is poised to become more diverse, Republicans say Trump will run for re-election based on his record.
“The American people are better off now than they were two years ago because of President Trump’s policies,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Blair Ellis said.
“GDP and wages are up, unemployment has hit record lows, and industries across this country are thriving. These are the credentials the American voters want from their president and President Trump is the only person who can run on these results.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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