Richard Cordray, candidate for state Attorney General, was not the expected feature speaker Friday night, but he was a hit with Portage County Democrats.
Cordray, 38, making his first statewide race for office, ably stepped in when Mary Boyle, endorsed party nominee for U.S. Senate, was delayed and unable to appear during Friday's Jefferson/Jackson Dinner at Immaculate Conception Hall in Ravenna.
Boyle called Mayor Paul Jones, who is also the county's Democrat Central Executive Committee chairman, about 9:30 p.m. to apologize and explain her plane was an hour late and she was still 30 minutes away from Ravenna.
Boyle is running as the party's endorsed candidate to face Gov. George Voinovich in November.
She is a former three-term president of the Cuyahoga County Commissioners. She also served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives, rising to the leadership post of Majority Whip.
In 1994, Boyle was the first Ohio woman to seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, and surprised state political pundits by coming within 1.7 percent of winning the nomination through her grassroots campaign efforts.
Cordray is a former state Representative from the 33rd district, and was the first Ohio State Solicitor in 1993-94. He said Attorney General Betty Montgomery, who is seeking re-election, has been anti-union, failing to support and enforce the state's prevailing wage law, which provides for union wage levels to be paid workers on public works projects.
"That is unacceptable in Ohio," Cordray said to applause from about 200 local Democratic faithfuls.
Cordray also blasted Montgomery for signing off on the $4.1 million settlement with prisoners involved in the Lucasville prison riots.
Montgomery also failed to file briefs in a timely manner, causing the state to lose a case, Cordray said.
"That's the kind of incompetence that will get you fired in private practice," he said. "In public life we only get to fire incompetents in November every four years.
"Having Betty Montgomery as attorney general is like having Barney Fife in charge of the Mayberry Jail," he said. "At the end of the day you're going to have a disaster and an excuse."
Several state and local candidates attended the event, including two of four Democrats challenging to be the party's candidate for 11th District Court of Appeals.
Martin S. Hume of Trumbull County and Neil Wilson of Lake County circulated through the hall, seeking support from Portage Democrats.
Hume is an assistant county prosecutor, was a former special counsel to Attorney General Lee Fisher, and has been a legal advocate for low income families.
Wilson is a former municipal court judge now in private practice. A graduate of Kent State University, he lived in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties before moving to Lake County.