Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee galvanized hundreds of supporters of Issue 2 Friday in Mason – by jokingly urging them to stop opponents from voting.
The 2008 presidential candidate and Fox News host drew laughs from a packed room with advice that appeared to suggest how they can support the measure, which will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
In addition to personally committing to vote and engaging in prayer, Huckabee advised the crowd of 350 to reach out to their friends and family in support of Issue 2.
“Make a list… Call them and ask them, ‘Are you going to vote on Issue 2 and are you going to vote for it?’ If they say no, well, you just make sure that they don’t go vote. Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date. That’s up to you how you creatively get the job done.”
Ohio Democrats immediately pounced, accusing Huckabee of advocating “criminal activity.”
“Add this to the list of despicable tactics from supporters of Issue 2,” said the statement from party spokesman Seth Bringman. “These tactics include accusing middle class supporters of defecating in the Statehouse and, more recently, attacking a woman whose great-granddaughter was saved by heroic firefighters.”
Huckabee and other Republican and Democratic supporters of Senate Bill 5 spoke at the “Yes on Issue 2″ breakfast and rally at the Manor House. The Warren County Republican Party and Building a Better Ohio sponsored the event.
Issue 2 is a petition-driven referendum to repeal Senate Bill 5, a collective bargaining overhaul that limits the ability of public workers to negotiate for wages, working conditions and pension benefits.
The bill would also make public employees contribute at least 15 percent of their health care costs and to pay at least 10 percent of pay toward pension contributions.
Huckabee defended SB 5 as a “reasonable, common sense” approach to Ohio’s budget woes while deflecting criticism that it is anti-union.
“In every state and in every municipality in this country, there is a huge crisis going on. In Ohio, an 8 billion dollar one. And that has to be made up somewhere,” he said. “I don’t know how many Ohioans you’re willing to put out of work in order to fund a bigger and bigger and bigger government.”
Huckabee’s message resonated with Sandra Tugrul of Lebanon, who agrees that budget cuts are necessary.
“We have to find a way to balance the budget in Ohio and the only way to do that is to cut costs,” she said. “The policemen and firemen are important, but there’s a point where we have to tighten our belts.”
Jack Chrisman of Lebanon gathers around the "Values Voter" bus for a post-breakfast rally supporting conservative candidates and issues in Ohio. The Enquirer/Rachel Richardson
Democrat Jeff Berding, the former Cincinnati council member who left council earlier this year after he opposed the party on a union issue, spoke in support of Issue 2, saying he knows he no longer has the support of Democratic voters.
Berding said that the current collective bargaining system is tilted unfairly towards unions and that taxpayer money is misused to provide free, or nearly free, health care, pensions and automatic raises for public employees.
“The unions care too much about the pay, the perks, the pensions, but not too much about the public,” he said. “The current political bargaining system doesn’t give you a seat at the table. Issue 2 gives you a seat at the table.”
Mason Mayor Don Prince said that Huckabee’s visit demonstrates the growing influence of Warren County voters.
The county, one of the fastest growing counties in the state, is heavily Republican — it voted for John McCain over Barack Obama by over 2-1 in 2008; and, in 2010, gave Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich 54,536 votes to only 22,271 for Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland.
“Warren County, and specifically Mason and Deerfield Township, is becoming a well known area of conservative values,” he said. “On a national and state level, politicians pay attention to Warren County.”
Huckabee’s folksy appeal held clout with many supporters, like Michelle Seigel of Mason, who says she’s a member of the Mason Tea Party and fears public employee layoffs in the event of an overturn of SB 5.
“He was amazing,” she said. “I feel I need to do more. I need to make some calls.”
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