Thursday, October 05, 2000

Gore rallies Ohio union members with promises




By Debra Jasper
Columbus Enquirer Bureau

        WARREN — A day after the first presidential debate, Al Gore continued to hammer George W. Bush, saying at a rally here that his opponent is too focused on tearing him down instead of building the country up.

        “Personally, I think it's better to spend time attacking America's problems than to spend time attacking somebody personally,” Mr. Gore said, referring to Mr. Bush's jabs at him.

[photo] Al Gore at the courthouse square in Warren, Ohio Wednesday, the morning after his first debate with George W. Bush. The union-heavy industries have been in a long slump there.
(Associated Press photo)
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        Clearly aware that the thousands of wildly cheering rally-goers were mostly die-hard Democrats and union members, Mr. Gore also spoke passionately about raising the minimum wage by $1 an hour and getting rid of laws that allow striking workers to be replaced permanently.

        Speaking in an Ohio region dominated by high unemployment and dilapidated factories and buildings, Mr. Gore said he understands that the nation's prosperity has not touched every region.

        In the Mahoning Valley, part of the “rust belt,” 40,000 people lost their jobs after most of its steel mills closed two decades ago. Unemployment continues to hover at 8 percent.

        With too many people still struggling to pay their bills, Mr. Gore said, voters must ask themselves one key question: “Will we use our prosperity to enrich not just the few, not just some areas, but all of the ... country, including the Mahoning Valley?”

        Mr. Gore's visit here on the day after the debate — a place where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1 — illustrates how much effort he's putting forth to energize his base in this battleground state.

        He repeatedly told listeners he needed their votes on Nov. 7 and rolled off a long list of promises.

        “I will balance the budget every year. I will pay down the national debt. I will put Social Security and Medicare in an iron-clad lock box and I'll veto anything that takes money out of Social Security,” he said, adding, “I'll cut taxes for middle-class families.”

        He said millions of jobs, as well as government surpluses, have been created under his watch.

        “But let me tell you what, I am not satisfied by a long shot,” Mr. Gore said. “You ain't seen nothing yet.”

        Arnold Barzak, who has been financial secretary for the United Steel Workers, Local 1375, for 40 years, said Mr. Gore must ensure “we get out of the rust belt syndrome.

        “With the shutdown of the steel mills the community has started to decay and a decaying community is about as bad as it gets,” Mr. Barzak said. “People here don't even have enough money to paint their houses anymore.”

        His wife, Rose, said she worked for 31 years at a factory where the number of employees dropped from 13,000 to 5,500.

        “We have two children who moved to Florida because there is nothing for them here,” she said. John Saulitis, a long-term care ombudsman from Mineral Ridge, thinks Mr. Gore accomplished his goal with his visit. “He needs to turn out the Democratic base in order to offset the other parts of the state,” Mr. Saulitis said. “And I think he will do that.”

        Not everyone at the rally was raving about Mr. Gore, however. Nick Frankos, who owns a bar and restaurant in Warren, said he is leaning toward Mr. Gore but hadn't made up his mind.

        “I haven't decided who speaks with a forked tongue,” he said. “Right now, both Gore and Bush are saying what we want to hear. I have to figure out which one will actually do some of the things he says he can.”

       



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