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Portmans office weeds out Democrats from attending his political speech
By Kat Tenbarge
The Columbus Dispatch
(February 22, 2017) — Katie Finneran called off from work Wednesday evening so she could drive two hours north of Ohio State University to hear Sen. Rob Portman speak at a Lincoln Day Dinner, sponsored by the Seneca County Republican Party.
Finneran, a 25-year-old environmental policy major, identifies as a member of the Green Party. But, partisan politics aside, she paid $30 to see her Republican senator, after calling his office repeatedly and always hearing that the line was full.
Unfortunately, the morning of the the dinner, Finneran learned her ticket had been rescinded and her money refunded because she is a registered Democrat. The college junior voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries.
“It’s just not fair, because I’m not even a Democrat,” Finneran said. “Just because Republicans are in power does not mean Republican citizens have more of a voice than Democratic citizens or even independent citizens or Green Party citizens or Libertarian citizens. He represents everybody, not just the Republican Party.”
Her entire table, comprised of progressives from Lorain, Seneca and Hancock counties, was denied entry. Initially, an organizer told them that the dinner was a private event and that was why their tickets were rejected. In reality, it was Portman’s office making the call.
“It’s my personal opinion that these people should be allowed in,” said David Koehl, Seneca County Republican Party treasurer. “Portman and his office are afraid protesters will show up. They made this decision a week ago, but several people have been refunded on short notice.”
Portman’s office did not respond to a request for a comment in response to Koehl’s statement.
Finneran, whose home is in Findlay, was particularly upset at the lack of public appearances made by Portman since the November election. She made the two-hour drive to Fremont to try to get into a roundtable on opiate addiction hosted by Portman, but security outside blocked the public from entering.
Instead, she and at least 70 other people protested Portman’s policies outside The Neeley Center at Terra State Community College. Amid signs asking to fix, not repeal Obamacare, end Citizens United and protect human rights, Finneran stood and chanted for more than three hours.
“If I can’t go inside I’ll just protest outside,” Finneran said. “My mom also bought a ticket (to the dinner) separately, and they called my mom and said, ‘Well, there’s going to be protesting outside.’ My mom said, ‘I’m 60 years old, I’m not going to go stand outside and protest. I just wanted to sit down and eat a dinner and listen to my congressman.’”
Emily Benavides, Portman’s press secretary, said the senator and his staff will participate in a variety of events across the state this week. Apart from the opioid addiction roundtable, Portman met with several organizations and businesses in East Liberty, Sydney, Holland and Clyde. However, those appearances were not advertised to the general public in advance.
In a written statement, Benavides said Portman appreciates the fact that Ohioans regularly reach out to his office to voice their opinions on a variety of issues and that after holding 475 events in the state last year when he won a second six-year term he continues to have a very active schedule.