Speakers at Friday's annual dinner hosted by the Allen County Democratic Party discussed changes they want to see at the local and state level, offered support for striking auto workers and asked for help with ongoing get-out-the-vote efforts.
About 300 people gathered in the Diamond Room at Ceruti's for the dinner, which featured speeches from state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, who is seeking the party nomination for attorney general next year, and Mayor Tom Henry, who is running for his fourth term in office.
Nearly every Democrat running for city office this year was in attendance Friday, as were other state and local officials. Also present was Josh Owens, CEO of Indianapolis-based SupplyKick who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for governor in 2020. Owens is Indiana's first openly gay gubernatorial candidate.
In her remarks, Tallian offered her support for the striking United Auto Workers union, members of which were unable to attend Friday's event because of the ongoing picket.
“The UAW strike is the biggest labor organization strike in over a decade. It affects over 50,000 people,” Tallian said. “This strike is basically a battle for the middle class.”
Tallian said she has been a Democrat in the Indiana Senate for 14 years. Although she represents an area in northwest Indiana, Tallian said her constituents want the same things as Allen County residents.
“We ask for good paying jobs, right, and what do we get? Right-to-work and repeal of common construction wage,” she said. “We ask for good public education that's well-funded and we pay our teachers well. And what do we get? We get charter schools, we get virtual charter schools.”
Tallian said the state was “bilked” out of $47 million by a virtual charter school that went out of business. That's something, she said, Attorney General Curtis Hill should be going after. Tallian also criticized Hill for a lawsuit seeking to remove the Affordable Care Act.
Tallian also urged attendees to encourage friends, family and acquaintances to get out and vote. She also made a case for increased voter security.
Thirty percent of people aren't registered to vote, she said, adding about 40% of registered voters don't show up on Election Day. Thirteen percent of the voting public “makes the critical difference in these elections,” she said.
Henry took the stage to a standing ovation. Speaking to the crowd, the mayor applauded the progress Fort Wayne has made, despite challenges from a Republican-controlled City Council.
“We've had to use every possible strategy we could think of to get the things done that we have,” he said. “Sometimes at night, when I'm lying in bed, I wonder what more could we have done had we not had to work so hard to accomplish what we have.”
Henry said Fort Wayne has potential and has come far in the last 15 years.
“Look at what we have done even when the opposition has stood in the way,” Henry said, adding that Fort Wayne needs to address health care challenges and expand the arts. Henry also pledged to address environmental and energy concerns in Fort Wayne.
Henry will face GOP challenger Tim Smith, a MedPro vice president, on Nov. 5.