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Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, addresses local Republicans at the Lincoln Day Dinner, Thursday.

County Republicans optimistic about the party's future

The Athens County Republicans who gathered at the American Legion, 520 W. Union St., Thursday were in a good mood. 

Most of the party's dinners are for fundraising during the campaign season, but the Lincoln Day Dinner was for local Republicans to hear State Representative Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, speak. Edwards was one of several republicans that Athens County voters put into office last November.

"I think right now, we're as strong as we've ever been," Ryan Evans, president of the Ohio University College Republicans, said. "Especially compared to a year ago today."

Since last year's Lincoln Day Dinner, Republicans have reclaimed the Senate and White House, and Athens' representatives in both houses of the General Assembly switched from Democrat to Republican. 

Edwards was responsible for turning Athens' seat in the Ohio House from blue to red. But before his speech, Edwards said that he was more concerned with doing his job than party politics.

"I don't look at the state of the Republican Party," he said. "I look at the state of the 94th District, and at the state of Ohio."

Despite addressing a crowd consisting solely of Republicans, he avoided striking a partisan tone.

"There's one message ... I talked about quite a bit on the campaign trail," he said. "It's that people are really just frustrated, and I don't think it came down to people being republican or democrat."

Edwards said he was using his time in Columbus to make sure southeast Ohio was getting the attention it needs, particularly when it comes to fighting the opioid epidemic. He mentioned his work on his bill, House Bill 167, which would limit the amount of opioids doctors could prescribe.

"You can hardly pick up a newspaper without seeing news of another drug bust," he said of the epidemic.

He also stressed that locals could get in touch with him easily if they had a concern, whether or not they voted for him.

"Everybody who calls in, the first thing they say is 'we voted for you,' " Edwards joked. "So far we've had more people call in and say they voted for me than the actual number of votes I got."

The event was hosted by the Athens County Republican Party, and several other local Republicans were in attendance: County Auditor Jill Thompson, former state Sen. Jimmy Stewart and Abe Alassaf, the only Republican candidate in this year's race for Athens City Council.

Although Edwards was more concerned with his district than his party, Athens County Republican Party Chairman Pete Couladis was certainly concerned about the party. He also felt the GOP was in a better place than it was a year ago, but added that Republicans would need to keep their campaign promises.

"(The Democrats) were not responding to their base and wanting to create jobs," Couladis said. "Now Trump has to do the policies that are going to create the jobs and not just sit there."


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