Originally Published: Columbus Dispatch By Kyle Shaner kshaner@sidneydailynews.com

SIDNEY – With a lot of optimism, the Shelby County Democratic Party opened its 2020 headquarters Wednesday evening in downtown Sidney. Shannon Freshour, who is challenging Jim Jordan for Ohio’s 4th Congressional District seat, and Joe Monbeck, who is challenging Susan Manchester for the 84th Ohio House District seat, were featured speakers at the grand opening celebration along with Shelby County Engineer Bob Geuy and Shelby County Recorder Jodi Siegel, both of whom are unopposed as they seek reelection. While they acknowledged it will be tough to win in the heavily Republican Shelby County, Freshour and Monbeck said they’re confident the Democrats are gaining ground in the area. They also want to support Democratic candidates in other races and are excited about Joe Biden’s prospects in unseating President Donald Trump. “I think it’s phenomenal,” Freshour, of Marysville, said about the Shelby County Democratic Party opening its headquarters. “A place like Shelby County that is just presumed to be all Republicans all the time has decided to open an office and be as proud as they can to be Democrats. I am so proud to be a part of this party, I am proud to be on the ticket with Biden, and I am most proud of the fact that these people are so proud to be Democrats.”

The Democrats also got support Wednesday evening from Chris Gibbs, a former Republican Party chairman and Board of Elections president in Shelby County. On behalf of Operation Grant, a group of Republicans and former Republicans working to defeat Trump, the now politically independent Gibbs presented the Democratic Party with Republican Voting Biden yard signs to distribute.

“We need a president who wants to lift people up, not tear people down,” Gibbs, of Maplewood, said. “We need a president that wants to call allies to our side, not call allies to the carpet. We want a president that raises the United States of America’s stature in the world and not leaves us simply tolerated by other nations. And most importantly, we want a president who encourages all of us, regardless of our political affiliation, to unite, not to fight.”

Tom Kerrigan, the Shelby County Democratic Party chairman, said the local party has distributed more than 550 Biden signs to supporters. He also said he’s seeing many people, like Gibbs, who plan to vote against Trump.

“I talk to a lot of women whose husbands have Republican Trump signs in their yard, and they told me they are not voting for him,” Kerrigan said.

Freshour also is seeing momentum in her campaign, picking up an endorsement this week from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which in the past endorsed Jordan.

“I think we’re doing a lot better than anybody gave us credit for,” Freshour said. “Just this week I won the endorsement of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which had previously endorsed Jordan, so that was an extraordinary honor, and it’s given a lot of energy to our campaign.”

Freshour’s goal is to protect social safety nets and expand opportunities for Ohioans. She talked about her mother, who left an abusive marriage then got job training that helped her get off welfare while raising her children.

“That social safety net is what saved my family, and it is what I watch being shredded every day for no apparent reason other than greed,” Freshour said.

Monbeck, also raised by a single mom, talked about lifting people up through his priorities of health care, infrastructure and education.

“We’re not losing our jobs to illegals. We’re losing them to China. We’re losing them overseas. And not because they’re any better than us but that’s because we are not investing in our future, we are not investing in our infrastructure,” Monbeck said, highlighting his push for expansion of high speed broadband internet.

Monbeck talked about protecting the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Monbeck’s husband, whom he married in July, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2015. Thanks to Medicaid expansion supported by former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, Monbeck said his then-boyfriend was able to get health insurance.

“I’m grateful to say that he’s now in remission,” Monbeck, of Wapakoneta, said.

Monbeck previously ran against Manchester in 2018, and she received more than 80% of the vote. He’s confident he’ll earn more votes this year and hopes his campaign will help other Democrats.

“A lot of the reason I put my name on the ballot was to help support the whole ticket,” Monbeck said. “If the 84th District, and basically every other district in the state of Ohio, gets 1% more Democratic votes than we got in 2016, Joe Biden wins in Ohio.”

The Shelby County Democratic Party headquarters are located at 126 E. Poplar St. in downtown Sidney. The office will be open from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. until early afternoon on Saturdays, Kerrigan said. The office has signs available in support of Biden and Freshour.

For more information, visit the office or visit the group’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/shelbycountydemocrats.

Email Operation Grant for Ohio rise@operationgrant.org