By ANDY MCCAMMON
The Clay County Republican Central Committee (CCRCC) hosted its annual Lincoln Day Dinner Monday at the Center Point United Methodist Church Monday night.
Republican office-holders in all levels of Indiana government -- from Brazil City Councilman James Sheese to Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita -- turned out for the event, described by CCRCC Vice Chairman Larry Moss as a chance for Republicans in the county to compare notes with their counterparts in the statehouse.
The event, one of dozens of Lincoln Day dinners staged by GOP organizations across the state, originated as a celebration of the birth of Abraham Lincoln -- "Our first great Republican president," said CCRCC Secretary Virginia Hill.
But for many of those in attendance, the dinner represented an ideal networking opportunity.
"It's an opportunity for the grass roots of the party to connect with the candidates and the current officers," said Moss, who also serves as president of the county council. "Anytime you break bread with someone it's a good way to get to know them."
Republican hopeful Reid Dallas, an Ellettsville native who will challenge incumbent Vern Tincher (D-Riley) for the District 46 seat in the Indiana General Assembly, said Lincoln Day events help candidates stay up-to-date on party news.
"Above and beyond just meeting the folks, it gives me a good feel for the word on the street," he said.
Rokita, the evening's featured speaker, asked the audience to give consideration to all the candidates assembled at the dinner.
"They deserve your support for putting their name literally on the line," he said. "They deserve your support, once you choose the one-- or five-- that you like. You should give it to them."
CCRCC President Sharon Koehler said the turnout at the event bodes well for the party's chances in upcoming county elections.
Several key positions within the Clay County Courthouse are up for grabs in 2006, and Koehler gave Republican candidates for several offices-- Mark Barnhart for assessor and Jasen Gibbens for auditor, specifically-- a strong chance to oust Democrats currently serving in those positions.
"I think we'll do really well in those courthouse offices this fall," she said.