Oxford Democratic Debate Watch Party Connects Residents on Important Issues for the Next Election


Mary Rezaian, Patricia Klingenber, vice president of the Butler County Progressives Political Action Committee, and Judy Kolbas enjoy conversation at the watch party. Photo by Rebecca Huff

By Rebecca Huff and Ryan McSheffrey

As 20 candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination held debates in Miami, Florida, Wednesday and Thursday nights, a group of local Democrats gathered both nights for a watch party at LaRosa’s Pizza in Oxford.

The debates, hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, featured 10 different candidates each night, who answered questions from a group of moderators and responded to each other’s comments.

Mary Rezaian, Charlotte Bruhn and Judy Kolbas, among the 23 Oxford residents gathered at LaRosa’s on Thursday. They said health care, climate, gun control and immigration were some of the issues that they care about the most.

“Health care because we still don’t have good access for everybody because it’s under threat. Climate because Spain is setting itself on fire,” Bruhn said. “Our whole environment, our whole world is troubled over climate change.”

Although the Oxford residents could have watched the debates at home, coming together as a community offered an exchange of ideas and fostered conversation.  The Oxford gather was one of several in the county organized by the Butler County Democratic Party.

“It’s important for us to share what we think is going on because we’ll be working together” in the campaign to defeat Donald Trump next year, Rezaian said.

They watched as the groups of candidates seemed riddled with tension and passion, talking over other candidates and the moderators.

Butler County Democratic Chair Brian Hester, Oxford residents Yihong Pan and Stacey Peterson, after the moderators failed to quiet the candidate panel on Thursday. Photo by Rebecca Huff

Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, a candidate on Thursday’s panel,  brought the noisy panel to silence when she said, “America does not want to witness a food fight, they want to know how we’re going to put food on their table.”

Back in Oxford, that got a wry chuckle from Charles Ganelin. When asked Thursday what his favorite part of the debate was, he jokingly responded, “When it  over.

“I don’t like it when they shout over one another,” Ganelin said.

“I actually liked last night’s better,” said Patricia Klingenberg, vice president of the Butler County Progressive Political Action Committee. “Last night they were a little more respectful of the process these (Thursday’s candidates) were all interrupting.”

But Oxford resident Carrie Sutter said she wasn’t fazed by the arguing that she witnessed between the candidates.

“I think with so many people there’s a lot of fighting for who’s going to be able to speak, but that’s the same in every debate especially with so many people. They’re people I’m not that interested in that keep trying to claw for attention and that’s hard because I want to hear from the people I’m interested in,” Sutter said.

The common sentiment of those at the watch party was that they want a candidate who can beat President Trump in the 2020 election.

“My primary focus is who could beat Donald Trump,” Sutter said. “Last night (Wednesday), I think Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker were my favorites and tonight I’m a fan of Pete Buttigieg.”

“I’m an Elizabeth Warren fan,” Klingenberg agreed. “She is incredibly smart, and I’ve admired her for a long time. She has the best ideas.”

Clyde Brown, one of 23 local Democrats who gathered at LaRosa’s Thursday to watch the debate. Photo by Rebecca Huff

Carole Katz, one of the watch party organizers, said Wednesday that she believes the less qualified candidates will soon get weeded out.

“Putting aside the ones that are obviously unqualified, we’re going to distill down to a candidate that I believe we’re going to get behind,” she said.

Katz was impressed Wednesday with Julián Castro, former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“I think Castro’s doing a really good job …He seems like he did his homework. I like what he says, and how he says it,” she said.

The next Democratic debate will be televised on CNN on July 30 and July 31.