By Jim Krencik
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — HOLLEY — A gathering of local Republicans ahead of the coming election highlighted the party’s candidates and the teenagers who one day could the GOP’s standard bearers.
U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long was the event’s guest speaker, with Congressional candidate Chris Collins and local candidates also taking the stage. But the night’s real stars were a group of students from local high schools, who populated the event’s dais with young faces instead of the usual assemblage of party leaders and office seekers.
Orleans County Republican Vice Chairman Skip Draper said the Town of Shelby Committee, which organized Saturday’s gathering, wanted to give the young but politically-piqued teens the opportunities to interact with office holders and be inspired in the same way as have previous generations of local Republicans.
“When the committee got together (to plan the dinner) we all talked about the experiences we remembered from our government classes and the Young Republicans,” Draper said. “I remember (former Assemblymen) R. Stephen Hawley coming to speak. It had an impact, those (kids) are still involved.”
Long, who is seeking to unseat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, said she was invigorated to see the teens so engaged with the event.
“I remember that age, everything lies before them,” Long said. “It’s important that they have hope for and faith in America.”
The night’s speakers largely focused their remarks on the future that the students will inherit if Republicans win federal, state and local elections.
“This election is about the future of these kids,” Collins said. “We don’t need to have 1.4 percent economic growth ... we can double the economy in 18 years.”
Office seekers were proud to speak on their unabashed conservative beliefs and confidence that they, and Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney’s message will win out next month.
“I will not compromise on our core issues,” Collins said.
“My first job was shoveling horse manure at a farm and I’m going to clean up the mess that Sen. Gillibrand created,” Long said to cheers. “I contend that’s the shovel-ready job the Obama stimulus created.”
David Bellavia, who challenged Collins for the Republican nomination but has campaigned for him following his loss in the primary election, voiced his strong support for Collins.
“You never heard me say that Chris Collins sent jobs to China ... because it’s not true,” said Bellavia, whose Lyndonville roots led many Orleans County officials to back his primary run. “I want a man of integrity and honor. Chris showed that.”
The Congressional race between Collins, the former Erie County Executive, and Rep. Kathy Hochul, was one that received the most focus from party members. Collins and others expressed confidence that he will defeat Hochul on the strength of Orleans and other counties with strong Republican parties.
“We need a big turnout in the GLOW and Niagara counties,” State Sen. George Maziarz said.
County Legislature Chairman David Callard said he’s looking forward to working with Collins if he is elected to a district that includes all of Orleans County.
“Chris Collins used a business mentality (in Erie County) that we use here, we know it works,” Callard said. “Help us build this county, let us show you what we can do with a little help.”
More than 300 people packed into Hickory Ridge for the last large political gathering before the Nov. 6 election. It was an emotional evening for County Republican Chairman Ed Morgan, who used the proceeding to give heart-felt praise to local party