Democratic congressional candidate Aftab Pureval, joined by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, stood before about 125 supporters – mostly women – in a North Avondale front yard Wednesday to launch a "Women for Aftab" organization.
And, because the event included Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was shot and gravely wounded at a "town hall" type event in January 2011 – a mass shooting that killed six people – the gathering in the front yard of Beth Wayne turned into a rally against gun violence as well.
The formation of Women For Aftab will target what is, of course, the largest block of voters in Ohio's 1st Congressional District, and one that, in the 2018 Democratic effort to take over the U.S. House, is considered crucial, as Pureval tries to unseat long-time Republican congressman Steve Chabot.
Giffords is still suffering greatly from her serious wounds. She has difficulty talking, walking and her eyesight is affected.
But she stood on Beth Wayne's front porch and slowly and deliberately did two things: endorse Pureval in his campaign, and urge everyone supporting him to support her crusade to end gun violence.
"These are scary times in which we live,'' Giffords said, a reference to the many mass shootings since she was wounded seven years ago. "We must do something to stop gun violence. Do you have the courage to fight? Then stand with me! And vote! Vote! Vote! Join your voices with mine."
Giffords met privately with many of the guests inside the house before the rally began. Among those she spoke with were Abbie Youkilis and Ethel Guttenberg, the Cincinnati-based aunt and grandmother, respectively, of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, who was shot and killed in the mass murder at Parkland High School in Florida on February 14.
She had to leave after her brief speech to catch a plane, but then Pureval took the microphone on the front porch of the Wayne residence and began an impassioned speech about what his Women for Aftab organization would stand for.
"You know, after the last (presidential campaign) I was angry and frustrated by the direction of our country,'' Pureval said. "But it was the actions of women, in the 'me too' movement and marching in the streets that gave me hope for the future."
He made three promises to the crowd. Pureval, who is now Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, said he would work to:
- pass the Pay Equity Act to pay men and women equally, saying it is wrong that women make 78 cents for every dollar made by a male worker
- protect access to health care for women, including insuring coverage for pre-existing conditions like pregnancy, asthma and diabetes
- work to prevent domestic abusers and predators from getting access to guns
"I will lead the fight to end the abuse and violence against women,'' Purevall said.
Before the rally, Pureval's campaign put out a memo claiming Chabot has a poor record on women's issues – voting against the Affordable Care Act and opposing equal pay for women, among other things.
Chabot campaign spokesman Cody Rizzuto said the memo "is just another desperate attempt by Aftab Pureval to distort Congressman Chabot's record.
"Let's take a look at Aftab's record,'' Rizzuto said in a written statement. "I find it hypocritical that Aftab touts his support for women when he personally fired seven women when he took over the clerk's office."
It has been a while since there has been a truly competitive race in the 1st District. The Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly made sure of that after the 2010 U.S. Census when they re-drew the district and gave Chabot the gift that keeps on giving – the GOP promised land, otherwise known as Warren County.
Warren County's massive Republican majority has allowed Chabot to win re-election with relative ease since the redistricting.
The last Democrat to represent the 1st District was before the re-drawing of district lines. It came in 2008, when then-State Rep. Steve Driehaus rode the Obama wave to put Chabot out of the House for the first time in 16 years.
But it didn’t last long. Two years later, Chabot came back and defeated the Democrats. The Westwood Republican has held on to the seat since then.
Pureval – who in 2016, came seemingly out of nowhere to run a clever and well-financed campaign – did something nobody in Hamilton County politics thought possible: He defeated a Winkler. In this case, Tracy Winkler, the Republican clerk of courts.
He took office in January 2017. Since then, he has cut loose a number of high-paid administrators who had political connections to the GOP; brought the office's technology into the 21st century; gave his employees a $16-an-hour minimum wage; paid family leave and LGBTQ protections and came in about $1 million under budget.
Republicans have criticized the 35-year-old Pureval, the son of an Indian father and a Tibetan mother, for being willing to abandon the job he was elected to in 2016 for a shot at Congress.