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Sen. Brown launches 'Dignity of Work' tour

By Tom Jackson • Feb 1, 2019 at 5:00 PM

BRUNSWICK — Using themes that he likely will use if he runs for president, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown promised Wednesday to defend the “dignity of work” and to fight for a decent living for working people.

“The dignity of work means hard work pays off for everyone, no matter who you are,” Brown said in a speech that lasted for about 15 minutes. “When you love this country, you fight for the people who make it work.”

The progressive Democrat, who won re-election by a wide margin last year in a state that Donald Trump carried in 2016, did not give any hints if he’ll actually seek the 2020 presidential nomination.

He and his wife, syndicated columnist Connie Schultz, have both said an announcement will come in March. Brown promises that if he runs for president he’ll announce his bid in Ohio.

But the senator was scheduled to fly to Iowa Thursday and has included stops such as New Hampshire on his “Dignity of Work Listening Tour.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) launched his White House bid on Friday — the fourth Democratic senator and second black candidate to enter the race.

“I believe we can build a country where no one is forgotten, no one is left behind,” the 49-year-old Booker said in a video announcing his run. “Where we see the faces of our leaders on television and feel pride, not shame … together we will channel our common pain back into our common purpose.”

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris also have announced their candidacies.

Brown held the rally in a Supply Side USA warehouse in Brunswick. About 300  people showed up despite the very cold weather, a Brown aide said, citing signins collected from people as they came inside. Brown cut the ribbon when the business opened in 2016, the aide said.

“All across this country, hard work does not pay off like it should,” Brown said. “Wages are flat.”

Many people on pensions feel like they are invisible, Brown said.

“Well, they’re not invisible to us,” he said.

Brown said he will continue to fight to save the jobs of workers at a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which GM says it plans to close.

He said President Donald Trump has done nothing to try to help workers at the plant, and labeled the president a “phony populist.”

“Real populism is not racist,” Brown said. “Real populists don’t engage in hate speech.”

Brown said he’s pleased that his election victories have shown Democrats can fight for progressive values and win.

Brown’s rally drew fans who said they hoped he would run for president.

Jane Chura of Parma showed up with her brother, her three daughters and two sisters.

“He’s working for the people. He’s a good guy,” Chura said.

She said she’s been hoping for a long time that Brown would run for president.

Nick Hanek didn’t have to travel far to attend the rally -— he lives in Brunswick — but he probably would have been willing to.

“Sherrod Brown is hopefully running for president. That’s a very good thing in this country,” he said.

Hanek said he volunteered for Brown in his Senate campaign and was ready to help Brown in a presidential race.

With temperatures outside below zero, and attendees slipping on ice as they came in, Brown admitted he thought about cancelling the rally but decided to go on.

“We thought, my God, it’s Cleveland. We’re not going to cancel,” he said.

After his speech, Brown hung around long afterward, posing for photos and chatting with anyone who wanted to talk to him. 

Schultz, married to the senator for 15 years, introduced him and revealed that when Brown first asked her out on a date, she looked up his voting record.

She said she was reassured to find he had a 100 percent voting record on women’s rights and also a perfect voting record on gay rights.

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