RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
The community spent most of the weekend preparing for Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Portsmouth this morning. Biden is speaking at Portsmouth High School at 11:45 a.m. today.
“We requested some time back that we get some type of recognition here because Scioto County has 44,000 registered voters,” said Randy Basham, chairman of the Scioto County Democratic Party.
“I think it will motivate the base to get out and vote, and also give a clear picture for those undecided and independents and non-partisans to clearly make up their mind that the Obama Administration took something from almost deep depression and brought it back to where it is today and is moving forward with the plan.”
Over the past few elections, Portsmouth has become a hotbed for candidates to pitch their message. President George W. Bush spoke at Shawnee State University, and his Democratic party challenger for vice president John Edwards spoke on the Esplanade in 2004. Four years later, Democratic candidate for president Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain also visited Portsmouth for separate events at Shawnee State University and Portsmouth High School, respectively.
Portsmouth High School once again plays host to a major candidate this year when Vice President Biden arrives today, but Portsmouth Superintendent Scott Dutey said that wasn’t the campaign’s first choice.
“They contacted us a couple of days ago just to see if there would be availability. I know they first reached out to Shawnee State (University), I believe, but there were some other things going on there so they contacted us. We were happy to provide the venue,” Dutey said.
Secret Service and campaign advanced team members have spent several days canvassing the school building to familiarize themselves with its layout and possible security issues. Dutey said no student or staff member has been searched or scrutinized by security personnel. Most of their work, he said, was being done after school hours and was not disruptive to students or classes.
“I think it’s going to be in the auditeria of the high school. They wanted a little smaller venue than the gym. We first talked about that, but we had conflicts on Saturday hosting our volleyball invitational with our girls all-day Saturday. So then the auditeria became an option, and they were good with that,” Dutey said.
Acting Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware said no public streets will be closed today for the event, but traffic in the neighborhoods surrounding the school could be congested and he advised anyone not attending the event to avoid the area if possible. The only time traffic will be blocked, he said, was for the vice president’s motorcade.
“I think at this point it’s going to be minimal disruption to everyday life,” Ware said.
Ware and local officers have been through this type of intensive security logistics before, when other candidates have visited the community in the past. He said local officers are well-trained and prepared for this type of operation.
Participants of the event can expect to go through airport-like security and should bring as few personal items as possible. Participants will not allowed to bring bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids, or signs inside, are are asked to enter the high school using the entrance on Waller Street across from the football field. Limited parking will be available at the school.
“Obviously it comes down to the safety of the visitor as well as the public that’s attending the event, and the logistics of getting people in and out of the event,” he said.
Biden is the first sitting vice president to visit Portsmouth since Republican Vice President Dan Quayle in 1992.
“It will showcase our district, it will showcase our city, and I’m sure there will be a lot of national media coming in for this,” Dutey said. “To put that kind of face and exposure on Portsmouth, I think is a good thing.”
Watch online at portsmouth-dailytimes.com today for complete coverage following Biden’s visit. The story will also be printed in the edition Tuesday of the Portsmouth Daily Times.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.