Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Zoldan, Washington to host Obama
The presidential candidate will hold a private fundraiser in Boardman next week.
YOUNGSTOWN Local businessman Bruce Zoldan, one of the Mahoning Valley's most prominent political donors, said he was "shocked" to get a recent call from presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
He was further surprised by the initial topic of discussion.
"I thought he'd talk about politics," said Zoldan, chief executive officer of B.J. Alan Co., a Youngstown-based fireworks company.
Instead, Obama talked about fireworks for most of the conversation, Zoldan said. After a few minutes, Obama got around to his business.
The U.S. senator from Illinois asked if Zoldan could host a fundraiser for him in the Mahoning Valley. Last year, Zoldan held fundraisers at his Canfield home for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, a 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful, attended the latter event.
Because Zoldan's wife, Rori, recently had surgery, he declined to hold the event at his house.
But after a conversation with businessman Herb Washington, Zoldan told the Obama camp that Washington's Boardman home was available for the event. The private fund-raising breakfast at Washington's home is set for June 20. Zoldan is co-hosting the event.
Washington, who owns more than 20 local McDonald's restaurants and the Youngstown SteelHounds minor league hockey team, wasn't available Monday to comment because of a death in his family.
Tickets for the breakfast cost a minimum of $1,000 with those attending allowed to give Obama's campaign up to $2,300, the maximum amount an individual can contribute to a presidential candidate under federal law.
Zoldan said he is "very impressed" by Obama, but said co-hosting the event doesn't mean he's endorsing the senator for the presidency.
"I want to help the Mahoning Valley, and that means hosting an event for anyone, Democrat or Republican, who I believe can help this area," he said.
Zoldan contributed $2,300 on March 31 to ex-U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, another 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.
The mayor will attend
Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, who successfully ran as an independent for his seat and is a registered Democrat, will attend the event and will pay $1,000 for his ticket. But, like Zoldan, Williams isn't prepared to endorse a candidate.
"I'm very interested in what he has to say," Williams said. "If I have an opportunity to hear from presidential candidates, I will."
This is the first visit to the Mahoning Valley by Obama, elected to the Senate in 2004, and the first fundraiser in the area by a Democratic presidential hopeful.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, President Bush, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, his Democratic opponent, as well as numerous surrogates made several campaign stops in the Mahoning Valley. Ohio was considered a key battleground state in the 2004 election and is expected to be the same in next year's presidential race.