Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at Akron’s Lockheed Martin

Jackie Mantey

Sen. Hillary Clinton, with Akron mayor and campaign supporter Don Plusquellic, addresses workers at Akron’s Lockheed Martin plant Friday. About 300 people came out to show their support for the senator. Doug Hite | KentNewsNet.com

Credit: DKS Editors

Sen. Hillary Clinton decided to keep it short and sweet Friday afternoon.

In a 12-minute speech to guests of Akron’s Lockheed-Martin Corp., the presidential hopeful discussed her sympathies for the victims of Thursday’s Northern Illinois University shootings, rebuilding the middle class and rehabilitating the economy after an administration that “squandered a balanced budget and surplus.”

National security was also an important facet of her speech, as Lockheed Martin is an aviation and defense contractor.

“We’re losing important aspects of defense,” she said on the floor of a plant that produces parts for defense machines. She said the fact that night vision was started in the United States but was no longer produced here is a strong example of such lost chances.

The defense industry has played an important role in Clinton’s battle for a seat in the Oval Office. By last October, Clinton was the presidential candidate who received the largest amount of contributions from employees of top-arms producers in the country, according to the Huffington Post’s Web site.

Clinton is eager to gain energy in Ohio after endorsements from political heavyweights Gov. Ted Strickland, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, who introduced Clinton at the event.

That zealous push in the Buckeye state is a result of the nearly deadlocked race for the Democratic presidential nomination with Barack Obama. The March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas could determine who will claim the title, and Clinton is currently embracing a 22 percent lead with Ohio Democrats, according to a Quinnipiac University poll (http://www.quinnipiac.edu/x2882.xml?ReleaseID=1142) released Thursday.

Lockheed Martin’s audience of about 300 also gave her a warm reception. One woman beamed after Clinton’s speech with a stuffed Winnie the Pooh Bear that boasted “Hillary” in permanent marker.

But Matt Kehrer, an employee at the plant and self-described “country-boy, non-union man” who would “vote for Clinton before Obama,” was not impressed.

“It’s kind of just been a pain,” he said of the media frenzy and the sitting and waiting for the senator, rather than working.

As selected co-workers lined up for autographs and photos, Kehrer stood watching from behind the paper-streamer barricades with one question.

“What’s the deal with immigration?” he said, adding that if she really wanted to discuss the economy and jobs, the use of illegal immigrants for cheap labor would be a key issue.

Kehrer didn’t get his answer, but Clinton did say “we need this economy to work and stop the loss of jobs” and that more investments need to be made at home.

“We can’t build a strong and prosperous middle class unless we have a president who thinks the well-connected have had a pretty good ride the past seven years,” she said.

Clinton was also scheduled for Friday visits to the Summit County Democratic Party’s annual Valentine’s Day dinner and to Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst for a rally with Gov. Ted Strickland.

Kehrer was taking down the barricades in his workplace and going home.

Contact public affairs reporter Jackie Mantey at [email protected].

The Clinton Campaign Trail:

Feb. 26:

• Clinton will join Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential debate at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center. NBC Nightly News and WKYC-TV 3 will air the debate.