ICYMI: Ohio Dems Debate in Eastern Ohio

In case you missed it… The Ohio Democratic Party and Ohio Democratic County Chairs Association held the first officially sanctioned debate with the Democratic candidates for governor on Tuesday in Martins Ferry.

Check out some of the local and statewide coverage…

Martins Ferry Times Leader: Dems discuss issues during first gubernatorial debate in Martins Ferry

Taking the stage Tuesday were former state Rep. Connie Pillich; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman; former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton; and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Questions focused on jobs and the economy, infrastructure improvement, education and the opioid crisis.

“People just want things that matter to them today that can build for the future generations of Ohioans. They ask for simple things like good opportunities for jobs, to send their kids to a school that will prepare them for the future. They want to feel safe when walking in their neighborhoods, and they want to be able to go to the doctor when they are sick,” Schiavoni said in his opening statement. “These are the things politicians should be working on and these are the things I have been working on in the Senate.”

Schiavoni emphasized his work in the General Assembly, introducing and supporting bills to increase accountability and transparency in the charter school business, expand broadband internet infrastructure, and deal with brownfield restoration, workforce development and neighborhood revitalization. He said he is pushing legislation that would close a tax loophole which is costing the state $1 billion each year that he said should be used for local infrastructure and community support.

Whaley said she believes she’s been successful as mayor of Dayton, and that she will “take a stand” to get things done in Columbus as she has done in her city. She said she created a manufacturing task force to improve economic development, and has brought good-paying jobs and worked with the community to “invest in a high-quality pre-K program” into the public schools.

“Politicians in Columbus rarely, if ever, come into contact with the people they serve. They would rather take the word of a lobbyist or a CEO than listen to you,” Whaley said. “This governor and the Statehouse crowd have turned their backs on families, turned their backs on communities and turned their backs on creating jobs. To them, you are invisible … but you are not invisible to me.”

Sutton said she believes the policies of the past eight years have been “unfair” to workers in Ohio, and that all people need is a “fair shot and a fair shake.” She described politics in Columbus as being a “rigged” system that as governor she would alleviate.

She said no matter what office she’s held, from city council to the U.S. House of Representatives, her fight has been the same, “making things work in the state for workers and Ohio families.” She said as governor, she would propose creating a new state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity that would “focus on strengthening wages for workers and opportunities for everyday Ohioans.”

Pillich said her No. 1 priority as governor would be to create good-paying jobs in Ohio using a five-point plan. The plan includes educating the workforce to attract good jobs, rebuilding infrastructure, growing the startup business culture, helping small and mid-sized businesses grow and helping to grow such industries as “advanced manufacturing” and renewable energy.

“We need to make smart investments,” Pillich said.

All four candidates said they believe the opioid crisis must be attacked from all sides including prevention, treatment and enforcement, and the fight against it must be adequately funded.

Sutton deemed Attorney General Mike DeWine’s lawsuit against drug companies to help combat the opioid crisis “too little and it’s a lot late” in coming.

“We not only have to sue the drug companies, we also have to approach this and fight it on all fronts, with education and prevention, and reforms in the medical community, fulfilling our responsibilities to our first responders, giving them the tools and the help and the resources that they need,” Sutton said. “We need more beds for rehab and for treatment. We have to deal with this in the near term and in the long run.”

All four candidates also said they believe job creation and expanding economic opportunity will help the current drug crisis, because it will help create hope for individuals trying to recover from addiction.

“Having hope for the future is going to be key for those folks who are struggling to get their lives on track, and to keep others from going down that path,” Sutton noted.

Wheeling Intelligencer: Jobs Top Eastern Ohio’s Concerns for 2018 Election

The next governor of Ohio is going to be the candidate who best addresses the state’s concerns about jobs and the economy, according to Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

As Democratic candidates for Ohio governor met in Martins Ferry Tuesday for the first debate of the 2018 election season, Pepper’s prediction could be in line with the thoughts of Ohio voters.

An online poll taken during the debate asked state residents what issues were the most important to them. Jobs and the economy topped the list at 44 percent; followed by education, at 23 percent; health care, at 19 percent; and fighting opioid addiction, at 15 percent.

As the politically savvy are aware, whoever wins the race for Ohio governor will be in position to lead the state up to the 2020 presidential election — and whichever presidential candidate wins Ohio usually wins the presidency.

This makes the 2018 Ohio gubernatorial race a particularly important one.

Although Pepper acknowledged Democrats’ shortcomings in last year’s presidential election, he believes the tide will start to turn as Republicans struggle to deliver on promises made.

“We’ve spent seven and a half years watching an approach (in a Republican-led Ohio government) that hasn’t worked,” Pepper said. “Money from local communities is being sent to the state, and that money is given out as tax breaks.

The result has been job growth that is anemic, and our schools are struggling because they have been defunded.

“The point is the trickle-down theories have not served communities like Martins Ferry, Steubenville and Bellaire very well. I’m anxious to hear what the candidates have to say, because what they’re doing now isn’t working.”

Ohio Democratic Party leadership chose to hold the first debate in Martins Ferry to touch base with those in rural Ohio.

Martins Ferry Times Leader: East Ohio in the Driver’s Seat

“Although our governor (John Kasich) thinks there is an Ohio miracle taking place, I have yet to find a community in the state that believes they’re seeing miracles,” Pepper said. “This is one of the reasons we’re in East Ohio. This is a part of the state that you wouldn’t find too many communities who say they think the state of Ohio and Columbus have done much of anything to help.”

The Republican Kasich is term limited and cannot seek re-election.

Pepper hit on what many local cities’ officials have complained about for years: that money and taxes generated in Eastern Ohio communities via the gas and oil industry gets taken by the state and not given back in a fair fashion.

“You have places like Belmont County budgeting as if the recession is still going on. That is literally the story of Ohio,” Pepper said.

Associated Press: Democrats’ 1st Ohio governor debate highlights party agenda

Democrats used the first debate among their four candidates for governor on Tuesday to take on Republican leadership in Columbus and Washington, D.C., and to highlight their party’s promises to do better at creating jobs, improving education and helping the middle class.

Martins Ferry Times Leader (editorial): Politicians take notice

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said the Purple City was chosen for this first in a series of debates because Belmont County and the surrounding region have been overlooked by politicians in Columbus for too long.

“That part of the state has really been ignored by the folks in charge,” Pepper said. “Our candidates are looking to change that.”

We certainly hope that is the case.


It’s an exciting moment for the city of Martins Ferry. Community members, city leaders and more talked about the impact the Democratic Gubernatorial debate has on the Ohio Valley.

Before the debate, several county residents gathered at the Elks Lodge in the city–who are glad to see the debate here in the Ohio Valley.

Ed Minger of Shadyside says, “Oh, I think it’s great they are starting out over here. I think this little corner of the state feels left out occasionally but we’re here we hope to make a difference.”

While Lori Bittengle of St. Clairsville says, “Wonderful to have the candidates here in Belmont County. It’s going to be a great year for Democrats and we are very excited to be here tonight.”

There are some issues many cities including Martins Ferry are facing—-including cuts to local government funding, about 200-300-thousand dollars each year.

Mayor Krajnyak hopes to get some answers and see some change, “It’s been a struggle for this side of the state and nobody comes and sees to hear it except our local leaders, so hopefully this will help change some things.”


Candidates fielded questions concerning the Buckeye State, but a poll during the debate showed the big topics of concern were jobs and economy issues. Locally they’re worried about keeping young people from leaving this area to improve the local economy.

“You will no longer be forgotten or a second thought,” said former representative Betty Sutton.

“You give people the opportunity to develop their ideas, and they’ll stay in this state if you incentivize it,” Senator Joe Schiavoni said. “That’s the way you keep young people here.”

“What we don’t have is a relentless advocate who’s going to make sure these jobs come to Ohio,” said former representative Connie Pillich.

“Local communities will have local control to create local jobs for the future of their areas,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said.


Tonight was all about exposure for the candidates, introducing them to Ohio voters, here in person in the southeast part of the state, but all across Ohio via the Internet.


In their first debate, the Democratic candidates for Ohio governor squared off on jobs and education. The politicians spoke from podiums at Martins Ferry High School in eastern Ohio. A recurring theme for the Democratic candidates for governor — jobs.


“It was a really fascinating debate… As I watched, I was learning things about our policy, and I wanted to go check up and learn more about different things Mayor Whaley said, different things that Senator Schiavoni said. So in that way, I find these debates to be fairly refreshing.”