By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter
The Ohio Young Democrats and Ohio Young Black Democrats held a virtual town hall meeting April 21 with Democratic candidates for the Ohio Senate. Morgan Harper and Congressman Tim Ryan engaged in a Q&A session with representatives from the organizations in anticipation of the May 3 primary election.
Jordan Hawkins, president of the Young Black Democrats served as moderator for the evening. He introduced Chris Anderson, president of Ohio Young Democrats, and the candidates present.
“We know for a fact that when young people show up to the polls, we show up in force and the candidate we support wins…,” said Anderson, “I want to thank the candidates [tonight] for not taking our votes for granted.”
The two groups curated questions in advance to probe the candidates on pertinent issues. The organizations represent two very important voting blocks: young voters and young Black voters.
Morgan Harper, Congressmen Tim Ryan and Traci Johnson (of Toledo, Ohio) were listed in the agenda. Traci Johnson was not in attendance. The meeting was a town hall and not a side-by-side debate. Each candidate was asked a series of questions individually for an allotted time block.
Harper was first on the agenda. When asked what her pitch was for Senate she stated, “We need to make sure we have a policy agenda that is going to guarantee opportunity for every Ohioan,” said Harper. “Just like I’m so grateful that Ohio gave me.”
Harper is the progressive candidate from Columbus, Ohio. The 38-year-old attorney spent her early childhood in the foster care system. She cites her early experiences in her demand for change. Harper grew from humble beginnings to graduate from Princeton and furthered her education at Stanford Law. She has also spent years in grassroots community organizing. She sees the value in the essentials many Americans are not afforded and wants to bring that change to her seat in Washington.
Harper highlighted her policy agenda:
- “Creating jobs in sectors of the future” and gave the example of clean energy jobs that both address the climate issue and are high paying;
- “Debt free vocational four-year public college opportunity” to train for those jobs;
- and “Healthcare for everyone; Medicare for all.”
Harper also supports the codifying of Roe v. Wade into law.
When asked if her platform is too progressive or extreme Harper stated, “we have data that shows actually over 80 percent of likely Democratic primary voters support things like universal healthcare, want to see the minimum wage increase, [support] cancelling student debt… “ She believes that the party needs to be real about where they are and that most voters- not just within the party- support these policies.
She said she is what the Democratic Party needs to win and combat voter apathy. “We have to have an authentic message and an authentic messenger that is going to mobilize the key constituencies that we need to turn out to vote… the biggest barrier we’re facing is this disillusionment threshold [with voters].”
“We have done a lot of business-as-usual for these Senate seats and lost.” She believes what makes her different is what will get the party its seat in the Senate.
Congressman Tim Ryan was next. He has served Ohio’s 13th District since 2013. Elected to the House of Representatives in 2002, he is now serving his 10th term. Ryan is the endorsed Democratic candidate for the Senate seat and has also been endorsed by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.
When asked what his message is to young Black voters, Ryan said that it is to invest into all communities “black, white and brown.” He stated that the challenges in the black community are significant. Ryan mentioned that he has fought to get resources into his district to address lead poisoning, infant mortality, criminal justice and voting rights.
He believes that the work that he’s started in his time in the House of Representatives he can complete in the Senate, including a pathway to the building trades program for high schools in the inner city.
The moderators asked Ryan how he plans to address voter apathy and how he will engage young Black voters. He says he is building grassroots organizing and also has a fellows’ program at universities and colleges in the state. “We’re going to have a massive voter contact operation happening in the state,” he says that will get young people out to vote.
He spoke about his platform of “Cutting workers in on the deal”. “We have to build an economy that looked more similar to the economy my grandfather was in,” said Ryan. “He didn’t have to work a second job… he had a garden…a good wage, good retirement, good benefits. He had time…without being so burnout so squeezed, that you don’t know how you’re going to make ends meet.” He said his polices will support this future for all Ohioans.
To view more information on the candidates, go to morganharper.org (Morgan Harper); timforohio.com (Congressman Tim Ryan) and ohioforjohnson.com (Traci Johnson).
Early voting has begun. To review regulations and to discover your polling location visit the Ohio Secretary of State website at www.ohiosos.gov.