League of women voters forum

Daniel Kilgore, sitting at left, and Joel Newby listen as Mary Costello of the League of Women Voters of Athens County introduces the campaign forum at the Athens Community Center on Tuesday evening. Photo by Ben Peters/The New Political.

Democratic congressional candidates Daniel Kilgore and Joel Newby want voters to know they care about jobs, they care about the environment, and they really care about Athens.

During a forum hosted Tuesday night by the League of Women Voters of Athens County at the Athens Community Center, the question of each congressional candidate’s electability and their life stories took center stage alongside media and attendee questions concerning green energy, the economy and health care. 

Both candidates made electability pitches numerous times over the course of the forum, and each believes he has unique qualifications to represent Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. That district includes most of Athens County and stretches north to include parts of the Columbus metro area. The incumbent, Republican Steve Stivers, lives in the Columbus area. 

Newby grew up in Pickaway County (county seat, Circleville) and is an Ohio University alum. Tuesday evening, he repeatedly boasted his strong personal connection to the 15th District and his desire to support the communities in and around Athens County, regardless of the political affiliations of residents. 

“This county built me,” Newby said, “and because I come from you, I will be able to go to Washington, D.C. and represent you.” 

Though Kilgore lives outside of Ohio’s 15th District, he said that his reputation as an everyman will resonate with voters in the district. He was raised by his grandparents, he said, and previously struggled financially to the point where he was homeless. The candidate now works full-time at a call center when he’s not on the campaign trail. Because of his first-hand challenges, he said he wants to represent the needs and daily struggles of ordinary people in the 15th District. 

“I’m an unconventional candidate,” Kilgore acknowledged. “Not many candidates have gone through what I’ve gone through. I have lived through the struggles a lot of people are going through.”

Kilgore said in his campaign he’s concentrating on cutting the region’s homelessness and poverty rates, supporting infrastructure, and creating job centers with a focus on green-energy jobs.

Newby’s campaign places a heavy focus on agricultural jobs, including support for small family-owned farms over large corporate farms – which Kilgore said he also supports. He noted that broadband access in the region is a massive issue that prevents residents from gaining employment. If elected, Newby said he plans to propose a comprehensive funding plan that will ensure expanded broadband access for rural communities. 

“In small towns, access to the Internet is nearly impossible,” Newby said. “How are we going to build a 21st century economy if we can’t get the majority of the people in the economy hooked up to the Internet?” 

Both candidates also gave attention to the environment and how they plan to implement policies to protect it. Both stated support for a greater emphasis on clean energy.

Newby in particular said he supports solar and wind energy to both replace fracking and bolster the economy. 

Kilgore said he supports “better, safer solutions” for fracking. 

They both voiced concerns about climate change. Kilgore stressed his interest in embracing climate science and cited recent enviromental catastrophes, such as the Australia wildfires, as reasons to be concerned about the Earth’s future. 

Newby said he wants to focus on local environmental issues to convince people to care about climate change. He argued that while residents of Ohio may not worry about rising sea levels, they are concerned about how shifting weather, flooding and droughts impact their crop yields. 

“I think we need to bring climate change down to a level they can understand,” Newby said. “Here in Ohio, we don’t really worry about the ocean drowning us. What we do worry about is having food.”

Ohio’s primary election takes place on March 17.

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