With regard to endorsing in the Ohio governor’s race that will be on both party ballots in the May 8 Primary Election, The Athens NEWS will forgo the collective “we” and instead issue three staff endorsements.

“We” in the newsroom just couldn’t reach agreement, and since it’s impossible to flip a coin among three people, we decided to each write our own endorsement.

I’m the Cordray guy, and Conor Morris will be stumping for Kucinich. Kayla Beard likes Joe Schiavoni. – Editor Terry Smith

Cordray offers Ohio experience and commitment

Before I explain why Ohio Democrats should vote for Richard Cordray in the Primary, there’s another election to attend to. In the Republican Primary on May 8, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is facing off against Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. Both candidates are too far right for me, and too far right for Ohio. Just to show how rightward Ohio politics have gone in the past decade, longtime right-wing stalwart DeWine is considered the “moderate” in this primary race. Tea Partier Taylor is that far out. So, no thanks.

Now back to Cordray.

In his years in the public eye, in various statewide and legislative roles, Richard Cordray repeatedly has shown his commitment to the people rather than special or corporate interests. In the crowning achievement of this pursuit of positive outcomes for regular people, Cordray served from 2012 to 2017 as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This outfit came under frequent fire from candidate and President Donald Trump, whose idea of draining the swamp is to cut the nuts off an agency whose express purpose is to protect consumers from bad banks and other financial institutions. 

Cordray effectively fulfilled his role as a watchdog with the CFPB, and before that, handled his responsibilities as state representative, state Treasurer, state Solicitor General and state Attorney General, among other positions, productively and with integrity. He has a reputation for doing his job and doing it well.

On most of the issues facing Ohio, Cordray takes progressive positions, though not as progressive as Dennis Kucinich, at least with regard to supporting single-payer health care (a position that I support) and banning fracking (a position that I don’t).

One of Cordray’s top talking points is the need for state government to resume its past practice of helping local communities, rather than continuously withdrawing state financial support. He recognizes that municipalities, townships, counties and school districts can’t fulfill the services voters expect if the state continues to reduce local outlays. It’s easy enough to crow about reducing taxes at the state level, when down at the city and county level that has the effect of cutting essential services and/or raising local taxes.

“Tell it like (he thinks) it is” Kucinich merits some respect, though it doesn’t seem that long ago when not many people really took him seriously. He’s a bit eccentric, and some of that stuff he’s been involved in comes dangerously close to deal-breaker territory.

His role as a commentator on Fox News – I can’t kick about that; any move to feature the left (or middle) on tirelessly Trump-plugging Fox has to be congratulated. However, his stated agreement with President Trump about a “deep-state” plot is deeply troubling – does he not realize that Trump and his Republican allies in Congress and media have fabricated this paranoid, fact-challenged position in order to discredit the Justice Department and its investigations into the Trump campaign?

It’s not encouraging to see a Democratic candidate for Ohio governor backing up a profoundly bad president on one of his most dangerous and demented positions.

Kucinich also has backed Trump on his wrongheaded protectionist moves against foreign steel and aluminum imports. In addition to sparking a trade war that’s in nobody’s interest, these and other unilateral tariffs will hurt the substantial part of American manufacturing that depends on foreign imports for their supply chain. We can’t fulfill our role as leader of the free world when we’re putting up walls (figuratively and actually).

And why in the world Kucinich would make nice with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and accept $20,000 to speak to a group sympathetic with that butcher, beats the hell out of me. It’s all too similar to President Trump calling Korean President Kim Jong-un – the proprietor of the worst police state in modern history – an “honorable” man.

Now how about the respective demeanors of the two main Democratic candidates? 

Kucinich is fiery and eccentric, and Cordray is mild and unexciting, at least that’s the book on these two guys.

Yet, their respective personalities aren’t a factor for me, other than suspecting that with a circus clown occupying the White House, Ohio might be better off without a bona fide character as governor.

Perhaps the most important question for me is which of these two – Kucinich or Cordray – has a better chance of beating deeply red Mike DeWine or Mary Taylor in November.

Granted, two other candidates are running in the Democratic Primary – former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill and current Ohio Sen. Joe Schiavoni. The latter is an attractive candidate with a decent grasp of the issues that Democrats need to thump on in order to win elections. While I feel he’s too green for the governor’s office at this point, I hope he runs for statewide office again. But polls suggest he doesn’t have much of a chance this time out, and most political experts in Ohio expect the Democratic race to come down between Kucinich and Cordray.

O’Neill is a loose cannon and has no prayer of winning the Primary or General Election.

My take on Cordray and Kucinich’s prospects is that with the Republican Primary winner dominating the right, a pro-consumer, progressively stalwart candidate such as Cordray – who isn’t hindered by various eccentricities and outlier behavior – has a good chance of making inroads with the vast political middle in Ohio that almost always determines the winner.

Who knows, I might be as wrong as I was in trusting America’s moderate instincts in November 2016. Maybe the Ohio middle really will be in play to the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party (even though Sanders himself has declined to endorse in this race).

But I don’t think so. Ohio remains a conservative-moderate state. If we want to keep Mike DeWine or Mary Taylor out of the governor’s office, Richard Cordray is our best bet.  – Editor Terry Smith

Schiavoni has best chance to move Ohio forward

After the presidential election of 2016, I doubt if anyone is ready to step back into the polling booth (I can say for sure that I am not). Still, voting is an imperative part of the democratic process, and what could be more important than participating in the selection of one’s own government leaders? 

I’ve only lived in Ohio for the past five years, but in that time I’ve learned some things about our state Legislature that have made me cringe. The state of Ohio needs to move forward, embracing the 21st century, as so many other states in this nation have already done. State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, has some plans that I believe would push the state along, or at least stop us from falling further behind

Like most Democratic nominees, Schiavoni’s running with a strong campaign for stricter gun legislation. His plan includes funding increased safety measures in schools, strengthening background checks, and increased regulation on AR-15s. Though he would support an all-out ban on assault weapons at the state level, he also recognizes that a statewide ban without a federal ban might not be the best course of action, as Ohioans could simply head to the nearest state to purchase those firearms.

Schiavoni’s strategic political ideas extend to his plan for addressing opioid addiction throughout the state, which has reached a crisis point in our area. As a whole, Ohio has ranked number two in overdose deaths since 2016, most of which have been caused by opioid abuse. In order to address this growing crisis, Schiavoni has proposed that the state use 10 percent of its emergency fund to fortify mental-health and addiction services and increase resources for these services, increase support for law-enforcement officers and explore “drug courts” as an alternative to convictions for people battling addiction. Schiavoni’s plan appears to be all about finding funding and taking steps immediately to improve services and programs that actually help people and reduce the number of folks who die or are thrown in jail as a result of their addiction.

In the same way, Schiavoni wants to increase funding to support local law enforcement. In the Athens area, police and law-enforcement agencies are understaffed and constantly facing budget cuts. This is a problem across local government, with the state Legislature gradually reducing funding for local government operations. The communities these departments serve are directly affected when officers can’t perform to the best of their abilities due to inadequate training or resources. Schiavoni has already co-sponsored bills as a state senator to expand funding for police officers, and promises he’ll be committed to continuing this work if elected governor.

Other issues that place Schiavoni on the top of my list are his stances on health care and cannabis legalization, two separate issues that are, in my mind, closely related. The issue of whether citizens have a right to health care shouldn’t really be an issue at all and, like most of the Democratic candidates, Schiavoni would support universal health coverage on the state and/or national level. He’s also worked to protect the expansion of Medicaid as a state senator, and would continue that effort as governor.

Schiavoni has worked to support and protect medical cannabis, but also supports legalization for recreational use. He argues, however, that such a policy would have to designate the money generated from legal recreational cannabis to a specific cause such as state-funded education, for example. I would love to see a legalization policy that funnels the hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue toward something useful and meaningful.

In addition to the points made above, Schiavoni’s plans to increase broadband internet access throughout the state, particularly in rural areas, is a much-needed step toward advancing this state. In fact, most of the issues on his platform, as well as his voting record as a state senator, have convinced me that Schiavoni has a goal of moving this state forward, and a forward-thinking progress-oriented Ohio is certainly something I’d like to see. – Kayla Beard, General Assignment Reporter 

Kucinich has plenty of good ideas for improving Ohio

The May 8 primary in the Ohio governor’s race is what Dennis Kucinich hopes will finally, at long last, be his moment in the sun. Why not give it to him?

Kucinich has worn a lot of hats in his life; he was the U.S. Rep. for Ohio’s 10th District for 16 years; a member of Ohio’s Senate for two; ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. President twice (and failed miserably); and served as the famous (or infamous) “Boy Mayor” of Cleveland from 1977 to 1979 at age 31. He also says he struggled with poverty as a young man, working dozens of odd jobs when he was growing up in Cleveland.

Kucinich is hoping that that experience will resonate with working-class voters in Ohio, and he’s positioned himself in this campaign as the far-left “outsider” populist who’s speaking to those disillusioned by the politics of both the Democratic and Republican parties. In doing so, he’s floated a lot of bonkers (but not bad) ideas that would require herculean effort and lots of bipartisan support in Ohio to ever come to fruition. 

But if even a fourth of those proposals end up happening, it’s still worth voting for Kucinich. Things like free tuition for the first two years of attending public universities in Ohio; a large-scale infrastructure revitalization program on the level of the Works Progress Administration of 1935; a blanket $15 minimum wage for all Ohio workers; a single-payer health-care system; and ending private, for-profit prison operation in Ohio.

Especially controversial is Kucinich’s proposal to direct the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to stop issuing permits for oil-and-gas fracking wells. In tandem with that, he’s proposed for a statewide ban on fracking-waste injection wells, and on brine-hauling trucks from entering into Ohio to dump their waste in our ground.

It’s not all pie-in-the-sky, though. Kucinich’s proposal to expand Ohio’s medical marijuana program and eventually legalize the plant, in tandem with expunging marijuana crimes from folks’ records, should find broad support in Ohio (especially in Athens). His other policies in general are on the right side of history – supporting public funding for abortions and fighting attempts from the Ohio Legislature to ban abortion; fighting for paid family and medical leave; and supporting a bill to end discrimination in housing and employment in Ohio based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and large-scale criminal justice reform, which includes addressing racism in policing and the corrections systems while focusing on rehabilitation for low-level, non-violent offenders.

For southeast Ohio especially, Kucinich’s talk about infrastructure revitalization and boosting government support for solar energy utilities alone should put him on the radar of any voter who cares about dragging their communities out of the economic doldrums we find ourselves in.

Kucinich – who’s spent some time in recent years as a Fox News commentator – told The NEWS when he visited Athens earlier this year that he hopes to convert Trump voters to his cause. It might be a tough sell considering Kucinich’s long history of advocating progressive policies, but it’s an honorable goal to say the least. – Conor Morris, Associate Editor

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