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2020 presidential candidates battle for conservative central Ohio's vote

California senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris discusses plans to correct the criminal justice system with reporters in the spin room following the October debate held at Otterbein University. Each candidate spoke about key issues affecting many Ohioans at last months debate in hopes of appealing to more conservative constituents (photo/Nathan Grizenko).

Twelve presidential hopefuls met at Otterbein University to put forth policies that addressed some of Ohio’s most pressing issues including healthcare, gun violence, and the opioid crisis, in hopes of appealing to voters who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016.

The night didn’t begin with talks about healthcare reform or ending gun violence in our neighborhoods. CNN moderator Anderson Cooper immediately jumped to the impeachment inquiry launched by House democrats. Each candidate got to weigh in on the matter.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, like other democrats, finds Mr. Trump to be way out of step and states he has consistently abused his power. 

“Donald Trump broke the law again in the summer [and] broke it again this fall,” she said. “You know, we took a constitutional oath, and that is that no one is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden agreed.

“This president—and I agree with Bernie, Senator Sanders—is the most corrupt president in modern history and I think all of our history,” Biden said.  “And the fact is that this president of the United States has gone so far as to say, since this latest event, that, in fact, he will not cooperate in any way at all, will not list any witnesses, will not provide any information, will not do anything to cooperate with the impeachment. They have no choice but to move.”

For Ohio voters, this debate was an eye-opener as Trump’s approval ratings continue to go down and Biden and Sanders became the front runners in the swing state. The front runners moved through the night throwing punches and making the most of their speaking time.

Healthcare costs in the United States have been a concern for many Americans. Warren claims her Medicare-for-All plan will lower costs for middle-class families and increase costs for the wealthy and big corporations. Sanders has acknowledged his plan will raise taxes on middle-class families to help pay for the plan, and while Warren has endorsed his plan, she does not definitively state whether her plan, too, will raise taxes.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg calls out Warren for not sufficiently answering the question as to whether taxes would go up for middle-class families. Klobuchar also goes after Warren for the fellow senator’s lack of clarity in response to just how she intends to pay for Medicare for All. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar steps in, making the first of many talking points that address the pharmaceutical industry’s obligation to pay for the “addictions and deaths they have caused.”

Harris bases her response on the need to preserve women’s reproductive rights.

Ohio became the sixth state in the nation to outlaw abortion at the point heartbeat activity can be detected. The bill was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine but later temporarily blocked by a federal judge in early July. SB23, or the “Human Rights Protection Act,” outlawed abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and while the bill accounts for cases in which the mother’s life is at risk, there are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

“It is not an exaggeration to say women will die, poor women, women of color will die, because these Republican legislatures in these various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with our bodies,” Harris said. “Women are the majority of the population in this country.  People need to keep their hands off of women's bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives.”

Unemployment rates in Ohio have also dropped in the past several months. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Ohio’s unemployment rate has fluctuated between 4.2% and 4% since April. The U.S., as of Sept. has an unemployment rate of 3.5%. In central Ohio, job growth has been stronger than state or national averages since the Great Recession. The state’s labor force has been growing faster than job creation over the past year, suggesting that people have enough confidence in the economy to look for work.

Marc Lacey, National Editor for The New York Times, redirected the conversation to discuss changes in the auto industry and the loss of Ohio’s largest employers, General Motors. It is now 72nd. Lacey asked Senator Booker how he would convince companies to return production to the United States.

Booker spoke on the importance of unions and the need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Additionally, Booker made a jab at the President’s trade policies that are benefiting larger corporations but ignoring the workers’ needs.

“We have to start putting the dignity back in work,” the senator said. “And, number one, you start having trade deals, not like this thing that the president is trying to push through Congress right now that gives pharmaceutical companies and other corporations benefits and doesn't put workers at the center of every trade deal.”

Ohio’s jobless rate, however, has dropped despite a lull in job creation. According to the Columbus Dispatch, in June, the State’s unemployment fell a tenth of a percent in a couple months between April and May settling at 4.1%. This number is misleading according to Policy Matters Ohio, a non-profit policy research institute that promotes sustainability and inclusivity in Ohio. Hanna Halbert, the group’s project director, said that this unemployment rate doesn’t reflect the fluctuations Ohio has experienced over the last year.

Cooper continued to find domestic issues that addressed key issues facing many Ohioans, including gun violence, referencing places like Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman killed nine people with a .223-caliber high-capacity rifle.  

Beto O’Rourke, former Texas congressman, revealed his plan to enforce a mandatory buyback for banned assault weapons and handguns. 

He claimed police would not be going door to door. The question of the night was how he expected this law to be enforced.

O’Rourke responded by saying he expected his “fellow Americans to follow the law, the same way that we enforce any provision, any law that we have right now.”

Buttigeig wasn’t convinced.

“Look, Congressman, you just made it clear that you don't know how this is actually going to take weapons off the streets,” the South Bend Mayor said.

“We can't wait for universal background checks that we finally have a shot to actually get through.  We can't wait to ban the sale of new weapons and high-capacity magazines so we don't wind up with millions more of these things on the street. We can't wait for red flag laws that are going to disarm domestic abusers and prevent suicides, which are not being talked about nearly enough as a huge part of the gun violence epidemic in this country.”

“We cannot wait for purity tests.  We have to just get something done. The problem is the National Rifle Association and their enablers in Congress, and we should be united in taking the fight to them.”

Ohio has backed all but two presidential winners in every election since 1896, making it an important battleground state. Obama won Ohio twice whereas Trump won Ohio in 2016. However, many Republican suburbs are turning blue as Trump continues to make promises that he cannot seem to keep.

Westerville has swung conservative, but it’s important to note a progressive trend over the years.

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