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OPINION: You should know Joe Schiavoni

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This opinion article is the first in a series by Opinion Writer Zach Reizes following the democratic primary for Governor of Ohio. To watch the first democratic governors’ debate, click here

Martin’s Ferry may be a quiet town on the Ohio River, but this Tuesday the city was home to an exciting event: the first debate between Democrats who want to be the next Governor of Ohio. Of them, Ohio State Sen. Joe Schiavoni stood out as the best prepared and best connected to the issues that matter to the young people of Ohio.

As of mid-September, four Democrats have declared their interest in serving as the next Governor of Ohio: Connie Pillich, Nan Whaley, Joe Schiavoni and Betty Sutton. These four candidates bring a diverse array of backgrounds to the table, from mayoral experience to state government leadership positions. Two other Democrats, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Chief Richard Cordray and former-Cincinnati-mayor-turned-T.V.-presenter Jerry Springer are considered potential additions to the gubernatorial field. Neither have declared their candidacy and have until early 2018 to do so.

At the debate on Tuesday, all four candidates spoke about issues that many in Ohio face every day: the opioid abuse crisis, cuts to Ohio school funding, stagnant unemployment and rural poverty. Messages were similar across the board, focusing on the shared position among Democrats that Ohio is suffering under the governance of John Kasich. Statistics often cited are that Ohio’s economy has lagged behind other states since the 2009 recession and that statewide education rankings have plummeted.

On economics, Sutton stood out, with her proposal to establish a Department for Labor and Economic Opportunity in Ohio and by highlighting her innovative Cash for Clunkers rebate system. Whaley also stressed her willingness to lead on economic issues, emphasizing the hardworking Ohioans that she meets every day and the regional differences from city to city.

“We need to be cognizant that what may work in Dayton may not work in Cleveland, which may not work in Marietta,” Whaley said.

Schiavoni, however, stands out above the rest for his feisty charisma. At 37-years-old, Schiavoni is four years younger than any

Joe Schiavoni
Sen. Joe Schiavoni. Photo via Ohio Senate

other candidate. Nan Whaley, 41, is the next youngest. Schiavoni has experienced drafting statewide legislation from his decade working in the Ohio Statehouse. From the start of his first term, he has focused on education reform as a means of investing not only in the Ohio of today, but the Ohio of tomorrow.

During the debate, one announcement in particular elevated Schiavoni among those on stage. Highlighting a peice of Maryland Statehouse legislation, Schiavoni is introducing a bill to the Statehouse that will cut college loans in half for students who purchase homes in specified economic revitalization zones across Ohio. According to Schiavoni, “sometimes you have to do things like this to incentivize young people to stay in this area… it’s about reinvesting, but reinvesting in creative ways.”

The importance and potential of this legislation cannot be overstated. For students struggling with the burden of mounting debt, a program such as this can provide much-needed relief. Schiavoni’s plan can help combat brain drain in regions of the state that deeply need skilled labor and talent, and might stimulate the homeownership market. Homeownership rates have dropped since 2012, a market shift believed to be caused by lifestyle changes among the millennial generation.

Mayors like Whaley, state representatives like Pillich and Sutton and state senators like Schiavoni all have different backgrounds and skill sets. But in a state that swung eight points toward Donald Trump, the Democratic Party needs a working-class leader who can reach across the aisle. Joe Schiavoni, with his diverse political background and relative youth among Ohio gubernatorial candidates, should be that leader.

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