Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile, D-District 30, made his case for re-election at the OU College Democrats’ Tuesday meeting.
Gentile — who was elected to the Ohio House in 2010, appointed to the Senate in 2011 and reelected in 2012 — is seeking re-election for another term this year.
“Ohio is sort of the epicenter for everything, and this is going to be a very important election year,” Gentile said. “I am really focused on traveling in this part of the state, getting out my message, and I want to really be inclusive of this campus, students, and the citizens and voters in this town.”
He said this differentiates him from his Republican opponent Frank Hoagland, who has said Athens County does not reach his target demographic.
Gentile stressed the effect statehouse politics have on the day-to-day life of students and people living in the state. He said that although people tend to focus on national elections and issues, especially during presidential election years, state politics are more important than many people realize.
He also criticized Ohio Gov. John Kasich, saying his plan to cut income taxes only benefits high-income people and hurts small communities.
“The establishment in Columbus has shifted the burden of who pays for what in the state,” Gentile said. “If they’re cutting income taxes and people are paying less money, then we have less money for things like education, less money for our police officers, our firefighters, our teachers, less money for things in our community that really matter.”
Gentile’s main goals for the district are improving workforce training and development, and investing in services for communities and K-12 education.
“Here in Southeast Ohio it’s all about economic development and job creation,” Gentile said.
He emphasized that his spot on the Ohio Senate Finance Committee will allow him to effectively continue the work he started during his first term in office.
Gentile listed Integrating Professionals for Appalachian Children (IPAC) as a project he was able to move forward because of his spot on the committee. He helped the group attain half a million dollars in funding for at-risk women with children, an issue he said is addressed in urban areas but often looked over in rural parts of Ohio.
“Those are some examples of some things I can do as a member of the finance committee,” Gentile said. “I can take an initiative that can help Southeast Ohio to fight for the area specifically and also more broadly looking at how we can direct funding to our public schools and our local governments, and obviously, I’ve always been committed to keeping the high cost of tuition down.”
Gentile is also passionate about improving Ohio public schools and getting rid of the issues that online and charter schools create. He said he will work to lower tuition rates for higher education.
To that end, he pioneered a bill that allows veterans to get academic credit for their time in the military. Kasich later signed the bill into law by way of executive order.
“I have an established record as someone who is really committed to public service, not self-service,” Gentile said. “I’m not going to be controlled by the Columbus establishment or vote against the interests of my district. Most importantly, I’m passionate about taking care of other people.”
The College Democrats also discussed its on-campus efforts to campaign for Democrats and register as many people as possible to vote. The group hopes to attract high-profile speakers to campus, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom have visited other college campuses this year to campaign.