Politics Grace and Smith face off for the 94th district By Jacob Smith Posted on February 17, 2016 6 min read 0 0 487 Photo courtesy Ben Watkin via Flickr. The race to name Republican Jay Edwards’ challenger for representative of the 94th district began Tuesday at Athens Public Library. The debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Athens County, brought together Democratic candidates Sarah Grace and Eddie Smith to discuss their views for the future of the district. The 94th Congressional District covers Meigs County, all of Athens County except Trimble Township and parts of Vinton and Washington counties. With a diverse district of farmers, students and citizens, candidates covered issues from Planned Parenthood to marijuana. The candidates were both given three minutes for an introduction before diving into questions from the media and those in attendance. Smith, an Ohio native, won the right to start things off after the candidates drew cards. “I am a proud Democrat running a progressive campaign,” Smith said. Smith, a graduate of Ohio University, has a degree in sociology and is running a campaign rooted in his studies. He often mentions societal barriers preventing the upward economic movement of individuals and families. “I come from a low income background,” Smith said. “My philosophy is to help the little folks on the bottom first.” Along with Smith, Grace spent most of the night addressing the stances on medical and recreational marijuana, Planned Parenthood, the gender wage gap and the minimum wage. “Healthcare should always be available,” Grace said when answering a question from WOUB reporters about Planned Parenthood. “It shouldn’t be something we fight for. It is a very real and personal issue.” Grace shared her experience with cancer at the age of 22 as a recent graduate and mother with no health coverage. “Planned Parenthood was available and affordable,” she said. When it comes to helping families, Grace favors raising minimum wage to $10.10 and paid family leave for all. “Families, men and women should have access to paid family leave,” Grace said. “They should not have to risk their job or home.” Grace is also a graduate of Ohio University but originally comes from Vermont. However, when she came to Athens, she fell in love with the area and never left. “I’ve heard that Athens gets into your blood or becomes part of your soul,” Grace said about why she and her husband have decided to stay in the district. “That was true for us because we decided to raise our family here.” Grace has a background in law and spent time in her career working for the Florida State Legislature, but she now works out of Athens. She cites herself as a local business owner as well as a mother of four. Looking to improve on drug addiction in the area, Grace focused on the upward progress of families. “Opioid addiction are killing the people of our state,” she said while laying out her priorities. “We have to fight for our future. Our children are our future, our schools need to get the funding they need.” Smith also took time to address poverty in the area, citing a study that found 35 percent of people in the area are below the poverty line. Many of those affected are below the age of 18. “I plan to go to the statehouse and make sure we have the funding we need to help those children over the barriers,” he said when discussing his priorities and plans for budgeting. “We have so many student and families falling into student loans.” The 94th district is the only locally contested district in the election. Smith and Grace will have another chance to address residents March 1 at the Nelsonville Public Library. The general election takes place Nov. 8.