Home Education Grace and Edwards campaign to combat local issues with contrasting solutions

Grace and Edwards campaign to combat local issues with contrasting solutions

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Ohio House Candidates for the 94th District focused on education and energy during an OU Town Hall Debate hosted by Student Senate on Tuesday night.

Democratic candidate Sarah Grace and Republican candidate Jay Edwards discussed issues pertaining to Athens County and Meigs County, as well as portions of Vinton and Washington counties.

The candidates talked about education reform and gave special focus to charter schools.

“Charter schools are public schools — they are publicly funded,” said Grace. “Charter schools are funded with our tax dollars. However, they are not held to the same standards of ethics in terms of who they hire and who their contracts are given to. We need clear guidelines for ethics, accountability and standards.”

Edwards agreed that charter schools need to be amended, specifically with the funding model which takes away from other public school funding. The issue should not be seen through a partisan lense, according to Edwards, but should have bipartisan support across the board.

Grace and Edwards also discussed higher education costs in Ohio. Edwards emphasized the importance of increasing need-based funding for financial aid, and Grace said a portion of the price should be paid by the state.

Environmental concerns also came up throughout the debate, particularly regarding fracking and energy efficiency.

“One thing that I’m not a fan of is companies coming here and dumping fracking waste,” said Edwards. “We get no benefit from it, and it usually tears up our roads in the process.”

Grace emphasized using renewable resources instead of fossil fuels, which she thinks would result in a boom and bust in the economy. She advocated for a decrease on renewing fossil fuels.

Both of them discussed climate change, and Grace emphasized that people in Athens should pay more attention to how small actions affect the global environment.

“We’re all connected and what we do here just like what others do impacts the entire global system,” said Grace. “It is one huge ecosystem that supports all of us and we have a finite time to look at and address these problems.”

Edwards noted that the “cheapest and cleanest energy is the energy we do not use.” He advocated for increasing incentivized programs with utility providers to raise awareness about keeping energy use low.

The candidates discussed the severance tax, which puts a tax on persons or firms extracting certain natural resources from soil or water in Ohio. Edwards disagreed with raising the tax. He advocated for regulating the natural gas and oil industry in other ways, so that more outside sources want to invest in natural gas from Southeastern Ohio. Grace wants to raise the tax and redistribute the funds in order to benefit communities that are affected by extraction and injection.

Both candidates acknowledged the drug epidemic in Ohio, with Grace pointing out that Ohio ranked second across the nation in 2015 for the amount of drug overdose deaths.

Grace discussed the importance of increasing rehabilitation and treatment services. She said anyone seeking help should be able to immediately receive it, and the overall focus should be on medicated-assisted treatment. Edwards agreed that there should be better rehabilitation for drug offenders, but also more repercussions for people bringing drugs into the city to make a profit.

Edwards also advocated for incentivizing companies to hire first-time drug users who are coming out of rehabilitation.

Student Senate sponsored the debate in partnership with the Ohio University College Democrats and Republicans.

OU College Republicans President David Parkhill supports Edwards, but he noted that both candidates are suited for the office.

“They’re the same distance from the center,” said Parkhill. “I don’t think this is anything like the presidential election. If Sarah or Jay gets elected, the 94th district isn’t going to fall apart. I think they’re both definitely suited for the job.”

Coinciding with the presidential election, this year’s state election is happening at a time when a high voter turnout is anticipated.  

“I think it helps that people are paying attention,” said Sam Miller, Ohio University College Democrats president. “They realize that they’re voting in November for more than just president. I hope that this is persuading them to look more at who these candidates are and what they’re standing for.”

There are two more open forums scheduled for the candidates, sponsored by the Athens County League of Women Voters. They will take place on Oct. 25 at the Athens Public Library and Nov. 1 at the Nelsonville Public Library.

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