Politics

Youngstown ‘in the Mix’ for October Democratic Debate

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown could play host to the fourth debate of candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

Rumors circulated Friday that Youngstown was one of the cities being considered for the debate, which the Democratic National Committee announced last weekend would take place in Ohio.

David Betras, former chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, confirmed last night that Youngstown is among the sites in contention for the debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16.

“I know we are in the mix,” Betras affirmed. “Besides this, I don’t know anything else.”

Kirstin Alvanitakis, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party, said she did not have any information on a location for the debate. Media reports have said the DNC is weighing options that include Youngstown and Dayton.

Dayton would provide Democratic contenders a relevant backdrop to focus on universal background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm and other proposals being advanced to stem gun violence.

Youngstown would be another good location for the debate because Mahoning County had the highest number per capita of crossover voters in 2016, according to Betras.

Thousands of voters who normally vote as Democrats in primaries requested Republican ballots in 2016, presumably to support businessman Donald Trump, who won the GOP nomination and ultimately the presidency.

“I can tell you we had to print more Republican ballots in the primary,” Betras said.

Joe Schiavoini, a former state senator who served as Ohio Senate minority leader, said he had not heard anything beyond the media reports regarding Youngstown potentially hosting the debate but agreed that the area would be a fitting location.

“Many voters here are truly uncertain at this time about the candidate that they support. People here want someone to believe in — someone that has their back,” Schiavoni said.

“President Obama did well here because people believed in him,” he continued. “People are looking for someone that has plans that will benefit our area and the country as a whole.  Some voted for Trump and some voted for Clinton but so many people in the area are still waiting for someone to earn their vote and trust. Let’s give the candidates that shot.”

Visitors to the area are always “always presently surprised by the food, entertainment and friendliness of the residents,” Schiavoni added.

So far, 10 candidates have qualified to participate in the September and October debates by meeting the DNC’s polling and fundraising requirements. Among those candidates who have fallen short so far is U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, whose district includes Youngstown.

A spokesman for Ryan did not respond to a request for comment Friday evening, nor did a DNC spokeswoman.

The national party’s decision to hold the October debate in Ohio indicates that the state remains in play in 2020.

“We’re excited to partner with the DNC to bring the next sanctioned presidential debate to Ohio,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said in a release. “

As is happening across the nation, Democrats are energized, formerly Republican suburbs are trending blue and voters across the state are waking up to Donald Trump’s many broken promises. Those are some of the numerous reasons that the president’s approval numbers in Ohio have tumbled 20 points since he took office,” the state chairman said.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee issued a statement touting the economy under Trump, citing Friday’s jobs report that showed 130,000 jobs were added in August and wages grew 3.2%

“This is the 13th month in a row of 3% wage growth or higher,” according to the news release issued by Mandi Merritt, RNC regional communications director. “It is clear that President Trump is continuing to deliver on his promises to build and maintain a robust economy for all Americans.” 

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.