Black Business Community Voter Forum Recap
Editor’s note: The claims made by candidates in this and other public forums need to be fact-checked. This article is a recap of what was said, and should not yet be taken as verified facts from any of the candidates.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Central Ohio African American Chamber of Commerce hosted a primary voter forum entitled “Our Community, (Y)Our Business,” where candidates from nearly a dozen races discussed issues relevant to the Central Ohio African American community.
Billed as a moderated discussion and not a debate, Republican and Democratic opponents were asked about issues such as Black entrepreneurship, access, pay equity, criminal justice, education and more. One particular race was the big draw of the night — considering three-fourths of the crowd left quickly after — however there were more races as part of the discussion.
U.S. House of Representatives Third District – R
First to the table were Republican candidates Mark Richardson and Cleo Dulaney. The candidates were asked about pay equity for Black women, who make 63 cents for every dollar made by their white male counterparts, and what they could do about it in Congress. Richardson said the solution would have to start with getting data on what industries were seeing the discrepancy and then putting Black women in a leadership role so they can learn to make the same amount as a man. Dulaney said the solution should start with Black women getting a better education.
In discussing education, Richardson said schools needed to pay teachers more, take politics out of schools and assign more homework. Dulaney talked about his daughter leaving a school that is predominately children of color to go to a school with a mostly white population, and getting better grades.
The moderator then asked about mandatory drug testing for police officers in use of force incidents. Richardson said he would be in favor in order to determine the “why” of an incident, and Dulaney said yes, to eliminate the possibility of a drug issue being the cause.
U.S. House of Representatives Third District – D
This wasn’t a debate, but what “won” the night was something that was not seen in the first debate between Morgan Harper and incumbent Rep. Joyce Beatty.
Harper came equipped with several critiques of Beatty’s voting record and approaches to issues such as police violence, loan discrimination, “reaching across the aisle” and working with Republicans. She showed she was in shape to handle a battle with Beatty, while Beatty’s claims about her opponent elicited a different reaction from the audience the second time around.
The first question to the Democrats addressed criminal justice reform in relation to mandatory drug tests for police in use of force incidents. Harper said that the criminal justice system is racist, specifically regarding incidents of police violence. Harper said she will introduce legislation that would make sure there was an independent review board to investigate situations of police violence, that the board would have mandatory subpoena power to collect evidence and would eliminate qualified immunity, adding that Rep. Beatty “has not introduced legislation that is going to make sure that we end these incidents of violence.”
In her response, Beatty pointed to the First Step Act as a “bold” piece of legislation that released 3,000 people from incarceration that should not have been. On issues in the justice system, Beatty said she had been at the forefront and protested on the House floor for gun violence reform. She said, “It doesn’t matter whether that gun is in your hand, my hand or a police officer’s hand.” She named a few black children who had been killed by police violence including, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and “the Green child” to describe 23-year-old Henry Green, who was killed by two undercover Columbus police officers in June 2016. Harper interrupted to correct her. “His name is Henry Green,” she said, adding that Beatty “was not there for” the Green family.
Beatty later finished by saying she supports an independent review board and that the current Department of Justice does not work as well with the House as the previous administration. She also suggested the DOJ needed to have someone assigned to work with the House on a regional basis.
When discussing reaching across the aisle to get things done, Harper said she was about bringing people together who believe in criminal justice reform. She said she will not work with people who are undermining progress and “enabling” President Trump, claiming that Beatty had done so by campaigning with Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and not doing everything possible to grow a House majority. Beatty said she has never campaigned with any Republican, and that she passed legislation with Stivers when Republicans were in the House majority. She said she had to do so for legislation to bring money back to the East Side.
On the aforementioned question about mandatory drug testing, both candidates were then given the option to answer yes or no. Beatty said she would not support the measure because it depends, and Harper said she would support drug testing.
A question from the audience asking “What thing has Trump done that is racist?” allowed Beatty to give a laundry list of examples, while Harper took the opportunity to point out a bill Beatty co-sponsored and Trump signed into law that she said made it legal to charge Black people higher interest rates on car loans. Beatty responded by saying the bill was signed by most of the Democratic African Americans in Congress. She said Black people weren’t able to access loans and that the differential in the bill was on how much interest they would charge. “The second time around,” she said, Congress corrected the data on the bill, voted against it and put a cap on loans.
A question from the audience directed to Harper asked what she would do to make a difference. Harper said her campaign demonstrated how the community could do things differently in choosing representatives. She said she would put people first, alluding to Beatty saying one thing to constituents, but by taking campaign donations, she was making decisions to benefit corporations over them.
When discussing Black entrepreneurship for young women of color and closing the wage gap, Beatty said she has legislation on closing the wealth gap. She said that on the House Committee on Financial Services she has taken “corporate giants to task” because there aren’t many women in corporate leadership positions, and now corporations are required to do so. She also talked about her bills to address the wage gap, including the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Harper talked about the low level of city contracts going to women and minority-owned businesses, and the percentage for Black women is likely much smaller than that. She said how she would address access through helping to pass universal healthcare and universal childcare, lessening the expense of healthcare and leading to the ability to accrue wealth that would help fund entrepreneurial endeavors.
Beatty said she had signed onto those bills but that they are sitting in the Senate, and to write to Mitch McConnell. Harper said that to move legislation into passage, it would take leadership that did not take corporate campaign donations. She said that Beatty had accepted over $200,000 from the healthcare industry and corporations like Bob Evans that have been accused of suppressing wages.
Beatty said Harper had also taken money from the people that run corporations and “the people who are bank presidents of Trump’s bank,” the presidents and CEOs that represent big pharma, and mostly people from outside of the state, to which Harper interjected by saying that was not true.
U.S. House of Representatives 15th District – D
The district currently represented by Rep. Stivers is a large central-southern district that includes parts of Franklin, Athens, Fayette and Ross counties, as well as Clinton, Fairfield, Hocking, Madison, Morgan, Perry, Pickaway and Vinton counties. The Democratic candidates hoping to represent the 15 District in the House are Daniel Kilgore and Joel Newby.
On the minimum wage, both candidates started at $15 an hour, however, Newby said $15 amounting to a livable wage may not last long. Kilgore said that $15 is the goal across the board, including tipped wages. He also said he would support a minimum wage that moves as inflation moves.
When discussing how they would assist Black entrepreneurs, Kilgore said he would support a small-business owner bailout, much like the federal government bails out banks. Newby said that he thought implementing some sort of loan review board would help with curtailing discrimination when trying to acquire loans.
On a question about what a “right-now solution” could be in addressing the challenges facing public schools, Newby’s thought that United States Secretary of Education Betsy Devos should be fired, teachers should be paid more, and schools needed more funding for technology and resources in the classroom. Kilgore said the amount of money being spent on keeping people in prison and the amount of money spent on students should be reversed.
Mandatory drug testing was again posed to the candidates. Kilgore said it should be mandatory, and that as a defense attorney he doesn’t trust cops because they are an element of the government that is “supposed to go out and basically suppress” the public on their behalf. He said that police officers are human and will go over the line. Newby also said he would be for drug testing and wouldn’t just stop there, but he would look at reforming police deescalation training as well.
Candidates were posed with their stance on reparations. Newby said yes, but admitted that it was a difficult question and he didn’t know in what form it should be implemented. Kilgore also said yes, and said he thought it would be good to implement it in student loan forgiveness and programs for education.
Candidates in other races also participated in the forum and were asked about similar topics, including Black entrepreneurship, pay equity, police-community relations, House Bill 584 and city contracts with minority-owned businesses:
- Ohio House of Representatives 25th District in northeast Columbus Democratic candidates Dontavious Jarrells; community organizer, small business owner and National Association of Minority Contractors Central Ohio Executive Director Mayo Makinde; and Kofi Nsia-Pepra, a professor of political science
- Democratic incumbent Kristen Boggs – 18th District Ohio House of Representatives, running unopposed in the Democratic primary
- Republican candidate John Rutan – 17th District Ohio House of Representatives, one of two Republican candidates challenging incumbent Democrat Adam Miller in the general election
- Democratic candidate Crystal Lett – 17th District Ohio State Senate, running against three other Democrats and challenging incumbent Republican Stephanie Kunze
- Ohio House of Representatives District 26 incumbent Erica Crawley, running unopposed in the Democratic primary
- Franklin County Treasurer incumbent Democrat Cheryl Brooks Sullivan, running for reelection unopposed in primary
- Franklin County Treasurer Republican candidate Brandon Cross, running unopposed in primary
- Franklin County Engineer incumbent Republican Cornell Robertson, running unopposed in the general election
- Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Chris Brown, running for reelection and unopposed in primary
- Ohio District Courts of Appeals candidate Judge Terri Jamison, running unopposed in primary
- Franklin County Court of Common Pleas candidate Magistrate Lasheyl Stroud, running unopposed in primary
- Franklin County Court of Common Pleas candidate George Leach, unopposed in primary
A representative for Issue 21 also spoke briefly about the Columbus State Community College bond issue that will be on the March ballot.
Ohio’s primary election takes place on March 17. Find more information on voting and candidates here.
2/20/2020: A previous version of this article included what Beatty called the “Fair Wage Act.” The actual name of the bill is the Paycheck Fairness Act.