First OH-3 Candidate Forum Contentious, Tense
On Sunday, Feb. 2, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and challenger Morgan Harper met in the first candidate forum for Ohio’s Third Congressional District. The debate, which took place at St. John’s United Church of Christ, 59 E. Mound St., was a contentious one, with candidates facing off on policy, experience and the Democratic Party.
The afternoon started off with both candidates agreeing on the primary issues facing Ohio’s Third District, which covers most of the City of Columbus and some surrounding areas within Franklin County. Three issues were the main focus: healthcare, affordable housing and economic opportunity. How and what type of leadership it takes to get there, however, were different for each candidate.
Harper’s view, and overall message, was that to improve these issues for the district, it would take leadership that did not accept and allow corporate money to govern politics.
Beatty’s message touched on rejecting divisiveness, bipartisanship and coming together to achieve these goals.
The racial wealth gap and economic inequality
Harper pointed out statistics on poverty in Columbus, and said the solution was to make sure those that live in poverty have jobs that are “paying enough to live.”
Beatty said that the issue of wealth inequality starts at with Federal Reserve, and saying that the data the reserve puts together “all of the data that then sets the policies for the dollars that come back here.” She said that unfortunately if the policies introduced do not “equal dollars,” federal money does not come back. Beatty said she has stood up for “equal pay for equal women” and stood up against President Trump to vote on a labor bill supporting collective bargaining.
Harper spoke of the racial wealth gap and the difference in net wealth between white and black families. She said she would level the playing field through systemic reparations.
On the topic of the minimum wage, Beatty talked about her life growing up poor and acknowledged that though a $15 an hour minimum wage is what is being proposed, it takes $18.70 an hour for a livable wage. Beatty said that to get there it would take coming together, not fighting.
Harper said that grassroots organizers have been able to apply pressure on leadership to act on a $15 an hour minimum wage, but that it was too late, seeing as it takes over $20 an hour to live a “stable life” in the Third District. Harper talked about her desire to back the Green New Deal, which would include a job guarantee of livable wage jobs at over $20 an hour, the build out of public transportation and reduction of carbon emissions.
Harper gave an example of meeting a senior before launching her campaign who complained about housing that is being advertised as affordable rentals, but was nearly double what he could pay. Harper said that the federal government needs to build more housing, and added that she would introduce legislation for national rent stabilization.
Beatty said she has worked to move people out of public housing to put roofs over their heads, adding pointedly that she had done so not while she was campaigning, but while serving and volunteering in the community.
Beatty mentioned the GROW Affordable Housing Act, authored by Beatty and introduced in November. When asked what can be done for low-income residents, Congresswoman Beatty said that she has made various city leaders aware of the issue of property taxes as a source of financial strife for homeowners, and has been in support of new legislation to be introduced in the Ohio Statehouse to cap rates.
Harper gave Edith Espinal as an example of the struggles immigrants in the Third District face as a target of the Trump administration. She also said that her campaign pressured Beatty to meet with Espinal and introduce legislation that would help her situation living in sanctuary. She said there is a need to stand up to the Trump administration because immigrants are “the fabric of what makes up and part of what makes Central Ohio special.”
Beatty quickly rebuffed, saying Harper “was just wrong,” and that she received a letter before Harper’s campaign started. She said she had met with Espinal’s husband and supporters, wrote letters and brought her case before Congress.
She also made the claim, and was not refuted, that Harper was passing out campaign information at one point while she met with Espinal. Beatty also said she filed a private bill for Espinal after the House got the majority, and that she received a painting from her.
Harper said that the issues — including violence, jobs and job training — facing other people in Columbus also affect immigrants, and that the same solutions of affordable housing and higher-paying jobs would benefit the immigrant community.
Beatty said an issue for immigrants was being able to communicate in the “financial world,” and that she paid for and brought members of the Somali community before the International Monetary Fund to understand how to bank their money.
Beatty said she was able to get legislation passed that prevented human trafficking victims from being seen as criminals. She said she has authored and/or introduced a few bills on the matter, including the Human Trafficking Accountability Act in November. Beatty also co-sponsored the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, a bipartisan and mostly Republican-backed bill that became law in April of 2018.
Harper said that over-policing and substance abuse have led to people being vulnerable to human trafficking. She said she wanted to ensure people are not put in the position to be trafficked in the first place by providing more stable environments and housing.
Harper said she believed Medicare For All would be the optimal health care system for the country, and vowed not to accept any money from corporate PACs and the insurance industry, because “we have political leaders that are taking money from the insurance industry and we’ll never have any incentive to change the current system.”
Beatty said she had voted hundreds of times against efforts to take away the Affordable Care Act. She added that the country should start with Obamacare, fix it and expand it. She said that regardless of how money comes into candidates, she has taken on powerful insurance companies, adding, in reference to Harper, “‘Cause see I didn’t work as a powerful lawyer with a company who represented pharma and all the big insurance companies.”
In a follow-up question on healthcare, Harper decided to respond to Beatty, saying that her work as an associate had given her “a front-row seat” to how those companies operate and how to address inequalities.
Beatty said that she was early on to signing the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act. She said that she would support author Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the overall resolution, which would also help protect the environment and contribute to renewable energy.
Harper said she was “encouraged to hear” Beatty acknowledge the influence of women in Washington who did not take corporate PAC money, which seemed to be in reference to Beatty. She said she is also in support of the Green New Deal to reduce carbon emissions and create living-wage jobs, and has pledged to not take money from the fossil fuel industry.
Beatty said the biggest issues for women were their right to choose, pay equity and equal pay for equal work, as well as childcare. She said, “We have new laws in Congress now to keep us from sexual harassment, from putting things under the rug. And I am there on every one of them. You will find Joyce Beatty’s fingerprint, standing up for women and getting things done for women.”
Harper said that if women aren’t fairing well economically, because so many are single parents, children aren’t fairing well economically. She said many of the solutions she has brought up would benefit women as well.
The Democratic Party
Harper said the Democratic Party does not prioritize letting new voices enter at the county, state and federal levels. She said before she launched her campaign, she was told she was “going to pay for it, that I wouldn’t be able to get another job here, that this would be the end of me.” She said her campaign was a declaration for the party to “do better” and not to accept a “culture of retaliation that puts a small circle of people continuing to get ahead over the rest of us.”
Beatty started by saying that wrong is wrong, and said that she was a “strong Democrat” and not a socialist.
Beatty said that she had taken on party leadership. Harper interrupted, asking if Beatty would reject the endorsement she received from the county party, to which Beatty responded by saying, “Let me give you a little history since you weren’t here.” She said she would reject the endorsement, but added that she got the endorsement because she had a “proven track record” and went through the screening process.
She said Harper had wrote a letter (in which she rejected the endorsement process) against “her own party” and that the party had tried to bring in young Millennials, to which an audience member yelled, “That’s a lie!”
Beatty said mass shootings and “individual” shootings were an issue. She said she had marched with mothers for gun violence reform, and spoken with mothers in Dayton after the 2019 mass shooting there. She said that “all the movements” should join together to bring more attention to the issue of gun violence, and that Senator Mitch McConnell would not pass gun violence bills from Congress.
Harper said that she is more focused on ending police violence. She said through legislation she would require data collection, and implement an independent community group to hold police accountable.
Beatty won this debate. Throughout, she made passive and even direct digs at Harper’s lack of experience, “making promises” and even sited voting records that suggest Harper hadn’t voted for 10 years. Unfortunately, Harper did not refute any of the claims brought up by Beatty during the debate and did not seem to respond well to Beatty’s slights. Harper did attempt some of her own, but was met with quick and calculated rebuttals that simply made Beatty’s constant snubs at her experience glaring.
It will be interesting to see if Harper can match the tempo of an experienced politician and speaker in future candidate forums, or if her focus on fresh and new progressive policies will continue to leave her open to more personal scrutiny.