Candidates For Ohio's 13th Congressional District Spar In Youngstown Debate
The candidates for Ohio’s 13th Congressional District faced off in a televised debate Monday night, sparring on issues from local job creation to the Affordable Care Act to racial bias in policing.
The incumbent, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), has held the seat since 2013. Before that, he was the representative for Ohio’s 17th Congressional District starting in 2003 – when he defeated his former boss, storied Northeast Ohio Rep. Jim Trafficant – until the district’s lines were redrawn.
Christina Hagan, from Marlboro Township, served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 2011-2018. Libertarian candidate Michael Fricke is a chemist.
The 13th District spans most of Mahoning and parts of Portage, Stark and Summit counties. Kicking off the debate, candidates were asked how they would help create jobs and support the district's economy.
Ryan said he would vote against trade deals and support tariffs, touting his previous experience working to bring jobs back to the area after General Motors closed its plant in Lordstown last March. In 2019, GM and LG Chem announced a partnership for the manufacture of battery cells for electric vehicles and Lordstown Motors began work on electric trucks in the former GM plant, bringing more than 1,000 jobs back to the Mahoning Valley.
Hagan said she has heard from voters that they are struggling to find jobs in the district and often have to move to other areas for work. She said she would support policies that protect tax cuts instated during the Trump administration and reducing regulations for small businesses.
Fricke said the government does not create jobs, and it’s not up to politicians to create jobs.
“Let the private industry take over. That’s how jobs get created,” Fricke said.
Hagan also promised that if elected, she would return pension money to about 1,500 local Delphi retirees who lost most of their money when Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation took over after the company's bankruptcy.
“Tim didn't get that done in 11 years,” Hagan said. “I'm going to ask you for 11 months. Send me just one time. Send me one time and Delphi retirees will get their pension restored if you send me to work alongside President Trump.”
Ryan took issue with Hagan's promise.
“I lived through that with those families, OK?” Ryan said. “I lived through it and that is devastating and for you to try to diminish those losses as some kind of political tool when you just come into this district without recognizing what those families have been through is shameful.”
Throughout the debate, Ryan and Fricke criticized Hagan for living outside of the district she is running to represent.
“You’ve got to be in the district to understand what’s happening,” Ryan said.
Hagan is a resident of Alliance, in Stark County, which is part of the 7th Congressional District and near the 13th District’s border. Candidates are not constitutionally required to live in the district they wish to represent. In 2018, Hagan ran for the 16th District’s U.S. House seat, losing in the Republican primary to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez.
Hagan said she lives less than a mile away from the district’s border and represented many of her neighbors previously in the Ohio Statehouse.
“I'm neighbors with the same people that are in this district that I have already represented in the state legislature,” Hagan said. “They sent me back time and time again with excessive margins of support from Democrats, independents and Republicans.”
Health Care And COVID-19
Hagan said she supports the GOP call for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and decreasing governmental regulation in the health insurance industry. Some private practices in the district have struggled financially because of Obamacare, she said.
“We need to make sure Americans have access to quality health care, and part of that can be done, again, by opening up the free market, allowing for the sale of insurance across state lines, allowing for medicines to be sold into this country if they fit the bill of good quality and they reduce prices,” Hagan said.
Fricke said insurance should be privatized to increase competition, pointing to LASIK surgery as an example of a medical procedure not covered by insurance, which he said caused competition among providers, allowing prices to decrease.
Ryan said privatizing insurance will only drive up the costs of health care and prescription drugs, and said he instead supports expanding health care laws already in place.
Hagan said if elected, she would support efforts to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine, but said politicians should step out of the way if scientists request. She said she would advocate for another stimulus payment, and criticized the HEROES Act coronavirus relief bill passed by the U.S. House.
Ryan criticized Hagan’s support of repealing the ACA, which he said would leave many Americans without health care in the middle of the pandemic. Ryan also brought up Hagan’s previous opposition to Ohio’s Medicaid expansion.
“We had 350,000 people who had to access this during the COVID crisis," Ryan said. "Do you want somebody that goes to Washington, D.C., and is trying to expand health care, or do you want someone that is going to go restrict health care?”
Fricke touted his experience working on the development of a promising COVID-19 therapy in the lab where he is currently employed.
Ryan said if re-elected, he will work on an infrastructure bill that would help expand broadband in the area and support the building and construction trades. The coronavirus pandemic has re-emphasized problems gaps in Internet access in the area, he said.
Hagan said she would support legislation focused on infrastructure to create jobs in the construction industry.
According to Fricke, the government needs to stop subsidizing cars and planes over mass transit, and fund greener energy over fossil fuels.
“The decisions made in Washington have created roads that need to be repaired, and we don’t have any mass transit options,” Fricke said. “It’s something we need to address at local level.”
All three candidates addressed the rising costs of colleges, saying they would support policies that encourage young people to pursue higher education, as well as apprentice jobs in skills and trade industries.
Hagan called for Ohio’s public and private colleges to be more transparent about their finances and spending, saying the federal government needs to hold educational institutions accountable.
"It’s like no other service that is provided to Americans; it’s like no other good that’s purchased. There are no market forces driving the cost of education,” Hagan said. “It has to do with the fact that the federal government, the state government, are heavily involved in subsidizing education.”
Ryan said college graduates should be able to renegotiate their student loans down to 3.7%, which he said would not only ease some of their burden, but help ramp up the economy.
“That may take some investment from the public side, but it also needs to come with a level of discipline,” he said.
Policing And Racism
When asked about bias and systemic racism in law enforcement, Fricke said police are tasked with too many responsibilities, and crimes such as drug and cannabis use should not be criminalized and instead treated as medical issues.
Ryan called for more de-escalation training and techniques. He said he does not support defunding the police; rather, he wants more funding to ensure appropriate staffing, body cameras and collective bargaining rights.
Hagan said there is no evidence of racial bias in police shootings.
ideastream's Glenn Forbes contributed to this report.