Only two of nine candidates for state representative in Ohio's District 10 bothered to show up for a political debate last night held at the Beachland Ballroom in Collinwood. The candidate endorsed by the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, Terrence Upchurch, didn't even respond to his invitation.
Waterloo Arts' Amy Callahan, who organized the event, said she reached out to all candidates.
Kyle Earley, a pastor and former political director for Nina Turner, and Ronnie B. Jones, a warehouse manager from Glenville, answered general, issue-based questions — on LGBT issues, abortion, police-community relations, economic development, among others — of the sort designed to help candidates introduce themselves to and outline the contours of their platforms for the most engaged members of the electorate. (About 25 people attended the debate.)
Earley was the better speaker, and demonstrated a stronger grasp of statehouse dynamics. Both rarely deviated from expected party positions — they both claim that they would respect LGBT rights and would do nothing to impair a woman's right to choose. Earley said he would advocate for stronger, and more consistent community policing, "moving away from community policing as an activity and toward community policing as an ongoing behavior."
Jones said under his leadership, Ward 10 would be "open for business," and said he wanted to create a climate where new businesses would want to relocate. He admitted to being a gun owner and to having close friends and family members serving as police officers. He had a few questionable statements regarding police.
"I've talked to [policemen's] wives," he said. "And they tell me, 'if it's between my husband and your son, I want my husband to come home." (He was advocating stronger parenting so that children might avoid violent confrontations resulting in police violence.)
As for the other candidates: Callahan said that Nelson Cintron Jr. sent his regrets due to an out-of-town family emergency. Aanand Mehta, Danielle Shepherd and former city councilman T.J. Dow all responded that they'd be unable to attend due to previous engagements. Candidate Billy Sharp responded that he would
be attending, though he did not show up.
"And I didn't hear from Terrence Upchurch," Callahan said. (Upchurch is the candidate endorsed by the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.)
Despite the low turnout from both candidates and voters, Callahan's message in introductory remarks was an important reminder.
"I feel like we can't sit by and be complacent," she said. "We really have to be vigilant and participate, to learn about the candidates and the different platforms they have."
District 10 encompasses Ohio City, Downtown and much of Cleveland's northeast side. Bill Patmon, who served on Cleveland City Council for 12 years and is a perennial mayoral contender, is the current representative. He can't seek re-election because of term limits but is running for State Senator in District 21.