State Democratic candidates register voters at YSU tailgate


By Jordyn Grzelewski

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

They might have been at a tailgate, but Ohio Democratic candidates weren’t there to grill food or drink beer.

Ed FitzGerald, Sharen Neuhardt, David Pepper and state Rep. Tom Letson of Warren, all candidates in the upcoming statewide election, dropped by a Youngstown State University tailgate before the home game against Saint Francis on Saturday night to register and talk to voters as part of the five-day “Tour to Restore Ohio” event.

The tour focuses on voter turnout and voter registration statewide, said Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman Meredith Tucker.

“Ohioans show up in great numbers for presidential elections, [but] these state elections have a bigger impact on people’s lives,” said attorney general-hopeful Pepper.

Pepper is running against Republican incumbent Mike DeWine, and during an interview with The Vindicator highlighted the issues he thinks are most important in this election and his campaign strategy in the weeks before the Nov. 4 election.

Among those issues is the statewide heroin problem.

“The current attorney general is doing very little to help do anything positive to address the heroin crisis,” he said. “I don’t see actions, and I don’t see results.”

Tougher enforcement, and better prevention and treatment are what is needed, he said.

He added that the issues his campaign has focused on are ones affecting the Mahoning Valley.

“This area is facing the big issues,” he said, citing heroin use, abandoned and foreclosed homes, and unemployment.

“A place like Youngstown and the Valley is a place a smart attorney general can do a lot of good for,” he said.

The problems that have plagued gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald’s campaign have not changed the focus of Pepper’s campaign, he said.

FitzGerald’s campaign has all but crumbled after reporters learned about a 2012 incident in which FitzGerald was found parked outside an industrial complex at 4:30 a.m. with a woman who was not his wife. Then came reports that FitzGerald had been driving without a valid driver’s license for 10 years. At the end of August, many of his staff members left the campaign.

“None of those issues affect what we’re doing,” Pepper said.

He was reportedly trailing DeWine in the polls by 29 points in late August, according to an Aug. 27 report by The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

Pepper, however, said he can “absolutely” still win.

His strategy?

“Just talking to people,” he said.

“People know [DeWine] better than me, but people are tired of politics as usual,” he said.

Neuhardt, candidate for lieutenant governor; Letson, candidate for Ohio Supreme Court justice; and FitzGerald also were at Saturday’s event.

Tucker said FitzGerald had to leave early due to a scheduling conflict, but he posted on Twitter: “Great to be at the Youngstown State University tailgate on stop number 6 of the bus tour #TourtoRestore”.

The tour will wrap up Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day.

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