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13th District challengers face off

The stage for the 13th District Congressional debate at Stambaugh Auditorium on Monday night included three candidates, from left, Libertarian Michael Fricke; Republican Christina Hagan; and incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland. Staff photo / R. Michael Semple

YOUNGSTOWN — Voters in the 13th District heard the three candidates vying for election to the U.S. House of Representatives spar Monday evening over the role of a congressional representative, the state of the local economy, access to quality health care, COVID-19, education and racism.

The candidates took pains to assert their differences in the televised debate at Stambaugh Auditorium, which co-hosted the event with the Youngstown Press Club.

Video of the debate is available on tribtoday.com.

Michael Fricke, a Libertarian from Kent and a scientist; Christina Hagan, a Republican from Marlboro Township and former Ohio House representative; and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, the nine-term incumbent fielded questions from local reporters David Skolnick, Tribune Chronicle / The Vindicator; George Nelson, The Business Journal; Derek Steyer, WFMJ-TV; and Abigail Cloutier, executive producer of Jambar TV and The Jambar student newspaper at Youngstown State University. Adam Earnheardt with Youngstown State University, moderated the event.

The candidates mostly stayed within their time limits, though Ryan and Hagan went over a couple of times, and mostly refrained from interrupting one another, though Hagan inserted comments to Ryan’s statements as he spoke a couple of times. Hagan attacked Ryan’s record, accusing him of failing to accomplish enough in his nine terms; while Ryan fired back about Hagan living outside the district.

THIRD-PARTY

CANDIDATE

Fricke moved quickly to address his presence on the stage as a third-party candidate, and encouraged people to vote for the person they would like to see win, not the person they think will win.

“Why am I here? It’s definitely not because of the money I’ve raised hundreds, compared to their hundreds of thousands. Think about which one you’d rather have in Washington spending your money,” Fricke said.

Fricke said Ryan and Hagan are career politicians, but he has worked since he was 12 and knows what it is like to be laid off, to worry about affording food and searching for a new job. Fricke said he wants to end overseas wars and to improve policing outcomes with two steps.

“The problem is we ask too much of police. Police should not be enforcing victimless crimes like using cannabis. Cannabis is a medicine. Drug addiction should not be treated as a legal issue,” Fricke said. “And, police officers should not be tasked as revenue generators. I think this creates a lot of problems within the communities.”

While Democrats and Republicans dominate national and local ballots, the two parties are also responsible for the divisiveness in politics, Fricke said.

“These two represent parties that have been in control for 160 years. If you keep voting for them, you’re going to keep getting the same thing,” Fricke said.

Fricke said the claims of Ryan that he has created jobs and the claims of Hagan that she could create jobs are just claims, because politicians don’t create jobs, private industries do when the government gets out of the way. Fricke said he would like to see health care handled by private industry.

OUTSIDE THE

DISTRICT

Hagan addressed questions about why she would run to represent a district in which she does not live by stating her home is less than a mile from the district line.

“I live 0.6 of a mile from the district line. I’m neighbors with the same people who are in this district that I have already represented in the state legislature. They sent me back time and time again with excessive margins of support from Democrats, independents and Republicans,” Hagan said.

Responding to claims dark money is funding her campaign, Hagan said real people “ready for change” have supported her campaign with their donations.

She said Ryan has been given too many chances with too few results to continue electing. She promised to get pensions for Delphi retirees within 11 months if elected, its been 11 years without a fix for Delphi employees who lost their pensions, she said.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about all of those who have been waiting on you (Ryan) to perform your job. Delphi retirees have been waiting for 11 years for Congressman Tim Ryan to right the wrong of their lost salaries,” Hagan said.

She listed businesses that have left the area since Ryan took office.

Hagan said the solution for health care in the country is a free-market approach instead of a replacement to the Affordable Care Act, and reduced regulations. Health care providers have too much paperwork, taking up the time they have to spend with patients, she said.

Hagan said Ryan’s attitude toward race issues has created racial division where it doesn’t exist in the community and accused him of not supporting police.

SUPPORT FOR POLICE

Ryan said he has supported police and fire departments across the district by bringing back federal dollars to fund them. He is not against the police or funding the police, he said. He accused Hagan of not supporting the collective bargaining rights of police officers, which she denied.

Ryan listed new projects that have come to the Mahoning Valley, along with the energy incubator in Warren and 3D manufacturing hub in Youngstown, as accomplishments since he has been in office. He said he has brought resources to the two military installations in the district and because of his seniority and connections in Washington, D.C., is able to bring money back for infrastructure projects in the Valley.

Though the local economy was suffering when he took office, Ryan said his work to help diversify the economy has helped shift the attitude, leading to a “blossoming of the economy” that is starting to take vision.

By working with neighboring Republican representatives, Ryan said he has demonstrated bipartisanship.

It is time to expand government offered health care, not to privatize the industry, Ryan said.

Ryan said Hagan’s and Fricke’s thoughts on health care “are completely inadequate to the needs of the people in this community.”

“People in this community need access to affordable health care. Privatize? You want to privatize? Our people need help. We need an expansion of health care. We need to help people to be able to afford it. We need to focus on prevention and diet and nutrition so we can bend the curve, absolutely. But you want to privatize Medicare? Privatize Social Security?” Ryan said.

The number-one problem with health care is people can’t afford it, Ryan said.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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