Scott Light, award-winning WBNS-TV Columbus news anchor and host of “Face the State,” moderated a quickly paced debate on Saturday between eight of the 10 candidates running for Ohio’s 12th U.S. Congressional District seat. The event was held at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Hamilton-Williams Campus Center.
Candidates in attendance were Troy Balderson, Lawrence Cohen, Jon Halverstadt, Tim Kane, Melanie Leneghan, Pat Manley, Carol O’Brien and Mick Shoemaker.
According to Ball, candidates were sent the topics prior to the debate, but none of them had prior knowledge of the questions. She said the questions were a collaboration between herself, Light and Kathy Hoskins, an event committee member.
Ball said that Light “retooled” a couple of the questions before the debate.
Light said since there were so many candidates and time was limited, there would be no rebuttal to any of the questions. Candidates were then given 60 seconds to introduce themselves before starting the debate.
Light opened the debate by focusing on one of the most important issues that communities face today — the opioid crisis.
“Statistics tell us that 14 Ohioans will die today. They die every day from this crisis, from this addiction,” he said. “If you had to put down your number one priority to reverse that and stop deaths in Ohio, what is it?”
Cohen: “Our biggest problem with opioids is not what is coming across our southern border,” he said. “It’s the ones being prescribed by our doctors that are getting patients addicted. There’s a problem there for pay-to-play — doctors getting paid for the prescriptions they write, and that’s simply wrong, and we’ve got to stop it right there.”
Halverstadt: “The first wave is overprescribing,” he said. He thought that a common database is needed to track prescriptions in order to cut down overprescribing. “We need to make sure that we’re putting all treatment options on the table … necessary to keep people from dying.”
Halverstadt said the second wave was the illegal drug Fentanyl that’s coming from China.
Halverstadt suggested that people receive addiction treatment once they are arrested or in general when they are coming from off the streets.
Kane: “Number one is realizing that the federal government is not the answer to all this,” he said. “Sometimes the government gets it wrong. The government is encouraging doctors to manage and minimize pain. Our goal in life can’t be to minimize pain, it’s got to be maximized to purpose. This is something that involves the church, … family and community. It’s my number one priority.”
Leneghan: “To be here and in the opioid crisis is terrifying,” she said. “For years, the government has shown us no respect. … It boils down to a government that doesn’t respect us, doesn’t listen to us and ignores us.”
Leneghan said the country needs to build a wall to stop the “poison from being poured into our neighborhoods and our schools.”
“We have to enforce our immigration laws and stop funding countries that pour these illegal drugs into our children’s lives,” she said.
Manley: “My number one priority … is treatment,” he said. “That’s the immediate need.”
Manley’s second thought is to crack down and enforce the laws that are on the books against the people providing the illegal drugs.
“By in large, I think we need to really rely on the medical community,” he said. “I think they do have the answers and as far as Congress goes, we could provide money to good legitimate programs.”
O’Brien: “I’m probably the only person on this stage today that faces this crisis on a daily basis,” she said.
O’Brien said Delaware County’s issues are heroin and fentanyl, and not prescription pills. She then held up a sugar packet and said, “This little sugar packet represents eight to 10 doses of heroin, and it’s coming over the border from Mexico on a regular basis as 2.2 pounds at a time.”
O’Brien said local governments need the ability to protect communities.
Shoemaker: “In 2016, 42,000 people died in America from heroin overdoses, and 50 percent of those overdoses died at home.” he said. “The Surgeon General of the United States recommended that the antidote, Naloxone, be in every home in America. That’s how serious this crisis is.”
Shoemaker said the American people need to build a wall because “98 percent of all heroin comes across the southern border.” He also said that the prescription database needs to be updated to track who’s getting what and who’s breaking the law.
Balderson: “Securing our border is the number one thing,” he said. “You have to start with faith-based. There are communities in this district that currently work together down in southeast Ohio. We are taking data, that is important to have data, so we can understand and know how to correct this problem.”
Light continued with questions covering topics of health care dealing with Medicaid expansion and the purchase of prescription drugs from other counties. The issues of maintaining public safety in schools through mental health screenings of children and the selecting of staff for a special response team in case of an active shooter situation, were also discussed. Additional questions focused on the NAFTA trade agreement, immigration, dreamers and DACA.
For further information about the candidates and their individual biographies, visit The Delaware Gazette online at delgazette.com and click on the highlighted links provided in the online version of this article to view each candidate’s website.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.