Feature idea: five women challenging the GOP in Ohio's swingingest county

Greene County, Ohio is shaping up to be a perfect feature story for your show. We have Republican congressmen assaulting their primary opponents, drunk drivers (a whole raft of them), and, best of all, qualified Democrat women poised to challenge them in November.

Why does Greene County matter enough to be featured on your show? Greene County is ground zero for election battles. We see presidential and gubernatorial candidates more than our own shadows. Neighbor to Dayton, we are the Ohioest of Ohio—a right-leaning county of cities and villages made up of Air Force personnel and farmers. Our mid-size cities are trying to reinvigorate themselves into hipster destinations while combatting the opioid epidemic. Our largest city, Beavercreek, is what McSweeney’s would call MidWest World—malls and frontage streets. Beavercreek’s Walmart is the site of the Michael Crawford shooting. Most importantly though, there is a major shift happening—the Republican establishment is being challenged out here in “God’s country.” And the charge is being led by women.

An overview of the Greene County Republican establishment:

Rick Perales, congressperson for Ohio’s 73rd district, has been a professional sleaze bag for as long as he has been serving in government. Perales originally won his congressional seat after his predecessor, a moderate Republican named Jarrod Martin, was ousted for refusing a breathalyzer test. (This incident earned him the nickname “Shirtless and Sweaty”… take a look at the news clip below.) Just before this primary, Perales’ Republican challenger, a woman of color named Jocelyn Smith, accused him of forcibly kissing her and carrying on a sexting relationship. This behavior would not be out of character for him (see the list of news stories below). He initially denied the wrongdoing, until she released the sexts, one of which read, “Ur lips felt great.” The number on the messages matched his government business card. He continued to call her a liar and filed suit against her. The Ohio House Speaker was going to investigate, but then had to resign because of his own scandal. Now an investigation is up in the air. Perales won 80% of the Republican vote. To be fair, Smith was a truly terrible candidate who held what one local reporter called “the worst press conference in history.” Perales’ next move is to the Ohio Senate currently held by Bob Hackett.

But in Greene County politics, the seats that matter most are the commissioners. County commissioners go places. Perales, for example, served as a commissioner before moving into congress. Currently Greene County has three old, white Republican men as commissioners. The county is 40% Democrat. This is not representation; it is tyranny of the majority.

The county treasurer, Dick Gould (real name), beat out the incumbent in the Republican primary. Dick is young for Greene County politics—in his mid-50s—and has a history of his own: a 2013 OVI that involved a hit-and-run. He was spared the same fate as Jarrod Martin because—and we can only speculate here—he is a former cop. Gould received a 180 day sentence—177 of the days were immediately suspended and zero days were spent in jail. In total he paid $663 in fines. He handily won the primary and will be the frontrunner for commissioner in November.

The change:

Normally in Greene County the most you can do to protest is go to the polls and refuse to vote on the uncontested races. But this year is different. This year Democrats have a full slate of qualified women, who, if given enough of a platform, can be elected and make a difference. Susan Lopez, a program director at the local Family Resource Center, will be taking on Dick Gould. Kim McCarthy will be taking on Rick Perales. Theresa Gasper will be running against Republican fixture Mike Turner in the 10th. We also have Cyndi Pauwels running for Clerk of Courts against AJ Williams—a seemingly clean-cut kid and the future of the Republicans. Except he fathered a kid while in high school and if he were a woman that would have killed his career in the womb.

These Democrat women have a chance, but they need help. As unfair as it is, they cannot disparage their male opponents because it would be deemed unseemly in the backward, 1950s power dynamics of Greene County. They also lack the name recognition that Perales and Gould and Williams have. A feature story that gives a full account of the Republican candidates are and how qualified the Democrats are could make a real difference. We have limited news outlets—none of which are willing to take on this story. The major source for news comes from either Cox Media Group or Sinclair.

Please consider featuring these candidates on your show. The Republicans have certainly provided enough fodder for laughs, while the Democrats have provided enough hope that things can change.

Rick Perales stories:
Text messages: http://www.xeniagazette.com/top-stories/29005/statehouse-candidate-releases-opponents-text-message

Perales’ reaction and Smith’s news conference: https://www.whio.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/don-force-release-the-rest-the-text-messages-local-candidate-tells-lawmaker/wlasAEh2BJxJc0aaeJygaO/

Elsa’s fistfight (2013): https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/state-lawmaker-takes-hits-bar-fight-defends-himself/blePoVkVEYPjqxd5UmIXKN/

——

Dick Gould OVI (2013):
https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/greene-county-treasurer-pleads-guilty-ovi/SwS4SDJGzDtKhxkpQCcAWN/

https://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/greene-county-treasurer-truly-sorry-about-ovi/IjqnsiRdvzCfJ8KqxztUYI/

Jarrod Martin OVI (2011): https://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2011/08/05/ohio-state-rep-jarrod-martin-americas-drunkest-legislator

Comments

  • Thanks for all this info! We're looking at lots of different races so this is really interesting! We'll pass it along to our producers.

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