Fans of Youngstown State University met candidates for a Blue State on Saturday during pre-game tailgating at YSU.
Gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald and running mate Sharen Neuhardt were at the event, as well as Ohio Supreme Court candidate Representative Tom Letson, D-Warren, and candidate for Ohio Attorney General David Peppers. Mahoning County Auditor Mike Sciortino and candidate for Mahoning County Probate Court judge Attorney Susan Maruca were also attending the event.
The candidates’ stop in Youngstown was a part of the “Tour to Restore Ohio,” a statewide sweep of a dozen Ohio cities aimed at connecting candidates with voters across the states. The tour is promoting the candidates’ intentions to “restore Kasich cuts that have hurt schools and local communities, funding for a heroin epidemic spinning out of control, voting rights, integrity in our state government and more,” according to the event’s press release.
Representative Letson engaged tailgaters of all ages, mingling with YSU students and elderly alumni alike.
“I’ve been in the legislature for eight years … What I find most interesting about coming out and talking with everyone and seeing their different levels of interest. Most people I’ve talked to are interested and engaged,” Letson said.
Candidates began in Columbus, touring through Dayton, Lima, Toledo, Sandusky and Warren before setting up at YSU’s M-24 parking lot for tailgating.
Having visited six cities prior to Youngstown, Letson found citizens’ concerns varied from region to region, but common ground did exist at the state level.
“People have different concerns everywhere. One issue I’ve been talking to folks about everywhere we go is the undervote,” Letson said. “The undervote is essentially the falloff in voting between the top of the ballot and the bottom. The bottom is where a lot of your local legislative decisions are voted on, so when voters only participate in the first few issues on the ballot, they’re missing their chance to affect change locally. I think the best way to counter this trend is for voters to start from the bottom [of the ballot] and work their way up.”
Letson, despite having stopped in two other cities earlier in the day, was energetic while engaging groups of tailgaters stopping by the candidates’ tent.
“It’s great just wandering around here and talking to people … the acceptance and the interest shown here is just great,” Letson said.
Students were among the interested throng surrounding the candidates, including the YSU College Democrats student organization. Ernie Barkett, the organization’s president, hopes the College Democrats will have the opportunity to plan future engagement events between students and state representatives.
“I think State Representatives and candidates have a responsibility to meet with college student and speak on campuses … but it’s just as much the responsibility of students to get out and vote as well so that our voices are heard,” Barkett said.
Sciortino echoed Letson’s sentiments, speaking to the success of the event.
“It’s been great. We [local Democrats] come down for every home game, and this has been a great opportunity for us to invite the statewide [Democratic] ticket down to spend some time with the people here in Youngstown,” Sciortino said. “It’s been a huge success.”