Star Beacon | Rader: Voters want ‘checks and balances’ in OH-14 race

Star Beacon | July 29, 2018 | Justin Dennis

Ohio 14th Congressional District Democratic hopeful Betsy Rader suggested while her November opponent Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. David Joyce’s campaign is largely fueled by corporate interests, hers is fueled by people.

Rader, a 57-year-old civil rights attorney and 24-year district resident living in Geauga County, met with the Star Beacon last week to discuss her run for the seat, the issues she feels matter most to Ashtabula County voters and her distinction from Joyce.

Rader earned her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and law degree from Yale Law School. In 2000, she headed up a Geauga County advocacy program for abused children.

Later, she spent 11 years in the health care sphere, working as senior legal counsel for the Cleveland Clinic, then at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, after passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The political whirlwind surrounding federal health care and the ACA’s potential repeal under a Republican-led administration was one of the reasons she waded into the political sphere in April 2017, she said.

“Dave Joyce had really campaigned on repealing the Affordable Care Act and really hadn’t proposed anything to replace it,” Rader said. “I’ve got a pre-existing condition. I know a lot of people who have pre-existing conditions.

“People were coming to meet with him and trying to tell him why the Affordable Care Act had helped them,” she continued. “He wouldn’t say how he was going to vote. People were literally terrified. That really got me thinking very seriously about running myself.”

Most recently, Rader worked as an attorney representing workers in discrimination and workers’ rights suits. She said the work keeps her “in touch” with those struggling for purchase in the modern work economy.

She said she takes issue with a victim-blaming political mentality surrounding unemployment and public assistance programs. Those things are personal for Rader — her single-mother family grew up poor on just $6,000 a year, she said.

“The idea that people who are unemployed and who need something like SNAP benefits are just ‘lazy and they should get a job with good benefits’ — gee, I bet that never occurred to them,” she mused. “The fact is it’s just not that easy. These people are working — they’re just working in jobs that don’t pay much.”

The problem is not that those living in economic security aren’t thrifty enough — they’re too consumed with keeping their heads above water, Rader wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published in September.

“They can’t plan for the future because they have so much to deal with in the present. And the future seems so bleak that it feels futile to sacrifice for it,” she wrote. “What does motivate most people is the belief that the future can be better and that we have a realistic opportunity to achieve it.”

As Rader has met Ashtabula County constituents — and held one Jefferson Village town hall centered on gun control — she said she’s heard concerns about the lack of quality, well-paying jobs, as well as health care uncertainties and the price of prescription drugs, the underfunding of public schools, broadband accessibility and new trade tariffs that may injure local farmers.

In regards to workforce development, she said she feels the private sector has been unable to fix the problem on its own. She recommended apprenticeship programs and vocational schools that can re-train older workers and finding ways to subsidize them.

“What we need to be doing in this country is investing in its people,” she said. “Ashtabula has not rebounded since the Recession and so we really need to do some targeted investing. Leaving it to chance has not worked.”

Rader, like other area Democrats and progressive grassroots activists, have chided Joyce for refusing to appear for public town hall meetings.

“In Ashtabula, I hear ‘Trump showed up’ and that really meant a lot for people,” she said. “That is a big difference between me and David Joyce. I show up. I’m everywhere. … I’m very accessible. Dave Joyce has refused to attend town halls like the one in (Jefferson). He won’t do an open town hall for the public.

“(Voters) want somebody who’s going to listen to them and who they can talk to and who’s going to stand up for them.”

Rader said she’s recently received emails from voters concerned about President Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Trump appeared to reject evidenced reports from the U.S. intelligence community that indicate Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

She noted Joyce voted down Democrat-proposed grant funding for stronger election security just last week.

“More and more I am hearing from people who want checks and balances — for Congress to fulfill its role,” she said. “Congress is not supposed to be a rubber stamp.

“I’ve had lifelong Republicans tell me that they’re going to be voting for me because they feel there needs to be checks and balances right now and they’re concerned Dave Joyce does not seem willing to stand up and be those checks and balances.”

Rader has received endorsements from area Democrats state Rep. John Patterson, state Sen. Sean O’Brien and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, as well as Ohio Senate Democratic Minority Leader Kenny Yuko.

She’s also been endorsed by the National Farmers Union PAC; the Ohio Federation of Teachers; the Ohio Association of Public School Employees; and the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

The gun reform organization led by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — who was shot during a public meeting in 2011 — has also endorsed Rader. Rader was also named a “gun sense” candidate by a mother-led gun reform group.

Read the story here.