No clear favorite among some debate-goers

Photo by Scott McCloskey Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper and former Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede pose for a photo after Tuesday’s debate between the four Democratic candidates for Ohio governor at Martins Ferry High School.

MARTINS FERRY — Flushing resident John White likes all four of the Democratic candidates for Ohio governor, but after listening to Tuesday night’s debate he is leaning toward two — state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and former U.S. Rep. Betty


He described them both as “strong candidates.”

White was among the 200 or so people who attended the first Ohio gubernatorial debate hosted by the state Democratic Party at Martins Ferry High School. Schiavoni, of Boardman, and Sutton, of Barberton, were joined on the school’s stage by fellow candidates Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and former state Rep. Connie Pillich of


“After observing and listening to what they had to say and learning their views I don’t have one picked,” White noted, adding he hoped in the future to talk with the candidates one-on-one and ask them his own questions.

After the debate, Cadiz resident Leslie Milliken said she also likes all four candidates and there is no one who leads the pack for her yet.

“It was interesting to see all four of them together and to see their differences and how they were alike,” Milliken said.

Milliken said issues she cares most about are jobs and local communities getting their fair share of oil and gas severance tax revenue returned to them.

Martins Ferry Mayor Robert Krajnyak said it was “awesome” to have the first debate hosted in his city. He hopes it will shed more light on issues impacting communities like Martins Ferry — including floundering municipal budgets and failing city infrastructure.

“They hit on a lot of issues that are of concern to me, including the gas severance tax and local government funding,” he said.

Krajnyak noted as an educator — he teaches at Bridgeport High School — he wants the education system changed so it doesn’t focus on standardized testing but instead on teaching.

Prior to the debate, Salem-area resident John Dyce said he already liked all four of the candidates.

“All four of them have exactly what I’m looking for. It’s refreshing to have such a good group of people,” Dyce said.

Dyce said he wants a governor that has “realistic views” regarding the tax code and realizes the importance of restoring local government funding to communities.

“We need money to operate and they have all the money at the state level,” Dyce said. “I think (the candidates) know how to spend our tax dollars and have a clear understanding of what needs to be done.”

Sherri VanTassel, executive vice president of Eastern Gateway Community College, said prior to the debate that she wants a governor who will do more to help the education system.

“(Gov. John) Kasich has gutted the higher education system. We’ve had a tuition freeze for four years. It makes it difficult to operate a school,” VanTassel said.

She also said the system needs help in workforce development and retraining people for new and coming jobs. For example, if one or more ethane crackers come to the region, engineers will be needed along with people educated in advanced manufacturing, she said.

VanTassel said the opioid epidemic also is a concern for her. She wants a governor who will have a long-term solution and not look at the problem as criminal issue.

“It’s exhausting our county resources,” VanTassel said.

Canton resident Vicki Boatright said prior to the debate that all the candidates were “well-qualified and capable of doing the job.”

“I’m looking for a candidate that can best communicate with the people of Ohio,” she said.

After the debate, Boatright said she still believes all the candidates are qualified, but Whaley’s performance stood out for her.

“She is plain-spoken and can communicate with people. She knows her stuff. I was actually blown away,” Boatright said. “I’m excited there is such a deep field.”

Boatright said she wants a governor who can “make an economy that helps all, not just a chosen few.” She also is concerned with the state of the education system, and wants a governor who has progressive ideas on how to solve the opioid epidemic.

Preschool teacher and Zanesville resident Martha Mitchell said as an educator for the past 43 years, she wants standardized testing eliminated because it takes up teaching time. She also wants a governor who can help develop an education system that leads to students getting good jobs out of high school if they choose not to pursue college.