Politicians take notice

The eyes of Ohio will be on Martins Ferry today as the four Democrats who hope to be our next governor gather here for a debate.

Set to take the stage at Martins Ferry High School at 7 p.m. are the four current candidates who have declared their intent to run so far — former congresswoman Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former state legislator Connie Pillich and current state Sen. Joe Schiavoni.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said the Purple City was chosen for this first in a series of debates because Belmont County and the surrounding region have been overlooked by politicians in Columbus for too long. He added that the candidates hope to debate in all of the state’s regions in the coming months, with up to six events prior to the 2018 election.

Education is one topic Pepper expects to be discussed tonight, especially since the debate is taking place at a school. He cited cuts to local government and public school funding, as well as the use of severance tax funds generated by natural gas and oil exploration in the local area in all parts of the state as issues that will be on the agenda as well.

“That part of the state has really been ignored by the folks in charge,” Pepper said. “Our candidates are looking to change that.”

We certainly hope that is the case.

Our region definitely has the potential to make a big economic impact on the state and the nation in the coming months and years. Already, we are in the midst of a major natural gas and oil boom that is fueling changes in the way we generate energy and trade with other nations. If a proposed ethane cracker plant eventually comes to Dilles Bottom, our economic influence will only grow.

In addition to tonight’s debate, former congressman Zack Space of Dover, also a Democrat, chose Martins Ferry as the site to launch his campaign for state auditor last month. With those things in mind, it certainly appears that politicians are paying more attention to our corner of the Buckeye State.

We hope that will remain true when the campaign season closes and it comes time to make laws and policies that will affect us and all other Ohioans.