Public meets congressional candidates in Martins Ferry

T-L Photo/JENNIFER COMPSTON-STROUGH Four of the five men seeking Ohio’s vacant 6th Congressional District seat take part in a meet the candidate event at Martins Ferry Public Library on Monday evening. They include, from left, Republicans state Sen. Michael Rulli and chiropractor Rick Tsai and Democrats Michael L. Kripchak and Rylan Z. Finzer. Republican state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus was unable to attend.

MARTINS FERRY — Four of the five men seeking to become Ohio’s next 6th District congressman came to Martins Ferry to introduce themselves to the public on Monday evening.

Republican state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus of Paris Township in Stark County was unable to attend, but the other four candidates each had five minutes to speak before the floor was opened to questions from the audience. Attending candidates included Democrats Michael L. Kripchak of Youngstown and Rylan Z. Finzer of Bedford Heights as well as Republicans state Sen. Michael Rulli of Salem and chiropractor Rick Tsai of East Palestine.

Kripchak, a U.S. Air Force veteran and entrepreneur, was first to speak, as determined by a random drawing. He said he wants to “restore the American dream” by strengthening unions, establishing a minimum wage that allows people to support their families, and by supporting the education system.

“My goals on that front is to eliminate this whole teaching to the test thing and actually teaching our kids how to live in the modern world,” he said regarding education.

He also advocated for more parental involvement and educational opportunities that get students out into the community.

Next to address the crowd was Tsai, who described how his father left China and became an American citizen. Having traveled to China himself, he said he knows that people all over the world are the same and want the same basic things — safety and security for their families, education and the ability to earn and a living.

Over the past year, he said he has become known as the “creek ranger” because he has been visiting and monitoring the streams and soil in and around East Palestine in the wake of the Norfolk Southern train derailment that occurred in his community a year ago.

“I expose the lies, the corruption, the deceit from, yes, local government, city government, federal government, the CDC, the EPA. I was the only doctor that I know who consistently defied the CDC’s guidelines and tested patients and townspeople for chemicals,” he said, noting that a large number of people tested positive.

He said his wife urged him to run for the seat vacated by Republican Bill Johnson last month when he became president of Youngstown State University.

“We are being lied to, and East Palestine is basically a microcosm of what is going on in your town, in your state, and in this nation,” he continued. “… I’ll fight for you, and I won’t give up.”

Rulli comes from a family that operates a grocery business, and he said he intends to go back to that business one day because he favors term limits.

He said he has a solid record in the state Senate, having sponsored numerous bills that have been signed into law.

Rulli talked about the potential for natural gas to be the fuel of the future and said that Eastern Ohio has the resources to make the Middle East obsolete. He referred to the PTT Global Chemical America ethane cracker plant proposed for construction at Dilles Bottom, saying that it in combination with a cracker plant at Monaca, Pennsylvania and the local transportation network could create an “energy corridor.”

“It could put the Middle East to be and never rely on them for another drop of energy for America or the world,” he said.

He also said job creation is a priority for him, noting that skills training can be more valuable than a college education. He blamed the hopelessness of living in a former industrial area for the high number of drug overdoses in the region.

Finzer spoke next. His home in Bedford Heights is outside the congressional district, but congressional candidates only need to live in the state to run. He owns Finzer’s Finest, a marijuana dispensary in Bedford Heights.

Finzer said he would fight to defend programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

“Greed is the number one killer of Americans right now,” he said, saying that greed leads to drug use and that he would like to reverse tax cuts implemented in 2017 because they benefited the wealthy, not average Americans.

He said the government today is “of by and for the corporations.” He said he would work to make Eastern Ohio competitive with the rest of the world, advocating for high tech energy development and new technologies that make that possible. He also said he would work to expand health care networks in rural areas of the state and work to expand access to hospitals in those regions.

About 20 people attended to hear what the candidates had to say. When given the opportunity to address them, a few audience members asked questions about their positions on issues such as transgender access to restrooms and whether the candidates would forget about the local region if elected. The two Democrats responded that they would support a make who had transitioned to female having access to women’s restrooms; both Republicans said they would oppose that. All candidates said they would work for Eastern Ohio and would not forget the smaller communities.

The 6th District seat will be vacant for several months following Johnson’s resignation. A primary election for party nominations to the ballot is scheduled for March 19. The general election, which will determine who will represent our region in Congress, will take place June 11.

The 6th District includes all of Carroll, Jefferson, Belmont, Harrison, Monroe, Noble and Washington counties and portions of Stark and Tuscarawas counties.


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