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Calling all candidates to meet our staff

Campaigning in this year’s presidential election has been underway for months, and it won’t be long before Ohioans get their first chance to weigh in on the matter.

Primary Election Day in the Buckeye State is March 17 – the same date as St. Patrick’s Day. If you want to cast a ballot, though, you must prepare in advance. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is this Tuesday, Feb. 18. If you need to update your voter information – perhaps you’ve had a change of address, for example – you must do that by the same date.

If you are not sure whether you need to register to vote, you can check that out at the Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s website by going online to voterlookup.ohiosos.gov/voterlookup.aspx. From there, you can view all the details of your voting information and update them as needed. You can also register to vote online, or you can pint out a registration form to complete and return to your county board of elections office if you prefer.

Early voting for the primary election begins Wednesday and can be done at your county board of elections office.

The presidential primary is important, with multiple Democrats still in the race for that party’s nomination. But it is far from the only thing on the ballot. That is why The Times Leader is inviting all candidates for local, state and federal office in our coverage area to attend a special event, also scheduled for Tuesday.

From 6-7:30 p.m. that day, our staff will welcome those seeking to become county commissioners, sheriffs, township trustees, state and federal lawmakers, auditors and other officeholders to visit our offices at 200 S. Fourth St. in Martins Ferry. Those who attend can enjoy refreshments and a chance to mingle with others interested in politics, and each will have the opportunity to sit down with one of our reporters to tell them about their qualifications for office and their plans if they are elected. We will have a photographer on hand to take their pictures as well.

This is not a public event, but it will help us to better inform the public in the long run. Although we are not inviting voters to come meet the candidates at this time, giving candidates the chance to meet us will help our staff provide our readers with more detailed, complete reports on who is seeking which office in the local area and why. We will be doing much of that reporting in the coming days, leading up to the primary.

Candidates in Belmont, Jefferson and Monroe counties should have received invitations to this event in the mail. We were not able to send individual invitations to Harrison County candidates, as the Harrison County Board of Elections experienced a computer problem and was unable to provide us with the names and addresses of those candidates for mailing purposes. However, all Harrison candidates are welcome and encouraged to attend as well.

Any candidate who would like to visit us on Tuesday is encouraged to RSVP by calling 740-633-1131 and speaking with me or another staff member. You can also email your RSVP to me at jcompston@timesleaderonline.com.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to take a closer look at state-level politics.I traveled to Columbus twice – once for the Legislative Preview session hosted by the Associate Press and a second time for the annual Ohio News Media Association’s annual convention. Both events provided the chance to hear from some of Ohio’s top politicians.

Some of the top priorities discussed during these forums included the welfare of Buckeye State children, particularly with regard to foster care; gun control, with special attention being paid to the lessons learned from the August mass shooting in the Oregon district of Dayton; cyber security and the potential for all public offices to be hacked via online sources; and elections security and concerns about the complications of the Iowa caucus.

Other areas of concern for lawmakers are the usual jobs, the economy and health care. The state of the agriculture industry in Ohio is a hot topic, as a high number of agricultural operations declared bankruptcy in the past year.

Democrats and Republicans remain largely divided on most of these issues, along traditional party lines. State Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper maintains that the Republic “supermajorities” in both the Ohio House and Senate do not accurately represent the interests of the people of the state and are instead a result of gerrymandering. He said this has allowed the legislature to “bludgeon” bills on issues like abortion and charter schools through the Statehouse and is “driving the future to other states.” He believes a “more reflective Statehouse” would be better for Ohio.

Other party officials, such as House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes of Akron and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko of Cleveland agree. Sykes, in particular, believes that women and minorities need to be better represented in the General Assembly.

Republicans such as House Speaker Larry Householder and Senate President Larry Obhof are focused on providing income-based access to charter schools, protecting Second Amendment rights and preventing regulations from interfering with business growth and development.

Overall, it appears that these legislative leaders have good working relationships with one another, but their priorities differ greatly. It will be interesting to see what compromises are reached and how the state will move forward this year.

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