A Comment on the Special Election for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District

By Daniel Crawford

The following represents the opinion of Progressive member Daniel Crawford alone and does not represent the view of the larger Licking County Progressives. As noted in past published statements and meeting minutes, the Licking County Progressives currently does not endorse federal or statewide candidates. Any and all endorsements will be offered following an “ask” by local candidates and following a vote of the participating members.

Danny O’Connor is ready and willing to serve in the United States Congress, and the same can be said of Joe Manchik and Troy Balderson. The question here is “why?” Why is each of these candidates ready to serve and to whom will they answer? In the special election to finish Former Congressman Pat Tiberi’s unexpired term, early voting is upon us. Aside of the attack ads financed by wealthy conservatives, the Republican Party, and the like we have very little to base our opinion about any of these candidates. Unless you’ve been deeply involved in the parties from the outset of the primary campaigns, you are not likely to know much more today than you would have a year ago on where these people stand.

Television coverage has been largely limited to the aforementioned attack ads with a smidge of positive ads by Balderson or O’Connor. Balderson’s positive ad or two makes references to him being a decent person and O’Connor’s highlights him as a guy willing to work with anyone and who can empathize with families struggling, especially with health scares (since his mother survived breast cancer). Manchik hasn’t even appeared on the media’s radar for a variety of reasons, but largely because he is not a member of either major party. In social media, you will see a ads from the major party candidates – mostly for O’Connor, it seems (though, this could be the result of filters I have created for myself over time by following left-leaning pages and the like) -, but even those tend to skip the details which would be helpful in guiding the working class voter at the ballot box.

I suggest that anyone reading this ought to pay a quick visit to each candidate’s website (you can google them, as they aren’t hard to find). When you review where each man stands on the issues, this is the impression you get:

1) Balderson likes the tax cuts (which have overwhelmingly helped the rich, as usual), wants to build the wall, pledges to “support Trump”, claims that he wants to help the “working class” by protecting them from “illegals”, boasts his support for extremist positions on abortion, opposes seemingly any concrete action on gun violence, gloats that he opposed Governor Kasich’s acceptance of Medicaid in Ohio through the Affordable Care Act and declares that he is intent on seeing the healthcare law repealed, and – laughably – conveys his support for what would be a fiscally and economically disastrous balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
2) Manchik supports Medicare for all, ending needless wars, a living wage, reinstating Glass-Steagall, getting the money out of politics, taking solid action to thwart gun violence, and strongly supports public education up through at least a debt-free experience in a four year public college. This is not a complete list of where he stands on issues, but it is a highlight and what you typically expect from progressives.
3) O’Connor plays it safe on his website; a little too safe. On the issues he mentions almost no specifics as to what he would like Congress to do. He merely offers comforting words about compromise, his life experience, and vague pledges to expand health coverage, help create jobs, and taking a stand against privatizing the safety net. To his credit, he explicitly endorses renewable energy, Automatic Voter Registration, and increased financial aid.

Now, from a purely-progressive perspective, it would appear that Manchik is the ideal candidate. The problem here isn’t with Manchik’s progressive positions, but with the reality of the political duopoly that he correctly and repeatedly condemns in public and through his website. Ours is a system rigged by the two parties through manipulating what was intended to be a nonpartisan structure for the purpose of shutting out alternative voices of dissent. In a first-past-the-post design such as ours where the candidate with at least a plurality of the vote wins, it is near impossible for any candidate to succeed while lacking a solid ground game, a formidable coalition of support extending beyond their “base”, and the financial resources to spread to word.

With respect to Manchik as a candidate, there are some things which he says that may render him unelectable regardless of the party banner he flies. At one point on his website, he asserts that President Obama committed “treason” in his decision to bomb Syria and assails former Speaker Boehner as well as Former Congressman Tiberi as “evil”. While there is plenty about which to harshly ridicule each one of these politicians, labeling someone as a “traitor” or “evil” is going a bit far without concrete proof. The challenge for Manchik here is that one can not expect to be effective in Congress if everyone who disagrees with you is seen as coming from the bowels of hell. Not only that, but the standard for treason is laid out pretty explicitly in the Constitution and it is not clear how President Obama ever met those standards, let alone in his conduct with respect to Syria. Still, this is an unfortunate distraction from the other very important positions espoused by Mr. Manchik.

Troy Balderson is reprehensible to his core as a prospective representative for the people of ANY district in this country. His blind devotion to the Trump agenda indicates that he will continue and even exacerbate the subversion of Congress, the system of checks and balances, and the rule of law to President Trump’s will. He is almost gleeful in his advocacy against expanded Medicaid for the poor here in Ohio and throughout the nation and is unapologetic in his blatant use of racist and xenophobic rhetoric to divide and conquer the working class whilst doing the bidding of the oligarchs. Balderson is EXACTLY the type of politician that we must defeat this year; both in the August Special Election and in the November General Election.

That final point brings me to Mr. O’Connor. This is where I have to give my “full disclosure” notice. During the primary campaign, I worked on the very unorthodox campaign for my good friend – and Danny O’Connor’s most vocal and controversial opponent – John Peters. Regardless of what Mr. Peters and Mr. O’Connor said or thought about each other I NEVER ruled out the possibility of supporting O’Connor after the primary. However, there were a few areas of concern which emerged out of this experience, and those concerns largely circle around the key questions of “why is Danny running?” and “who will Danny serve?” On paper, Danny is running because he wants to serve us, and that seems perfectly fine.

What has troubled me, though, is that Mr. O’Connor jumped into the race after having just won an election for County Recorder just over a year before announcing this bid. On top of that, when he was asked – yes, by my friend, John – about why he was initially not going to participate in what was then the only scheduled debate amongst the Democratic candidates, his response was that he had a fundraiser he had to attend (to his credit, he did wind up participating in same said debate). Then, the Franklin County Democratic Party inappropriately intervened in the primary by endorsing Mr. O’Connor over the other six candidates; a number of whom also lived in Franklin County. Mr. O’Connor lack of boldness on vital issues leaves me in a predicament of sorts, for the very least that he could do is tell us what he would prefer Congress to do instead of using this pathetically weak language intent on appeasing certain voters that he will never win over.

I’m not saying any of this as a declaration that I will not vote for Mr. O’Connor. Don’t get me wrong, I want to vote for Mr. Manchik and absolutely would if we had a nonpartisan and/or ranked-choice system wherein I could cast my preferred vote for Manchik and then my safe second vote for Mr. O’Connor. Sadly, we are denied such an open and truly representative democratic system here in Ohio and in most parts of this country. Instead, what we have is a single vote which must be cast with the bigger picture of our corrupt system in mind. In that corrupted political design we have to carefully make our decision, and my decisions have to be based on campaign viability.

My unresolved questions about O’Connor’s motives hinder my ability to enthusiastically advocate for his election. I have no present assurances from any of his ads, literature, internet communications, or other available information that he will not prove to be another sell-out to the oligarchs for his own selfish interests while throwing the working class to the proverbial wolves. It is my hope that he will reach out to me soon to discuss my concerns – and address some specific policy positions – before either election. I want to feel energized by this campaign and excited to promote him to a resounding victory over Balderson, but I need something more concrete from him.

Back to Manchik for a second, I want to vote for him – as I noted before -, but his campaign has demonstrated no ability to break through the numerous obstacles put in place by our establishment politics. If it weren’t for me directly participating in politics I would have no clue as to who Manchik is, and that is the case for most voters going into this vote. This is an indicator of Mr. Manchik’s electoral lack of viability. For the sake of my kids, I can not justify a vote for someone who has no realistic path to victory given such an ineffective performance at reaching out to the voters. I have no doubt that Manchik would be a true and fervent fighter for the working class and for peace if he were to be elected, but his chances of winning are as probable as a house cat beating a tiger in a catfight.

So, yes, I will vote for Danny O’Connor to represent us in Congress and will encourage my loved ones to follow suit, but I will do so devoid of the excitement which I feel like we need to win this election outright and to restore the power of the people. As mentioned before, O’Connor and his campaign have a chance to make me a solid believer and even a passionate volunteer, but the clock is ticking. We have to do more than win. We have to win for the people. Otherwise, we will remain on our current path of self-destruction.


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