Ohio’s fourteenth congressional district, which takes in the northeastern corner of the state, including a piece of eastern Cuyahoga County plus Lake, Ashtabula and Geauga and parts of Portage County, Summit and Trumbull counties, is desperately in need of an actual congressperson, someone who will be present in the district, listen to constituents and fight for their needs. That’s why we are endorsing the hard-working Democrat Betsy Rader to replace Republican incumbent David Joyce.
When Ohio was brutally gerrymandered in the 2012 redistricting to produce 12 Republican congressional districts and four Democratic districts (when the statewide vote rarely veers far from 50/50), optimists tagged OH-14, then held by the late Steve LaTourette, as the only potential swing district.
Not that anyone was going to beat the popular LaTourette. But when he retired in 2012, just as the new map was taking effect, Democrats were hopeful. Alas, it was not to be. Joyce was installed as the LaTourette-endorsed successor.
The evasive Joyce has adopted a model favored by many low-profile, backbench Republican congressmen: don’t say too much or get too specific, appear to be on all sides and then vote straight party line. For god’s sake, don’t do constituent town hall meetings! At one point earlier this year, Joyce actually took down his campaign website, all the better to stand for nothing — or everything.
Like many candidates this year, Rader has focused heavily on health care — because it’s showing up as a major concern of voters.
“What I found is concern about prescription drugs prices, concern about whether preexisting conditions will be covered, whether I’m talking to young people, middle aged people or old people,” she says. “They are terrified. People are not taking medication because they can’t afford it. Parents who have kids with preexisting conditions are concerned about what happens to their kids when they turn 26 and can’t be on their parents’ insurance. When I was first running and they were voting on repeal, Republicans were telling me, my vote depends on what they do because I have a son with diabetes, or my child has multiple sclerosis. It’s not confined to parties; it’s not confined to how much money you have. You have a lot of money in the bank and get an expensive condition and it’s gone.”
Health care is a perfect example of Joyce’s confusing and unreliable positions. From 2013 on, he voted numerous times to repeal the Affordable Care Act and against other health care access provisions. Then in the middle of last year, he flipped to oppose yet another repeal attempt, as more people were becoming aware of what this would mean for them. Now he’s touting that in his ads. Flip flop flip flop flip flop.
Currently, his position is too vague to be categorized but leans heavily on tired GOP talking points such as tort reform and allowing purchase of insurance across state lines, which do nothing to protect anyone’s access or keep costs down. He refers to people deserving a health care system in which patients and doctors make decisions, not government, another GOP talking point, overlooking the power held by insurance companies, which was even greater before the passage of the ACA.
Rader, a civil rights lawyer who specializes in workplace discrimination issues, wants government to be able to negotiate drug prices for Medicare, Medicaid and the VA, and prohibit special deals to keep generics out of the marketplace, and supports people being able to buy into Medicare, effectively supporting the public option that was regrettably kept out of the Affordable Care Act. She may not be pipe-dreaming about “Medicare for All,” but she is looking at achievable first steps.
Rader is also a strong proponent of making elections more democratic.
“We have a printed booklet with my campaign finance agenda,” she says. “It addresses gerrymandering and fair access to the ballot. I support automatic voter registration. There’ve been some good court cases on gerrymandering although voter purge lost at the Supreme Court. I was one of the first competitive races where the Democrat announced a no-corporate PAC pledge. Money in politics is what stops reform. It’s a pretty core principle of mine. ”
The issue of fair elections, the gateway to a government that serves its citizens, doesn’t even make Joyce’s issues page. It’s clearly not a core principle of his.
One thing he does talk about is the opioid crisis, because it’s a safe issue for candidates of all types to deplore the increased prevalence of opioid addiction and overdoses. The problem is he’s got a lot more vague words, but treatment goes back to access to health care and there he’s all out of ideas. Again, Rader has a list of far more specific ideas, including holding pharmaceutical companies accountable. Joyce doesn’t mention that. Has anyone checked his corporate donors list?
Rader says on her website, “We must take urgent action to restore the voice of the people in elections. The corrosive influence of big money and corporations in our elections has been vastly accelerated by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which must be overturned. We need to end secret, unaccountable money in politics by requiring significantly more disclosure and transparency—by outside groups, federal contractors, and public corporations to their shareholders.”
The events of the past week make those words have a bitter ring. But those events offer an even more powerful reason to vote for Rader over the slippery, elusive David Joyce.