ENDORSEMENT: Kent Smith for State Senate, District 21

Kent Smith

This week, constituents in the new Ohio State Senate district 21 — a heavily Democratic district covering Euclid, South Euclid, East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, University Heights, Maple Heights, Warrensville Heights, Highland Heights, Garfield Heights, Northfield and Beachwood — got mailers for the two candidates running in the Democratic primary August 2: state representative and former Euclid school board member Kent Smith and former state representative (1999-2002, 2010-2018) John Barnes Jr.

That’s not unusual. What WAS unusual is that Barnes’ mailer was paid for by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers-founded rightwing group that launched and funded the Tea Party movement. Again, Barnes is running in the DEMOCRATIC primary.

His opponent Smith, a reliable progressive Democrat who has led on issues such as expanding health care access, limiting gun proliferation, adequately and equitably funding public education, and guaranteeing reproductive rights, put it best at a recent community forum when he said that since gerrymandering has given Democrats just a tiny handful of seats in the state senate, “We can’t afford to fill one with someone who is lazy and uninformed.”

The new gerrymander, which created Senate district 21 on the east side of Cuyahoga County and Senate district 23 (held by current state senator Nickie Antonio, who is unopposed in the August 2 primary) on the west, will likely reduce the number of Cleveland-area state senators from three to two. Turning one of them over to someone who is funded by the Koch brothers would reduce Democrats’ voice in the legislature to a whisper. That’s why it’s imperative to get out and vote for Kent Smith on August 2.

This isn’t Barnes’ first right-wing rodeo either. In 2014, he earned a vigorous challenge from Pepper Pike councilwoman Jill Miller Zimon, and really had to work for reelection. But he had outside help then too: Sacramento-based Students First, which advocates for expanding charter schools, weakening public education & disempowering teachers, poured a stunning amount of money into his district, making it one of the most expensive races in the state.

Interestingly, while Barnes’ mailer and website are vague about his positions — his website mostly boasts about money sent to his district from Columbus — one issue on which he openly takes a position is “the best education decisions are made by families, not Columbus,” a right-wing dog whistle for “families decide to send their kids to private/charter schools; taxpayers pay for it, stealing money from public schools.” But there’s no way to know where he stands on issues such as guns, abortion or mean-spirited attacks on trans kids.

When Barnes was in the state House from 2010-2018, he was known for being the sidekick of Cleveland state representative Bill Patmon, who ran as a Democrat but privately told people he leaned Republican. However, a Republican could not win his urban-based district. It was Patmon who, in 2016, when Republicans created a phony controversy over Planned Parenthood “selling baby parts” (they didn’t), introduced a bill in the legislature to defund the group, including their programs to prevent pregnancy and to help new mothers and babies stay healthy.

So what did Barnes, whose mailer calls him a “leader with bold policy ideas to shake up the status quo,” do? He didn’t show up to vote! At the time he told the media that while he was at the statehouse, he didn’t know the vote was going on. When I asked him about this directly last week, he said he didn’t remember this, but he would’ve voted against it and he tried to talk Patmon out of it.

As Kent Smith said, with the potential for Democrats to remain in a superminority, we can’t afford anyone who isn’t 100% on the team, especially given the rash of extreme, unpopular legislation the Republican majority has been pushing in recent years, legislation opposed by a majority of Ohioans that stands to weaken and impoverish the state and drive talent out of it. Smith has a long record of working to make life better for all ordinary Ohioans.


Help get out the vote! Find out who’s on the ballot and register to vote if you haven’t already done by googling “board of elections” and your country name. Go here for the Cuyahoga County BOE.


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