The 2014 general election is still a year and a half off, but candidates at all levels are stepping up to get an early start campaigning. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports on a race for an Ohio House seat taking shape in Cleveland, where two young Democrats are preparing to face off in the May 6 primary.
The 11th District of Ohio’s House of Representatives covers such Cleveland neighborhoods as Hough, Central and Fairfax, sweeping south through Slavic Village and into suburb Garfield Heights. Its current representative, Sandra Williams, has reached her term limit.
Michael Houser, 25, is a Clevelander who graduated from Kent State two years ago. He worked for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, and has been involved in other Democratic groups.
Houser touts a multi-point platform, such as reducing crime and offering state assistance for homeowners facing the threat of foreclosure.
“I want to work with lenders and make sure that they help people facing foreclosure," he said. "Because a lot of times, a lot of people are on that edge, or they’re thinking of filing for bankruptcy, but they’re not 100 percent sure.”
Gigi Traore, 33, is also seeking the seat. She’s a local who went to Cleveland State University and has organized around progressive causes for years. She has run a nonprofit geared at encouraging young people to become involved in politics. Last year she was an Ohio delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
Traore points out that although the district contains parts of big institutions like Cleveland State and Cuyahoga Community College, many of its residents live in poverty.
She says the state could do more to address the challenges low-income Ohioans face, like poor health.
“We are one of the poorest districts in the state of Ohio," Traore said. "And so a lot of individuals are looking at how do we turn that around. And so being able to work with other state reps, as well as the senator and who eve becomes our governor in 2014, is going to be essential to make sure that we're able to funnel resources to our community."
Houser says he’s been shaped by the elected officials he’s worked under. Traore says it’s her background as an activist and an organizer that’s prepared her for the job.