A former U.S. Congressman who represented areas of northwestern Athens County returned to his old stomping grounds last week to highlight gerrymandering and food insecurity in Glouster and Nelsonville.
Former U.S. Rep. Zack Space is running for Ohio auditor in 2018 and included the two Athens County stops in his “Ohio River Tour to Restore,” a three-day tour of nine southeastern Ohio counties meant to highlight what Space called systemic issues of political injustice.
“This tour is about restoring Ohioans’ faith in our broken political system,” Space said. “There is no better place to highlight the need for political justice than in Appalachian Ohio.”
Last Tuesday in Glouster, Space held a press conference with Mayor Miles Wolf to highlight the use of Trimble Township – the northernmost “chimney top” township in Athens County – as a land bridge in the gerrymandering of Ohio’s 20th Senate District. Trimble is the only township in the 20th, with the rest of Athens County falling in Ohio’s 30th Senate district.
“A state government consumed by the need to raise campaign cash and rig legislative districts has neither the time nor inclination to tackle the unique challenges that we face in rural southeastern Ohio,” Space said.
Later the same day in Nelsonville, Space visited the Nelsonville Food Cupboard on Chestnut. The pantry was opened in 1989 by late longtime Nelsonville community leader Bob Sheskey and is now operated by his daughter, Margaret, at its new location.
Margaret Sheskey told Space that nearly 500 families are served by the cupboard each month.
Space spoke to Sheskey about how he’s been struck by the fact that many people who are stuck in poverty and struggling with food insecurity do work, and in a lot of cases, both parents work, but they are still stuck.
“That is something that I think is telling about what is happening in this country, and in this state, and in this region,” he said. “There are just so many people who don’t get paid a living wage. They work full time and do everything right and still live in poverty.”
Sheskey agreed that this is something she sees every day.
“People are very forthcoming about their stories,” Sheskey said. “They sit down and they’ll tell you.”
When Space mentioned the stereotypes about poor people who are supposedly lazy, living high on the hog and not willing to work, Sheskey agreed, “That’s not the case at all.”
Also last week, Space met with school district superintendents in Gallipolis to discuss education in rural Ohio, and a press conference in Pomeroy to highlight community solutions to inequality. He also highlighted gerrymandering in Lucasville.
On Wednesday, Space went to Marietta at the barrier between Ohio House Districts 94 and 95, where he also highlighted gerrymandering, and then went on to hold a roundtable discussion in Bellaire on veterans’ issues and the power of the Ohio Auditor’s office to strengthen programs for veterans.
“Communities along the Ohio River have been particularly harmed by a democratic process that is compromised by the corrupting influence of money and by political self-interest,” Space said. “This failed process has, for generations, left Appalachian Ohioans with poor access to quality public schools and healthcare, declining infrastructure, and numerous appalling examples of political gerrymandering.”
Space, a Democrat from Dover in eastern Ohio, represented Ohio’s 18th U.S. Congressional District from 2007 to 2011, including Trimble, Dover and York townships in Athens County.
Former Ohio Senate President and current state Rep. Keith Faber, from Celina, is running for auditor on the Republican side.