OPINION: Auditor candidate Zack Space cares about Southeast Ohio

From Nov. 27-29, Ohio candidate for State Auditor Zack Space spent time in Southeast Ohio on an “Ohio River Tour to Restore” that focused on systemic issues of political injustice faced by Appalachian Ohioans.

Born in Tuscarawas County in eastern Ohio, Space has a demonstrated history of serving working-class Ohioans. After receiving his law certification from the Ohio State Bar Association, Space served as a public defender, consumer protection lawyer and adviser to two Ohio attorneys general.

In 2006, Space won a competitive primary for Ohio’s 18th Congressional District, which encompassed parts of more than 14 counties from Carroll to Jackson. As a representative, Space sat on health, technology and consumer protection-related sub-committees.

From his experience representing mainly low-income and rural Ohioans, Space has cited such issues — health, technology and consumer protection improvements — as central to his campaign for state auditor.

On Nov. 28 in Pomeroy, Space explained, “I announced my campaign for auditor in Martins Ferry, Ohio, a city in a region that has been left behind by this democracy. I’m running for state auditor because I have become utterly convinced that our democratic system has been corrupted by the influence of money in politics.”

“This tour is about restoring Ohioans’ faith in our broken political system,” Space continued.

“There is no better place to highlight the need for political justice than in Appalachian Ohio. 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.”

It is not hard to understand the argument that Space is making. In a system of government governed by fundraising, wealthier parts of the state have become elevated in importance.

According to Space, vast amounts of money in politics have had three major unintended consequences. First, “when legislators spend five, ten, twenty hours a week fundraising, it is a colossal waste of a legislator’s time.” Time spent making calls takes away from the time a policymaker can spend traveling in their district and focusing on their immediate job.

Second, money in politics “improperly influences law, regulation, and policy. It subjectifies what should be an objective process.” Allowing money to influence policymakers is at the root of deregulation that harms our regional environmental and human health.

Third, Space claimed that money in politics “has given credence to the claim that the system is rigged.” This claim is the one that resonated with so many working-class voters in 2016 and led to the election of Donald Trump. Space says it is no wonder many residents of the region feel this way.

“This failed process has, for generations, left Appalachian Ohioans with poor access to quality public schools and health care, declining infrastructure and numerous appalling examples of political gerrymandering,” Space continued, speaking generally on a fiscally and politically corrupted election system.  

By discussing such issues, Space clearly believes in a broader role for state auditor than his opponent, State Representative Keith Faber. Faber’s campaign, which is focused on reducing state spending and improving government efficiency, fails to discuss money in politics or the corrupting influence of gerrymandering.

Zack Space’s “Ohio River Tour to Restore” spanned three days and eleven locations. From Ironton to Steubenville, Space spent time meeting with community activists, faith leaders and local politicians.

Space hopes that his tour of the region will highlight the injustices of our rigged political system and demonstrate his commitment to solving them. Witnessing the conviction with which he speaks and knowing his political background, it is not hard to believe his sincerity.

So far in 2018 political races, Space is the only candidate from either major party to spend longer than a single uninterrupted day in Southeast Ohio. Space follows the lead of Gubernatorial candidate Joe Schiavoni, who recently spent time in Perry, Athens and Meigs counties discussing regional issues in a similar context.

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