Auditor candidate Zack Space decries trade agreements

The Ohio auditor doesn’t have much say over international trade, but the Democratic candidate for the office went to hard-hit northeast Ohio on Monday to highlight the toll he says it’s had on the region.

Former Congressman Zack Space of Dover held press conferences in Warren and Martin’s Ferry with other prominent Democrats to unveil his Working Families First Plan. In it, he proposes to bring “the full investigatory power of the auditor’s office to bear in determining just how much corporate globalization and unfair trade deals have impacted working Ohioans and their families.”

Ohio Democrats have been working hard to win back voters in a region that once was rich in coal, steel and manufacturing jobs. After many ditched the party for Donald Trump in 2016, the Democrats kicked off this election cycle last September by holding the first debate of the gubernatorial primary in Martin’s Ferry.

On Monday, Space told residents there that if elected, he would conduct a special audit to see how trade agreements have affected local government revenue since the 1994 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“These unfair trade deals have wreaked havoc on Ohio workers for a generation now, resulting in hundreds of thousands of direct job losses and depriving our communities of essential tax revenues to fund public schools, infrastructure, and essential services like police and fire,” Space said in a written statement.

He said he also would audit the expenditure of Trade Adjustment Assistance funds since 1994 by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

“Working Ohioans and their families deserve an auditor of state who prioritizes the real issues they face, and I intend to utilize the full powers of this office to comprehensively investigate the real effects that NAFTA-era trade policy has had on our workers and communities,” Space said.

Never one to stay out of the news for long, Trump on Monday announced he had a tentative deal on a renegotiated NAFTA with Mexico, leaving Canada’s role unclear.

The campaign of Space’s opponent, Ohio Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, Allie Dumski, responded, “If the legislature grants this authority to the auditor of state, Keith Faber will pursue this vigorously. Sadly, Zack Space has already admitted to the press that he isn’t sure of what powers and duties the auditor’s office has.”

Asked to document her assertion, Dumski could not point to an instance when Space told the press he was unfamiliar of the duties of the auditor’s office. Instead, she repeated a claim that Space didn’t know charter schools already are being audited by the office. However, in a meeting earlier this month with The Dispatch editorial board, Space said that in light of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow scandal he wanted to go beyond investigations already done look back throughout the history of online charter schools in Ohio.

Space said he didn’t want to exceed constitutional limits placed on the auditor’s office, “but I do intend to push the extremes of the office.” His campaign was asked if the auditor would have to hire more people if it wants to investigate the impacts of trade agreements, audit Ohio’s online charter schools throughout their history and undertake other non-traditional investigations while doing the legally required work of keeping an eye on the finances of local governments and auditing state agencies.

“The auditor’s office is already equipped with the staff and resources to tackle the dynamic investigations that Zack Space intends to conduct when elected. Enacting the ‘Working Families First’ plan will be a priority of the Space administration, and will in no way diminish the administration’s ability to fulfill the traditional duties of the Auditor’s office,” Space spokesman Nathan Cotton said in an email.

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