Ohio House 9th: Rogers (D) Gains Key Endorsements, Outlines Policy Agenda
Julian A. Rogers (D-Cleveland Heights) is running for the 9th Ohio House District seat of term-limited incumbent Rep. Claudette Woodard. The 9th District includes University Heights, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, and a portion of Cleveland. Opposing Rogers in the Democratic primary is former State Rep. Barbara Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights). Former Cleveland Heights City Council member Rev. Jimmie Hicks, Jr, a longtime Democrat notable for his strident opposition to the Cleveland Heights domestic partnership registry a few years ago, has filed to run as a Republican in this race.
Rogers recently received a glowing endorsement from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which wrote that Rogers is "well versed on the crucial issues facing the state and has prepared himself politically" and he "has the intelligence, energy and passion so desperately needed." Although the Plain Dealer praised Boyd as a capable legislator, the editorial board concluded that "District 9 voters have an opportunity to elect a bright and youthful candidate who represents the future" and that "having a legislator who is intimately familiar with funding and the problems of urban education would be a huge asset for the people of Ohio."
Rogers has also been endorsed by the 9th District incumbent Rep. Claudette Woodard, State Senators C.J. Prentiss and Eric Fingerhut, County Commissioner Tim Hagan, former 9th District candidate Eric Silverman, three members of the Cleveland Heights/University Heights Board of Education (Vice President Ron Messenger, Wendy Leatherberry and Kal Zucker), the Ohio Federation of Teachers, and the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats. The AFL-CIO decided to issue no endorsement in this race. The Cuyahoga County Democratic Party has endorsed Boyd.
Rogers' reputation as an expert in education policy is well deserved. He was Senior Assistant to Barbara Byrd Bennett, CEO of the Cleveland School District, for seven years, five of them also serving as Liaison to the Office of the Mayor. Although this is Rogers' first campaign for elected office, at age 32 he is no political novice. In addition to grassroots work on local campaigns and issues, Rogers worked on the fundraising team of the U.S. Senate campaign of Mary Boyle, served as a regional director for America Coming Together during the 2004 Presidential election, was a John Kerry delegate at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, was a precinct committeeman, worked on school levies, and participated in founding the statewide political action committee Blue 88. He is a lifelong resident of Cleveland Heights.
Rogers' frustration with the scandals, corruption, and mismanagement in state government prompted him to seek elected office. Speaking recently at Case Western Reserve University (reprinted here), Rogers used shocking statistics to document the abysmal and worsening condition of our state. About education, he pointed out that Ohio ranks 46th in equity of primary and secondary school resources, 38th in the percentage of 19-year-olds headed to college, and 50th in the ratio of students to computers. Turning to healthcare and the economy, he noted that Ohio is 34th in per capital spending on mental health services, 14th in infant mortality (comparable to less developed countries), 26th in the percentage of people living in poverty, 1st in home foreclosures, and 49th in economic momentum.
Rogers places the blame for this mess squarely on the lack of leadership, policy, or direction in state government, and proposes "educating ourselves out" of it through "a dedicated agenda to improve education in its quality and access":
Making it easier for Ohio residents to go to college by eliminating the existing tremendous financial barriers for young people to afford college. "In fact, it is cheaper to pay out-of-state tuition to attend college in a number of other states than it is as a resident of Ohio to attend one of our state universities. And many students are opting to attend school out of state, never to return to Ohio. This is a shame and we need to fix it."Rogers then turned to health care as the second major theme for his campaign, noting that over 1 million people in Ohio have no health care insurance at all. "Not only does this make health care more expensive for those that have it, but it is morally reprehensible that in the richest country in the world, we have citizens that cannot see a doctor when they become sick - - because they cannot afford to. We need to start the conversation around a single-payer health care system in this state where one fund, administered by a non-profit government agency would make payment for all medical services. "
Better preparing students in public schools for college. "As it stands now, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled four times that the way in which Ohio funds public schools is unconstitutional. Four times they have ruled that our system relies too much on local property taxes -- which creates an inequitable system; where those that live in richer areas receive a far better education than those living in poor areas. After four ruling, our legislature has still refused to act. This must be made a priority if we are to have any hope for our next generation."
Creating a system of universal preschool education. "Studies from the Center for Community Solutions have shown that children that attend a high quality preschool program are far more likely to not be held back in primary school, and are much more likely to attend college. They are also far less likely to ever spend time and jail. The cost saving to the public are tremendous. For every dollar spent on a quality preschool education, we see seven dollars in future savings -- as those students are more likely to be gainfully employed, contributing to the tax base."
Rogers concluded by declaring that we are "losing control of our democracy" because "special interest groups and the rich are buying our government":
"When the Republicans in the General Assembly had an opportunity to address the issue of 'pay to play,' they thought the problem could be fixed by increasing the contribution limits to state candidates from $2500 to $10,000. All this did was further reduce the influence of the average citizen in our democratic process. As witnessed with all the recent revelations of corruption and scandal, we need to institute clean, publicly financed elections in Ohio[through] a system of full public financing for all state elections in which candidates agree to strict spending limits and agree to accept no private money. We need to remove the opportunity for politicians to be bought. Clean elections, as they are done in Arizona and Maine, have proven to clean up government, decrease voter apathy, and encourage more participation from average citizens."Upcoming campaign events are listed on Rogers' campaign website here.