MOUNT VERNON — Candidates for the 19th Ohio State Senate District said they are for raising the minimum wage and sparred lightly on state legislators’ ability to channel food markets.
Democratic candidate Louise Valentine said the minimum wage should be increased immediately to $12 an hour, then stepped up to $15 an hour. Green Party candidate Gary Cox said he supports a $20 minimum wage.
While their respective increase amounts were different, both candidates said that a higher minimum wage would fuel growth. They echoed each other in the sentiment that more money in consumers’ pockets would mean more spending; Cox said a $20 minimum wage would cause the economy to “boon,” and Valentine said she does not believe the increase will hurt businesses, but will help the economy by increasing consumers’ spending power.
Cox said agriculture in Ohio should focus on “feed Ohioans, not the world.” He suggested that schools and universities should feed their students with their own gardens. Valentine said decisions for where farmers market their products should be left up to the farmers and “there is plenty of room for international trade.” Valentine further said she feels the Chinese tariffs are hurting farmers.
In rebuttal to the agriculture question, Cox said that state legislators have no impact on international trade; Valentine responded that state legislators can put pressure on Congress.
On public school funding, Valentine said the system of levies and property taxes is not working. She said school funding should be the state’s responsibility, and educators and economists should sit down with state officials to work it out.
Cox said schools should set their own budgets, then place those budgets before the voters to approve.
On the opioid epidemic, both candidates said more resources should be spent on recovery. Cox said insurance should cover the cost of addiction recovery, and shared a personal story of his own son’s struggles with addiction leading to recovery in a halfway house.
Valentine said attacking the opioid crisis should be twofold: By funding treatment through a 5 percent outlay from the state rainy day fund, and making sure police have the resources needed to do their jobs.
Cox has a background in law and spent two years as an organic vegetable farmer, and presented himself as an option to the two-party system. Valentine’s background is in corporate business, and said she decided to run because she does not like what she saw in the 2016 election cycle.
Republican candidate Andrew Brenner was not present at the debate, having declined an invitation to participate.
The debate was sponsored by the Mount Vernon News, with media partners KnoxPages.com, WNZR and WMVO/WQIO. The evening was hosted by Mount Vernon Nazarene University.