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CSAD Prepares to Host First Congressional Debate

By Eric Geller

The Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD) will host a debate on Tuesday, Oct. 30 between Rep. Bob Gibbs (R), of Ohios seventh district, and Joyce Healy-Abrams, his Democratic challenger. Moderated by CSAD Director Tom Karako, the debate will be at 7:00 p.m. in Rosse Hall.

The debate will include questions from Karako and members of the public. Students, Gambier residents and anyone else who wants to submit a question will be able to do so prior to the debate via Facebook and Twitter.

Our job is to try to foster and encourage high-profile and civil and sober discourse about the issues of the day, Karako said. It seemed like a logical extension of the Centers mandate to foster discourse to bring to campus the candidates for our local representative.

Karako expects a full house on Oct. 30. The debate has been well-publicized in the local press, and Knox County radio and television outlets will also most likely cover the event, Karako said, as will regional newspapers.

Gibbs, who lives in Holmes County with his wife, Jody, served in both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate before winning his seat in the U.S. House in 2010. Prior to seeking elected office, he founded and ran a livestock production farm, led the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and served on the boards of the Ohio Cooperative Council and the Ohio Livestock Coalition.

Gibbs currently serves on the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. He is also the chairman of the latter committees Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. Gibbs did not respond to an interview request by the Collegian for this article.

While Gibbs told The Washington Post that he has tried to work bipartisan, he described President Obama as the most divisive president in our history. Referring to what he perceived as the Presidents disdain for business owners, Gibbs added, He tries to make them feel bad, blame them, its unbelievable to blame people who work hard. Youve got to bring people together.

Like many of his fellow Republicans, Gibbs opposes the Democratic plan to allow the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration to expire at the end of this year for households earning more than $250,000. Theyre paying a good share already, Gibbs told the Canton newspaper The Repository. How much more should they pay?

Healy-Abrams, who lives in Canton with her husband Jeff and daughter Helena, is making her five-point jobs plan a central component of her electoral push. The candidate ran a small business for 10 years before selling it in 2007, and she hopes to leverage her familiarity with the day-to-day operations of a small business to demonstrate that she would better serve the people of Ohios seventh district.

Among other things, the candidates five-point plan focuses on providing credit to small record and file management businesses to help them grow. Access to credit is huge, Healy-Abrams said in an interview with the Collegian. When you create your own business, typically small [business] owners will … have savings accounts. Theyll have maybe credit cards, so that they need credit to grow their business, and sometimes they can go get loans depending on the businesses theyre putting together and the assets they have. But you have to sign a personal guarantee when youre building your own business. And that includes any assets you have, whether its your home or your own personal savings account, anything. And thats risky.

Healy-Abrams also believes that there is room for improvement in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with respect to how it deals with small businesses. As a small business owner, the health care costs were one of the biggest costs that I had for my employees, she said. We always provided health care insurance for them. It went up 25 to 35 percent every single year because we had a small pool. The Affordable Care Act isnt helpful for small businesses that have fewer than 50 employees.

Healy-Abrams has never held elected office before, but she comes from a family with substantial experience in politics. Her father, the late William J. Healy, served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1975 to 2000. Her brother, William J. Healy II, served one term in the Ohio House, from 2005 to 2007, before becoming the mayor of Canton, a position he holds today.

Healy-Abrams has worked with community non-profit groups geared toward arts and education. She has also spent time working on issues affecting womens health care and children with special needs. Most of the organizations that Ive volunteered for really do affect the middle class and the poor, she said. Having access to health care is very important to people and I dont think that it should be a perk or an extra.

Sometimes people will make short-term decisions when theyre not looking at the long-term implications, Healy-Abrams said. When I look at Congressman Gibbs choosing to change Medicare as we know it and make it a voucher program which to me is basically a cost-shifted program for seniors while removing the government guarantees, thats a long-term concern. And it should be a concern for young people, as they graduate from college, get good jobs, and pay into Medicare and Social Security for their entire lives, with the expectation that it will be made available to them when they retire.

Healy-Abrams has seen less funding from the Democratic National Committee than many of her fellow congressional candidates. A few weeks ago, National Journal reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) pulled its ad spending in Ohios seventh district for the week of Oct. 18-22.

Theyre looking at the whole country, Healy-Abrams said of the DCCC. Were finding [that advertising is] having less impact on the voters. People are getting desensitized to it and theyre not watching it as much. With her campaign lagging behind Gibbs reelection effort in fundraising numbers, Healy-Abrams is betting on a robust get-out-the-vote effort, or what political pundits refer to as the ground game, in contrast to the TV advertising air war.

Im more interested in investing in my field operations at this point in my campaign, Healy-Abrams said. I want to actually talk to the voters as opposed to doing the marketing on a larger scale.

Healy-Abrams told the Collegian she was looking forward to debating her opponent. We were trying for a very long time to engage Congressman Gibbs on his record, and I think the voters need to know what our campaigns are about and what our positions are about, she said.

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