Candidates, citizens connect at Portage County voters event

Lyndsey Schley

The Portage County League of Women Voters hosted its Face-2-Face Voters & Candidates forum on Saturday, Oct. 11 at Kent Roosevelt High School.

Thirteen candidates attended the meeting to answer questions from citizens, said Iris Meltzer, president of the Kent League of Women voters.

“I certainly was pleased with the turnout,” Meltzer said. “The turnout indicates people do care about voting and who’s going to lead them at the state and local levels.“

While candidate forums are a long-held form of voting event, the league has only hosted this type of forum three times. Meltzer said she believes it is a good format.

“There was a lot of really good interaction,” she said.

The Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County, Kent Environmental Council and Kent State University’s Black United Students were among the six co-sponsors of the event. BUS Vice President Mamadou Ndiaye Jr. said the event is part of their efforts to get students more involved in politics.

“We believe as Black United Students that it’s very imperative that we always take the time to be informed and aware of the people who want to run for these offices,” Ndiaye said. “Just by listening to a 10-minute conversation, you get an idea of the mentality of the candidates who want to run your community.”

Undergraduate Student Government Executive Director Marvin Logan also attended the event. He said having these events in the community is important to keep the student body informed.

“It’s important to keep our student body engaged and give our students access to information,” Logan said. “One of the things we’re planning to do is give them a fact sheet about the different candidates, different issues on the ballot coming up this November. There are some key issues we as students can focus on.”

Logan said that while political participation has improved at Kent State, it still needs to go farther.

“Our numbers are not where they need to be,” Logan said. “We need to continually make efforts to engage more of our students.”

Meet the Candidates 

Question: What would you want to change if you were elected?

Portage County Auditor




Janet Esposito (R) (Incumbent)

“In my office, nothing. We’re very efficient. We work hard. We’ve intertwined people with technology.”









Christopher Mallin (D)

“One policy area that the auditor has influence in is the appraisal of land values. In the last four or five years, we have had these national and international industrial corporations coming in and building industrial projects on formally agricultural and residential land. I think the auditor’s office has to aggressively go out and keep those valuations up to date.”




Court of Common Pleas Probate/Juvenile Division




David Brode

“The law provides for a process where the agency can go to the court on an ex parte basis, meaning with only the agency going to the court, and ask the court for an emergency order to do something to protect children that are at risk. Our court will not issue those orders presently. There are occasions when those types of orders, in my opinion, are necessary.”







Bob Berger

“What I’d like to do is put more emphasis on truancy. I think that’s your early warning system, that’s the tip of the iceberg when things are going to go wrong. Truancy gives you an opportunity to see if there’s a problem in a home instead of waiting four or five years, having them become a delinquent and dealing with it after it’s gone on a long time.”




Court of Common Pleas General Division




Eugene Muldowney

“Civil cases sometimes last up to three years. They get dragged out, and I would make sure that these cases, once they get filed, get settled quickly. “








Becky Doherty

“We don’t have any specialized way of dealing with drug addiction or mental health issues and just about every other county in the state of Ohio does. Placing someone on probation or in prison is not always the answer. If you are simply a drug-addicted person who is charged with felony possession of heroin and there is a desire to rehabilitate, drug court should be an option.”




District 7 State Board of Education




David Spencer

“Public schools are underrepresented on the State Board of Education. A sufficient number on the board are advocating for more school choice and the establishing of charter schools. When that happens, oftentimes, it’s a loss of public dollars from the public schools. I’m not opposed to school choice, but I do have reservations about how many public dollars go to other educational endeavors.”







Michael Charney

“I learned through my experience how these high-stakes standardized tests distort teaching (and) turn kids into a test score and deny kids a well-rounded and high-quality education in all the subjects and all the activities because what gets tested is what gets emphasized. I support testing, not so much high-stakes testing, because as a teacher, I would like to learn if the kids really learn the stuff.”






Sarah Fowler (Incumbent)

“I’m supportive of finding a funding option to get away from an overreliance on property tax issues. I’ve talked to a number of legislators over the last number of years about other ways we could find a more broad-based system that would better benefit Ohio and Ohio’s public schools without losing our ability to have local levies and be able to support additional things in our own school’s districts.”





Ohio Representative – 75th District




Kathleen Clyde (D) (Incumbant)

“Right now in Ohio, we have a very partisan process for how congressional districts are drawn, so the result is a maneuver by whichever party’s in power to maximize their power when they draw districts. We’re kind of a 50/50 moderate state. If you look at our congressional delegation, it’s 70 percent Republican and 30 percent Democrat.”






Nick Skeriotis (R)

“Our state is doing it now, looking over regulations and seeing what regulations hurt economic growth because we need to bring economic growth back into Ohio. We need more jobs. We need to cut taxes and bring more businesses into Ohio. I would also like to see more vocational training in K-12.






Portage County Commissioner




Sabrina Christian-Bennett (R ) (Incumbant)

“I would like to bring businesses to the county. I think we have a lot to offer here.”








Vicki Kline

“What I would change is going out and getting familiar with what the people do in the departments. I would never want someone saying, me being commissioner, I can only call her twice a month. To me, that would be insulting. I want to put out there an open-door policy. You can see me any time.”





Invited candidates not in attendance: 

State Board of Education: Sarah Freeman

Portage County Commissioner: Richard Duncan

U.S. Representative to Congress – 13th District: David Pastorius, Thomas Pekarek, Tim Ryan

Contact Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].