Candidate tells students to ‘get involved’

Abbey Stirgwolt

Ben Espy, Democratic candidate for Ohio Supreme Court, speaks to students yesterday in Oscar Ritchie Hall. LESLIE CUSANO | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

If there’s one thing Ohio Supreme Court candidate Ben Espy wants for the upcoming Senate election – besides a win – it’s for students to get involved.

“You need to get involved now, because people are going to be looking to you for answers,” the Democratic candidate said yesterday to an audience of students, faculty and representatives from Black United Students and the Kent State NAACP.

Espy, a former Minority Leader in the Ohio Senate and practicing attorney for 38 years, said he plans to make long-overdue changes in the leadership of the court, noting that only two black judges have served on the Ohio Supreme Court in its 203-year history.

“I’m running to try to make things right, to put a conscience on that court,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be saying things like, ‘The first’ in 2006.”

Espy addressed issues ranging from higher education to unemployment, with a focus on improvement of various facets of Ohio’s education systems.

Tuition rates were at the top of the list.

“Ohio is leading the country in cost of tuition for going to colleges,” he said, adding that the state’s tuition hikes have pushed the 18-to-26-year-old demographic out of Ohio.

“We’re losing all our young people to other states,” he said.

Aside from higher education, Espy said the needs of under-funded school systems in various parts of the state have been ignored.

In certain areas of Ohio, he said, young students eat lunch at downtown bars because their schools have no food catering. In others, all the students have to use outdoor restrooms.

“This is in Ohio, not Mississippi,” he said.

Ohio’s nationally ranked unemployment and home foreclosure rates were also problems Espy said need to be dealt with – not only by him, but by voters statewide, including students.

“We need new blood in this state. We need new people. We need new blood in the court,” he said.

Black United Students president Sasha Parker and Kent State NAACP president Shanelle Smith echoed Espy’s call to arms, both citing student involvement as a focal point for their organizations this year.

The two groups have also collaborated to bring in U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) this semester to speak to students.

“We want black students to concentrate on the campaign and on issues, not on propaganda,” Parker said.

Smith said other issues on the groups’ agendas include funding of higher education, state retention of the 18-to-26 age demographic and employment.

Contact public affairs reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].