3 Democrats vie for seat held by Congressman Davidson in 8th District race

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Democratic voters in the 8th Congressional District will have three choices, one who they had sent to the general election in years past or one of two new candidates.

Butler County residents Vanessa Enoch, of West Chester Twp., and David Gelb, of West Chester Twp., and Hamilton County resident Nathaniel Hawkins, of Cleves, hope to be the one to go against the winner of the Republican primary. The GOP race pits incumbent U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, against former Butler County Auditor Kay Rogers.

Enoch, who has run the past several election cycles against Davidson, said her campaign’s made progress since she first ran in 2018 when she received just under 89,500 votes district-wide. She topped 110,000 votes two years later in the 2020 presidential year, and she was just shy of 100,000 in 2022.

“We understood we were playing the long game and it would take more than money to overcome this heavily gerrymandered district,” she said in last week’s debate among the Democratic candidates for the 8th Congressional District. She said Butler County is one of the fastest-growing Democratic areas in congressional districts in Ohio, and “I believe it’s my duty to run again.”

Small business owner David Gelb said he’s running for Congress “because I’m tired of doing the same thing over, and over and over again, and losing to the Republicans,” adding that “this is something this district shouldn’t be accustomed to.” He said voters need someone who can not only represent the 8th Congressional District but “can beat Warren Davidson.”

Hawkins, who works at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said he’s running because there are too may “who have been undervalued and underrepresented.”

“I believe in (our country’s) promise of a better life, but most importantly I believe we can make our country a better place than it’s ever been,” he said. “For too long, Ohioans have asked their representatives to advocate for their family’s needs, and have been met with indifference and inaction.”

In last week’s virtual candidates’ forum hosted by Miami University, the three candidates addressed topics they’d be addressing as a member of Congress, from the foreign conflicts in Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas, to college affordability.

They first fielded the issues surrounding education in the country, particularly the U.S. Department of Education’s recent report that 86% of school districts nationwide reported difficulty in retaining qualified teachers.

Enoch said there are multiple factors for teachers wanting to leave the professions, including not feeling safe in the classroom, suggesting changes in gun policies are a significant reason. Ohio in 2022 signed legislation to make it easier for teachers to legally carry guns in schools with just 24 hours of training.

“Teachers don’t feel safe with those kinds of laws,” she said.

She added the quality of education has declined because funding has declined, and the curriculum has been limited.

“I think we’re on the opposite end of the spectrum where we’re taking money out of schools now and it’s impacting the way schools function, and teachers are being told they can’t teach certain things in the classroom,” she said. “... I think by improving academic freedom and allowing teachers to teach real history by allowing teachers (to have) the ability to improve education by imparting real knowledge is a good step in trying to protect education.”

Gelb said the reason schools are having problems retaining teachers is that they’re teaching to testing standards, which “were created by large corporations to make money.”

“It’s as simple as that,” he said.

He said colleges are beginning to learn the issues with the SAT and ACT exams, and more are not requiring them. More than 1,900 colleges did not require SAT and ACT scores for their fall 2024 admissions.

Moreover, Gelb said it’s a combination of things causing teachers to leave, from low salaries ― Ohio is near the median among states, according to EducationWeek ― lacking benefits and teaching to standardized tests. One of his first acts would be putting something on the House floor “to get rid of standardized testing.”

But Hawkins, 26, said the reason teachers are leaving is because “they feel undervalued.”

“They don’t feel like they have a say in what’s being taught to their students, they feel like they’re being held hostage by state legislatures,” said the Taylor High School graduate. “They are also not being paid what they’re worth, with how important their jobs are. They’re legitimately training the future. I would not be who I am without some of the amazing teachers in my life.”

He added that they also “can’t afford to stay to be teachers” and believe they feel like they would be able to do more good outside the walls of a classroom.

Early voting in the March 19 primary election continues until March 17 at the Butler County Board of Elections, 1802 Princeton Road, Hamilton. It can also be one by mail, though the last day to request mailed ballots is Tuesday. All vote-by-mail ballots must be postmarked on or before March 18 but can be hand-delivered to the elections board by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

Polling locations are open on Election Day from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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