Young white man with dark rimmed glasses and a suit with lots of political buttons and a big smile

As we barrel towards Election Day, it’s become clear the Ohio Debate Commission wasn’t actually created to ensure robust debate for Ohio’s voters. On the contrary, it was meant to stifle any real discussion about the issues and keep Ohioans from knowing about all their options on the ballot in the gubernatorial race this year. Case in point – the recent debates held between the two major party candidates for governor, Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Rich Cordray, that excluded half of the candidates on the ballot, including myself, the Libertarian Party candidate, and Constance Gadell-Newton with the Green Party.

As was to be expected, all this exclusion did was allow for the “debates” to descend into the typical arguing and mudslinging Americans have become accustomed to in our duopoly-dominated discourse, as opposed to actual conversation about policies and the problems facing our state. DeWine and Cordray predictably attacked each other on their equally dismal records as attorney general, directly quoted their negative ads and blamed each other for Ohio’s opioid crisis, all while only offering big government solutions that waste more taxpayer dollars.

If I were in the debate, I would’ve done what I did when I ran against seven other people for mayor of Bexley in 2007 and made the entire thing far more substantive and focused on the issues. I also would have made it more light-hearted with some much-needed wit and humor, as it got pretty heated at times.

The important aspect of including different voices in a debate is that you automatically offer different solutions. For example, to address the opioid crisis, I would advocate for fast tracking our medical marijuana program and creating an environment where we can fully legalize the plant. This is a no brainer that DeWine vehemently opposes and Cordray has waffled on, but in states where ample medical or recreational marijuana is available, the opioid crisis is 25 percent less deadly, harmful and expensive. It also helps bring in extra revenue to help treat drug addiction as a health issue, not a criminal issue. And while Cordray seems more receptive to some criminal justice reforms, his token acceptance of these reforms doesn’t go far enough. I would advocate for releasing and pardoning all non-violent drug offenders and ending the death penalty, so Ohioans can save millions of dollars and thousands of lives in the process.

DeWine and Cordray also really went at it when it came to the economy, which again, they don’t have much experience with. Both are longtime politicians who have lived off the taxpayer’s dime their entire careers and have never run a small business or dealt with creative spending when it comes to working with a budget. Our economic and job growth is stagnant compared to other states and John Kasich’s “Ohio miracle” is a farce, while one of the few things President Donald Trump has done right is created an environment where our national economy is booming.

So why aren’t Ohio workers reaping the benefits as well? The fact that we overregulate so many industries in Ohio keeps many companies going to other states, and we need to cut taxes and reduce regulations on small businesses. That way Ohio entrepreneurs can continue to create and innovate new businesses and not just rely on jobs coming here. As a small business owner myself, I know that we’re currently losing hundreds of millions of dollars in motion picture production to our neighboring states that have better incentives and infrastructures in place, which is just one of several industries that could be coming to Ohio, but is instead going elsewhere.

There are also issues where DeWine and Cordray are both guilty of engaging in the same unethical activity. Both men conveniently left out the fact that while serving as attorney general, they each awarded contracts to collection companies that contributed to their campaigns – to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars. It’s yet another basic pay-to-play policy that is characteristic of all major party politicians in our country. But again, if no one is on the debate stage to question them on it, they both “forget” to accuse the other of doing it.

So, it goes in our fleeting democratic republic, which is quickly making the movie Idiocracy seem like a reality. The only saving grace with all of this seems to be the millennial generation, which still hasn’t completely checked out and is actively looking for other options. In 2016, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson earned 25 percent of the millennial vote in Ohio and did so without much money or name recognition, but it was because his ideas appealed to millennials and they showed up. For minor party candidates, this is progress that can be built upon and we will continue to fight for the future.