Young white woman with glasses and brown hair tied back speaking and gesturing at a podium with two guys at the table behind her

Ellie Hamrick, candidate at large for Athens City Council. Photo provided by Ellie Hamrick.

In this year’s elections around Athens County, Ohio, there are a number of independent candidates running for office, including several socialists.

McCray Powell (I, Nelsonville) and Ellie Hamrick (I, Athens) are both running for office as independent socialists for City Council in their respective cities.

As socialists, Hamrick and Powell believe in workers controlling their own workplaces and communities, instituted by revolutionary system-change that must occur from “the bottom up.”

“Socialism to me is workers running the world that they created,” Powell argued. McCray Powell says that he developed his Marxist beliefs through his experiences at previous jobs he’s worked, including working as a cashier, factory worker, retail worker, maintenance worker, server, fast-food worker, and as a wine-bottler.

Hamrick says that she had first started her activist journey by reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in middle school; activist work throughout her time at Ohio University, however, was what fully solidified her socialist beliefs.

Although it has not been uncommon for self-identified socialists or democratic socialists to run as Democrats, the two say that they are separating themselves from the Democratic Party for key reasons and are running as independents on principle.  

“The Democratic Party does not represent me,” said Powell, who argued that the Democratic Party was out of touch with the people of Nelsonville, Ohio. “The people of this town feel that they have been left behind, and they know that the Democrats are not coming to save them.” While the race in Nelsonville is a non-partisan race where all city council candidates are running as independents, Powell pointed out that he would run as a candidate independent of the Democratic Party regardless of who his competition was. “The Democratic Party is the graveyard of social movements,” remarked Powell.

Meanwhile, Hamrick is running for office in the city of Athens, which has been a Democratic Party stronghold for decades. According to Hamrick, the city council of Athens is primarily concerned with making the city more attractive to tourists and catering to the wealthier residents; in reality, such efforts result in gentrification and increasingly high rent for long-term residents. Meanwhile, Athens County is the poorest in the state.

“In the city of Athens, city government is by and for the ruling class; it’s perceived as irrelevant by everyone else…Democrats generally go unchallenged [in the city of Athens] and have ruled this whole time.  There have been generations of democrats screwing over the working class,” remarked Hamrick. “I would not run as a democrat due to the urgency of the issues: we are close to climate meltdown.”

McCray Powell felt his respective town also suffers due to the disconnect between the city leadership and residents. “The Nelsonville City Council is very corrupt and is well represented by landlords as opposed to renters,” remarked Powell.

In Nelsonville, Powell is also concerned with the corruption that he has seen on the current city council, especially from Council Member Greg Smith, who was fired as Nelsonville’s Chief of Police in 1985 for “many incidents of misconduct.”[1] Powell and Smith are both running for four-year terms on city-council.

And while many have hailed Athens county as a “blue oasis” in a sea of red Republican counties in terms of voter turnout, Hamrick and Powell find such a statement to be disingenuous. “The reality here is that Athens county is actually a paradise for slumlords… the default is not returning security deposits [to tenants],” Hamrick pointed out.

Ultimately, as socialists, Hamrick and Powell view electoral politics differently than most Republicans and Democrats. While the two feel that electoral politics can bring socialist ideas a new and unique platform with which they can reach the general public, they do not see the only point of running for office to be obtaining the seats they are running for. “We can’t vote our way into socialism,” Hamrick remarked, arguing that socialism requires a complete overhaul of the current capitalist system. “We can, however, use electoral politics to bring attention to our ideas.”

“We are running because we want to show people how they can organize in their communities. Power lives not in the local government, but in the working class,” said Powell. “If you truly want to get involved, you should reach out to your neighbors, your coworkers, and your families about the struggles you face in your daily lives.”

As such, the two candidates have detailed policy proposals and plans for their time in office. Hamrick’s campaign platform includes four major points: fighting for the working class, planet over profit, standing against oppression and care, not criminalization.

  • In order to fight for the economic interests of the working class, Hamrick supports a fifteen dollar minimum wage for the city of Athens, challenging local slumlords (especially in conjunction with Athens socialist mayoral candidate Damon Krane’s “operation slumlord smackdown”), and rent control. Hamrick also feels the code enforcement office in the city of Athens was not being given enough resources to properly crack down on landlords violating the housing codes already in place.
  • “Planet over profit”: while Hamrick wants to fight global climate change and broader ecological catastrophe, much of her platform also targets environmental issues local to Athens county. Both candidates voiced support for anti-fracking efforts in Athens county (including support of the Athens County Charter), arguing that fracking could impact (and likely already has impacted) the livelihood of their communities for the worse, especially in relation to accessing clean water to drink.
  • Another major concern of the two candidates, especially in relation to environmental issues, was cancelling all water debts accrued by residents in the area. Likely unbeknownst to many Ohioans, some residents of Athens County, and particularly residents of Nelsonville, have not had consistent access to clean water for many years. Some residents, faced with the burden of water debt or are otherwise denied access to running water, have instead gotten their water from a spring in the nearby village of Buchtel, Ohio, even though the spring is not regularly checked by local or state authorities for cleanliness. Powell, who is originally from Carbon Hill, remembers drinking the spring water for much of his youth.
  • Both Hamrick and Powell believe earnestly in the decriminalization of all illegal drugs. Such a stance is critical in Athens county, which has been hit hard by the opioid crisis in recent years. Both cited that they wanted free and public access to Narcan, free public trainings to teach the public how to administer Narcan, and to decriminalize all drugs. While police in the city of Athens carry Narcan, Powell points out that the police of Nelsonville refuse to do so. Powell therefore argues that “overdose deaths [in Nelsonville] are deaths by neglect.” Ultimately, the two believe that the opioid crisis is rooted in poverty: therefore, anti-poverty programming is key to targeting the crisis at its roots.
  • Finally, both candidates cited that as socialists, anti-oppression work is a priority for their campaigns. Fighting for reproductive rights in Ohio, for example, is therefore an issue of significance for both campaigns: Hamrick proposes that, if elected, she would work to take funding away from the police force of the city to create a public abortion fund. Powell and Hamrick both voiced disgust about the state of reproductive rights in the area, and found it appalling that while the Planned Parenthood was out of the way for the residents of the city of Athens, a Crisis Pregnancy Center (The Pregnancy Resource Center on Court Street) was in the middle of town. Although they receive funding from the state of Ohio, Crisis Pregnancy Centers have been known to try to prevent prospective patients from accessing abortion services by posing as legitimate health centers, when in fact they are not staffed by medical professionals. Additional policy proposals include the City of Athens not cooperating with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (I.C.E.) or the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.); Hamrick also believes in granting voting rights to all residents regardless of citizenship status.

Those interested in assisting with either Powell’s or Hamrick’s campaigns should consider contacting either candidate directly through their facebook profiles, campaign pages, or through Athens Revolutionary Socialists. Both candidates will need donations and help with canvassing in their communities as their campaigns continue: elections this year take place November 5.

[1] Burkhalter, Nancy, “Woman Files Claim Over Pool Party,” The Athens News, in “Nelsonville Remembers,” People’s Justice League. originally published May 6, 1985, republished July 11, 2018, accessed June 27, 2019.


McCray Powell, candidate at-large for Nelsonville City Council. Photo provided by Agnes May.

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