The unexpected happened to Southeast Ohio Democrats on Election Day 2016. Now what?

Editors Note: This article incorporates audio and video to further tell the story of Southeast Ohio Democrats, click on the audio and video links from interviews I conducted throughout the story for full effect.


“Disbelief.” “Sadness.” “Distraught.”

These were just a few of the terms Nicholas Felt, a junior at Ohio University studying political science, used when describing his emotions after a wave of red candidates overtook the nation’s electorate on Nov. 8.

“I had been around a few people in the LGBT community that I’m close with and a lot of international students as well,” said Felt, also member of the Ohio University College Democrats. “They were all kind of distraught, for lack of a better term, about what had happened the night before.”

President-elect Donald Trump and a number of other successful Republican candidates were what had happened the night before.

Besides capturing the presidency, the GOP won 245 of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and held onto a majority in the U.S. Senate. More than two thirds of the nation’s governors are now Republican, and 68 of the country’s 98 state legislatures are Republican-run.

This left many Democrats like Felt puzzled. What had happened? How had no one, not the pollsters or political pundits, expected such a devastating blow to the Democratic Party?

Republicans now holds a super majority in the State House and Senate in Ohio, and of those seats that were up for grabs, only two Democrats of the 16 who ran won in the House. Ohio Democrats also held onto 33 of 99 seats in the Senate.

One of the most surprising Democrat losses in the Senate took place in the 30th  District of Ohio, where incumbent Lou Gentile lost his bid for reelection.

Felt, also a campaign intern for Gentile, said his competitor State Senator-elect Frank Hoagland, a small business owner and retired Navy SEAL, was not expected to win as per data. At the end of October, Gentile had raised $420,000 versus Hoagland’s mere $35,000, according to The Post.

Gentile was the only incumbent Democrat running for reelection in the Ohio Senate, and the only Ohio Senate incumbent who lost in the state.

“We were really optimistic going into the election, we felt that we ran a very good campaign,” Felt said.

Gentile, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, has served as State Senator for the 30th District since 2011, when he was appointed to the seat by Senate Democrats after Sen. Jason Wilson’s resignation. In the 2012 election, Gentile held onto his seat with 52 percent of the vote.

“It was unfortunate but you can definitely expect Lou to be back,” Felt said. “I can’t speak on behalf of him, but I don’t think his time in public service is over. You can definitely expect to hear his name again.”

Infographic courtesy of The New York Times.
Infographic courtesy of The New York Times.

Athens County is widely known as a heavily blue district in Ohio.

On Nov. 8, 2016, 55 percent of the county voted for Hillary Clinton, 64 percent for Gentile and 53 percent for Sarah Grace, the candidate for the 95th District in the Ohio House of Representatives. But, the surrounding counties in Southeast Ohio thought otherwise, electing their competitors: Trump, Hoagland and Jay Edwards.

Jay Edwards won the 94th District seat in the Ohio House with nearly 58 percent of the vote, winning the majority of Washington, Vinton and Meigs County.

“I think Sarah Grace ran a really strong race for state house representative,” John Haseley, chairman of the Athens County Democrat Party, said on the night of the election. “But I think she got caught up in forces outside of her control outside of Athens, Athens County really gave her a strong vote.”

Grace and Edwards were both new to the political scene in their bids for the 94th District. As the current representative, Democrat Debbie Phillips, reached her term limit this year, Athens Democrats campaigned hard to keep the seat blue.

Grace out raised Edwards, with nearly $76,000 to his $48,600 in the general election, according to The Post.

Grace also had a recent precedent of Democratic control behind her as well. Even so, Haseley said he thinks Grace “got caught up in the national election outside of Athens County.”

Despite the upset in the 2016 election, Democrats are looking towards the midterm election for a chance to restore their liberal values in Southeast Ohio’s representatives.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it,” said David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party said in a press release on Nov. 9. “Tuesday was a terrible day for our country and for our state. We have a lot of work to do.”

Pepper continued by saying:

“Of course we have to dust off and rebuild to win elections in 2017, 2018 and 2020. One piece of good news is that thousands of people were passionately involved in this past election, so there remains a strong, durable infrastructure from 2016 which we can now build upon, and that we can only make stronger for future years.”

Haseley’s post-election message for Athens Democrats mirrored that of the state party chairman’s, both looking towards the future as a time to reinstate Democratic principles.

“We are looking forward to growing the Democratic Party here, and getting things done,” Haseley said. “We have a really strong Democratic Party that cares about issues that are important to this part of Ohio. We care about what people in Appalachia are going through we care about what students are going through with college debt.”

Felt anticipates a big fight coming up in the 2018 midterm elections, waiting to see the repercussions that a Trump presidency might have on the Appalachian region of the state.

“So I think a big thing, with how Ohio votes at least, in the next few years is going to be how Southeast Ohio gets jobs back and how everybody’s pocketbooks are going to be affected by Trump’s new tax plan,” Felt said.

Felt continued by saying he’s personally taken steps to mobilize voters and emphasize the importance of the future election.

But when it comes down to it he said, “we are really going to be pushing to make sure the country does not vote like it did a few weeks ago.”

 

Not the Halloween Block Party you are imagining

When you think Halloween in Athens, Ohio you probably see headlines like this:

via The Post
via The Post
via The Columbus Dispatch
via The Columbus Dispatch

But a few days after the Halloween Block Party emerged a calmer event. The Athens Uptown Business Association organized a trick-or-treat for local children on Halloween last Monday that was free of partygoers and loud music. Instead children filed down Court St stopping at participating businesses to pick up a few pieces of candy. Here’s more:

This week on Court Street

Here’s what you need to know about what happened this weekend:
#OHIOParentsWeekend

You might have noticed that  the bars were a little more packed this weekend, and you probably saw more than a few old people crawling down Court Street.

But hey, who says your kid has to go to OU? Athens welcomes all parents, as long as you buy a round of shots for the kids at Crystal’s top bar.

Parents Visit OU for Parents Weekend, Even Though Son Goes to Miami

#FreeStephens

Another reason the Crystal was even more packed than normal: our beloved Stephen’s Bar was shut down for the week.

Only four more nights without Stephens, but what will change when they reopen? Hopefully they don’t hire door guys like Pawpurr’s very own “Bouncer Jeff” to heighten security…

 

Tweet of the weekend goes to…

At least you aren’t the guy who mounted an Athens Police Department horse cop. Monday’s are hard, but it’s safe to say you’re probably having a better day than this guy.

Here’s what you need to know for this week:
#DebateNight

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is tonight. Tune in to almost any channel at 9 p.m. or check out Twitter and Facebook for a live stream of the debate.

If you’re feeling extra lazy, follow a few political Twitter accounts as they live tweet the showdown.

Need an excuse to go out on a Monday?

If you’re not into politics but want to join in on the fun, do as the Bobcats do and turn the debate into a drinking game:

 

Have a great week Bobcats!

At Donkey Coffee, you can add a dash of politics to your fair-trade coffee

“Would you like a side of politics with that?”

Athens, Ohio is abundant in businesses that mix their service to customers with political discourse. From Avalanche Pizza’s caricatures of presidential candidates to Little Fish’s “No Fracking Way” beer brewed with all Ohio ingredients, Southeast Ohioans are accustomed to seeing politics on the menu.

A politically-minded Athens business that stands out to me is Donkey Coffee, who stirs a little social justice into your otherwise average cup of fair-trade joe. Donkey continues to be a leading coffee joint in Athens not only for their comfy couches and cozy ambiance, but because of their devotion to community outreach and promotion of political discourse.

Their website bares a list of organizations who they support that “fundamentally positively influence people.” The list includes groups such as Amnesty International, Fair Trade USA, Pregnancy Resource Center and My Sisters Place.

donkeycoffee.com continues:

“We are committed to promoting social justice and the arts in our community and throughout the world through public awareness, serving, and financial giving. This is the heart of what Donkey is about.”

They took their loyalty to the enrichment of the community one step further this week by having customers rattle off their favorite part of the Constitution in trade for a drink on the house.

Yesterday, Donkey Coffee started the work week by observing an all-American event that took place on September 17, 1787. Baristas celebrated the signing of the Constitution by trading a customer’s favorite constitutional right for a free coffee drink.

This was a part of Donkey’s recent “Free Drink Monday” event.  After I recited Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution (which provides some much-needed accountability to Congress), Michael, one of the baristas, told me the story of the couple that inspired the weekly freebie.

You can thank two Donkey frequenters Steve and Janet for your free power chai latte each Monday. Michael said the couple were such loyal customers that they accrued upwards of 4,000 points on their Donkey Coffee rewards card. Each drink equals one point (and after 10 points, you receive a free drink) so you can definitely say they were regulars.

Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.
Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.

They never spent their points and eventually moved out of town, so they donated the thousands of points to the customers of Donkey. So each week, Donkey asks their customers to recite a poem about Donkey Coffee, or dance for 10 seconds or like yesterday, share their favorite constitutional right of theirs, to use Steve and Janet’s donation.

Donkey continues to be my go-to spot to sip on an iced latte over statistics homework, not only for their plentitude of power outlets and couches, but because you might get into an interesting discussion over the patriarchy or systemic racism with your barista.

And has anyone else thought about the fact that the name of their coffee shop just so happens to be the symbol of a major political party? Maybe it’s just me.

Regardless of political preference, Athenians will continue to get their coffee fix from Donkey for years to come.

 

 

7 stages of a journalism major in statistics class as told by cute animals

I don’t know about you, but I’m a journalism major because math is not my forte. Does Mr. E.W. Scripps himself really expect me to be able to calculate z-scores and find the standard deviation when all I want to do is write listicles for Buzzfeed? Alas, I’m stuck in Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences with the other Scripps kids, lost in a sea of numbers.

Here’s the 7 stages of an aspiring journalist in a PSY 2110 lecture:

1. Lethargy

Flickr, Aldo Tapia
Flickr, Aldo Tapia

You start off with an apathetic sigh as you crack open your PSY 2110 textbook to prepare for the next 55 minutes of hell.

2. Drowsiness

Flickr, K-nekoTR
Flickr, K-nekoTR

Ten minutes in, you eyes start to close as you snuggle up next to your stats equations and dream about winning a Pulitzer for your groundbreaking exposé on the gender wage gap.

3. TERROR

Flickr, Alex Ulanov
Flickr, Alex Ulanov

You when the professor calls on you for the answer but you’ve been drooling on your histogram instead of figuring out what the standard deviation is.

4. *eye roll emoji*

Flickr, Luz Rovira
Flickr, Luz Rovira

The smug look on the stats major’s face next to you when he knows the answer and you don’t…

5.  Confusion

Flickr, John C Bullas
Flickr, John C Bullas

You and the kid in VICO staring blankly at the next problem on the PowerPoint because statistics is a foreign language.

6. PANIC

Flickr, Nina
Flickr, Nina

The face you make when class ends but you leave in PANIC because you need this class to graduate and the midterm is next week but you know NOTHING.

7.  ¯\_()_/¯

Flickr, Christin Gain
Flickr, Christi Gain

And finally, you when you’ve given up on life and drop PSY 2110 because you’re a journalism major and not a mathematician.

 

You’ll still be the next host of the Today show even if you’re three credits short of graduating, right?