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.”

 

Stand Up and Talk (Episode 1): Does Ohio have a shot against WMU in the MAC Championship?

In the first episode of Stand Up and Talk, host Ethan Felderstein is joined by  Ohio Bobcats super fan Clay Johnson and assistant sports editor of The Post, Andrew Gillis.

The three preview Friday’s Mid-American Conference championship game between Ohio and Western Michigan. Does Ohio have a shot at winning? Who should you place money on? Would Frank Solich beat P.J. Fleck in a fight? LISTEN:

Ohio volleyball sweeps Western Michigan

After suffering a tough five-set loss at the hands of Kent State the night before, the Ohio Bobcats took down fellow Mid-American Conference opponent Western Michigan on Saturday night at The Convo. For a full recap of the match, click here.

 

This weekend in OU athletics: Winning and losing, standing up and cheering

It was a tragic week for sports fans this weekend with the loss of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and golf legend Arnold Palmer. But at least for Ohio Bobcats fans, they had some reasons to stand up and cheer.

Football 

Ohio defeated Gardner-Webb, 37-21. 

Volleyball: 

Ohio swept both Akron and Buffalo this weekend. 

  • Ohio kicked off their conference schedule with great serving, including 13 aces. (WOUB) 
  • Ohio also honored last season’s championship team by unveiling their championship banner

Soccer: 

Ohio lost to Toledo, 2-1. 

 

A eulogy for Mr. Taco

The corner of Foster Place and Union Street has a history of restaurants coming in with big plans but ultimately failing to stay afloat.  Mr. Taco, an authentic mexican restaurant, opened in the latter part of spring semester last year.  Hoping to build off America’s love of Mexican food, that only seems to be growing, Mr. Taco had big dreams here in Athens.

Initially, I would walk past the restaurant everyday and not pay much attention to it.  Finally a day came where I was hungry but not willing to walk far for food.  This was Mr. Taco’s time to shine.  This was what Mr. Taco was all about.  It was a special treat for residents of Foster Place who didn’t want to walk too far for a meal.

Over the next few months, I understood exactly what I wanted from Mr. Taco and it was never anything complicated.  Their limes and onions were clearly cut a day before actually being served.  Their burritos were dry and underwhelming.  Only one thing on the menu kept me coming back, the nachos.  Mr. Taco’s nachos were their magnum opus.  The nachos were a flurry of cheese, meat, lettuce, and sliced vegetables.  I didn’t know how fresh the ingredients were and I didn’t care.  For those few times I had the opportunity to sit down and relish in the Mr. Taco atmosphere it took me to another world.  The dimly lit dining area combined with the strange art that was probably bought a thrift store brought me to a place that was unequivocally Mr. Taco.

 

Mr. Taco's forgotten check out counter.
Mr. Taco’s forgotten check out counter.

Sometime in August, I was walking down my usual route from Baker back to Foster Place and what was there the day before was gone.  Mr. Taco’s door was locked and its lights off.  I went back to my roommates and we all agreed that they were simply on vacation.  Mr. and Mrs. Taco were off in some tropical paradise to celebrate their great and profitable summer.

 

Mr. Taco's closed door.
Mr. Taco’s closed doors.

The vacation didn’t end and walking by again, I saw a letter from the IRS sticking out of the mailbox.  There was no spin to this, Mr. Taco had died and it was all our fault.  If only the residents of Foster Place bought one more plate of nachos or a few more dry burritos, Mr. Taco would still be standing.  

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?

A New Way of Life for International Graduate Students

Living in a foreign country can be difficult in itself. Studying in graduate school at the same time brings about a whole other challenge. Knowing what to expect can help students be prepared for life as a graduate student in a foreign country. The following includes a range of experiences and tips from current international graduate students who have been at Ohio University for at least two semesters.

After one is finished celebrating for getting accepted to graduate school (and receiving a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) at a foreign institution, the first step is to apply for a visa at one’s United States Embassy or Consulate. When one goes to the visa interview, it is important to bring proof of funding (for example, a scholarship award letter from OHIO, a bank letter showing personal funds or a bank letter from one’s sponsor), one’s SEVIS receipt and one’s Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.

“The visa process can be annoying, but after that it’s a lot less complicated once you get to the U.S.,” communications and development master’s student, Triwik Kurniasari, said.

The International Student Union (ISU) oversees more than 30 organizations on campus
There are 117 countries represented by OHIO students and staff.

Kurniasari, who is the programming director for the International Student Union (ISU) and a student advisor for International Student and Faculty Services (ISFS), said students should make sure in advance that they have a ride to Athens from Columbus’ airport.

“I first arrived on a Sunday when there wasn’t a bus running for some reason. I just landed from a long 24-hour flight and I was struggling to find a means of transportation to get to Athens,” she said.

Otherwise, she said there are a few options, including GoBus and the airport shuttle that OHIO provides at the beginning and end of each semester.

When one finally arrives, Kurniasari said one should check in at the Office of ISFS, where they take care of copying international documents (passport, visa, etc.) and provide information on how to apply for a Social Security number or an on-campus job.

Of course, incoming international students must attend orientation, which usually lasts at least a week.

Journalism master’s student, Jing Fu, said orientation is a fun time where one can schedule classes, as well as meet classmates and other newcomers.

“You get introduced to a number of campus organizations, they show you how to get around town and teach you about academic culture in the United States,” Fu said. “They also offer social activities at orientation, such as a welcome picnic, ice cream social and a movie night.”

Journalism master’s student, Sisi Zhao, said one initial annoyance can be taking the Ohio Program of Intensive English (OPIE) courses.

“Ohio University forces international graduate students who score under 100 on the TOEFL to take OPIE classes until they are proficient enough in English,” Zhao said via e-mail. “More so for undergrads (who need at least a 74), it can be a long way to go before they can start taking regular courses.”

Kurniasari said ISFS can help with on-campus or off-campus housing arrangements before or during orientation, but she recommends contacting them before one’s arrival on campus.

“I looked at University Commons, Summit at Coates Run’s, and River Park since those were a few places that already came furnished, which made sense since I couldn’t lug furniture on the plane,” she said.

International Student Union programming directors, Triwik Kurniasari and Alena Kilmas, working in their office
International Student Union programming directors, Alena Kilmas (left) and Triwik Kurniasari (right), working in their office.

Living off-campus, Fu said it can be hard without a car in Athens.

“The public transportation is lacking in the United States. Buses aren’t running at all hours or on Sunday’s, but I usually manage to get around,” Fu said.

Fu said she often carpools with a classmate for groceries and evening events.

Political science master’s student, Essam Mikhail, recommends driver’s ed (driving school) for international students who do not have much driving experience.

Previously living in a city of 12 million people, Kurniasari was surprised by the small-town size of Athens. Nonetheless, she said there are many events and organizations where students can get involved.

“I found out from ISFS, resource fair, friends and announcement boards that there are many events, organizations and volunteering opportunities on campus,” Kurniasari said. “Since I like meeting people and wanted to know about other cultures, I went to many events and joined multiple organizations.”

She said ISU oversees more than 30 organizations and holds many events, such as international dinners, a fashion show, soccer tournaments and the International Street Fair.

Mechanical engineering master’s student, Prashant Kumar, said being involved in clubs like ISU and the India Student Association makes him feel more at home.

Kumar said the hardest part about living in a foreign country is being away from family and friends.

“When I miss my family and friends, I usually chat with them through Skype and social media,” he said.

Kumar said he heard about OHIO through word-of-mouth, including some of those friends and family, as well as international recruiting efforts by the University.

Of course, Kurniasari said it took her time to adjust to culture differences.

“In Indonesia, the professor will talk and talk, while the students only sit and listen. There is a saying that the teacher is always right,” Kurniasari said. “In the U.S., students are encouraged to be active and share their thoughts, and it is okay to have different opinions from your professors.”

Kurniasari said the dress code is different as well, such that students can wear t-shirts, shorts, miniskirts and flip-flops here.

“It can be challenging to adjust to a new lifestyle, but the education and people at OHIO are worth it,” she said.

If you don’t find your space, make it.

My favorite place is in Athens wasn’t built by the university. It isn’t fiscally supported by the student activity fee, it isn’t on campus, and it isn’t even on Court Street. Probably about 99% of the student population doesn’t even know my favorite place exists.

It’s called the Hardcore House of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I know it sounds absurd, a hardcore house named after an 83-year-old Supreme Court Justice? It probably will more sound more absurd to you when you discover it is my own personal rental home off-campus. In addition to being the place I sleep, shower, do homework, and prepare my meals, it’s also a performance space for poets and artists from Athens, OH to Alabama to Brooklyn and more.

I probably should walk you through how I got here, seeing as you’re thinking about coming to Ohio University or have already enrolled, and I’m telling you that my favorite thing about OU isn’t even mildly campus affiliated.


When I arrived as a freshman, I was eager for something new. Laid at my feet was a fresh start, but I wanted to use my fresh start to experience the things I loved already in a new way. Music was a primary passion of mine, and I was already five+ years deep into a devoted relationship with DIY music, as I’d been playing and booking shows all through high school. I knew a little bit about Athens music scene through creeping the Athens, OH tag on Bandcamp, but I became fully immersed in it once I joined ACRN Media, OU’s student-run college rock radio station and media collective. The group of us headed out in droves to catch shows in living rooms, at bars, and in basements.

(Full disclosure, I became the General Manager aka head honcho of ACRN Media February of my freshman year, 3/4 because I am incredibly passionate about radio, 1/4 because I am an insane person who loves having no free time or sleeping.)  

Wolf Haus porch hangs after a show.
Wolf Haus porch hangs after a show.

DIY and ACRN provided a space away from the sporty party culture that bombarded me when I first moved in. I lived on West Green, a hub for student athletes, and I often found myself feeling a little isolated. A place to feel less isolated was surrounded by push moshing sweaty bodies in the basement of Castle Genesee. Standing on the sliver

Eating a family dinner of spaghetti at the Lodge.
Eating a family dinner of spaghetti at the Lodge.

of counter to watch bands in the kitchen of the Wolf Haus. Peering through the stair banisters to watch folks rip gigs at the Lodge. All of these house venues became transient homes.

The Lodge was especially important, as the people who lived there became our fast friends. While we went to lots of shows there, it became a destination on event-free week nights. My partner and I would trek over to the house with fresh groceries to make family dinners, and we’d all sit around and listen to music and laugh in good company. There was a family aspect, a community feeling that I really loved. I tucked that feeling in my pocket and saved it for later when the tenants all graduated and moved and the Lodge was no more.


It took me a long time to admit it, but the first two years of Athens DIY were a little frustrating for me, as many people around me were deeply focused on partying, and it got old quick. I got sick of watching people drunkenly disrespect each other’s personal space and safety, houses were getting trashed, things were getting stolen. It was a mess. I was drowning in an environment surrounded by peers who did not understand what it was like to work 25 hours a week while being a full-time student, who could bring six-packs of craft beer to a gig but not $5 to donate to the bands performing. I was getting burnt out on the one thing that made Ohio U feel like a place of adventure and promise, and I needed to do something about it.

(Reality Check: While everyone talks about the Bobcat Family and how they never want to leave OU, it is OKAY to feel unhappy here. There’s may be occasional moments where you just don’t know if you made the right decision or you are itching to graduate and move on to the next thing. This is normal, okay, and presents a chance to do something creative with your time here!)

It was at this time when I had reached my breaking point that we began planning for our move to the RBG. We had plans to have shows, but we started talking logistics, ideals, visions. The name came about because I’m obsessed with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I think she’s a bad ass. The hardcore edge came about because we liked hardcore music, but we also thought it would be funny to pair the two. Our logo represents the absurdity of such a name.

come and get em (at the LVL Up show tomorrow) also thank u @dan.manion

A photo posted by blair (@fruitbaby_) on

One thing that we all deeply cared about was having a strict “No drugs, no drinking, no exceptions” policy during gigs. We wanted the place to be as safe as possible for everyone, and any space that includes alcohol or drugs immediately becomes less safe. An unfortunate thing you’ll learn very quickly at OU that alcohol and drugs often reveal the nastier, scummier side of people, even within ‘alternative’ communities.

Grumpy jaded senior-citizen Meg comments aside, we really did want to create a space that was safe and intended to create community. I wanted to be somebody else’s Lodge. When we moved in and started facilitating performances, we were excited to see droves of kids coming to shows to hang out and make friends. I was starting to see students and community members I hadn’t known before, we were inviting poets to perform which brought in a fresh crowd of people to shows, and our home became synonymous with welcoming. We kicked off the year with a mixed CD/mix tape swap, and new Rock Lobsters crowded the floor and porch to share music. Bands started practicing at our house, we hosted shows for other people, we made friends, we gave people a place to go, and I think people have fun when they visit the RBG.

@divorcebandus was killer. So much energy packed into such a small space, fucking blown away.

A photo posted by Abigale Collins (@spacedemontia) on


Booking shows and facilitating community events without ever having to leave my home gave me a sense of purpose and a positive space to grow. My confidence in the OU/Athens community restored itself,  and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people. It’s also something really cool and interesting to slap on a resume– “Events Coordinator at the Hardcore House of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” is sure to catch an employer’s eye! But let’s get real. I haven’t created this space and formed a sisterhood and music family just for resume-building purposes. The RBG was born because I needed it to exist in order to feel truly fulfilled in Athens.

Live recordings from some of our shows here.

 

Flyers from shows at the xxxRBGxxx:

[metaslider id=7314]


Here’s the moral of my long-winded journey and this e-scrapbook of memories. If you arrive at OU or are planning on coming here and can’t quite figure out what you want or what you like or what feels like home, try not to worry. There is nothing stopping you from being the creator of the space that meets your needs, accomplishes your goals, and brings you bliss. Athens and Ohio University are your canvas, so get ready to create. Your space may not exist yet, and that’s a-okay! If you can’t find your space, make it. 

A photo of The Hardcore House of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which is nestled into an unsuspecting side road.