The only time Rick Neal got booed by the crowd was when he told the Ohio University College Democrats that he is an alumnus of Miami University.

Neal is the Democratic candidate running against Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, the Republican incumbent, for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. A crowd of 30 to 40 members of the College Democrats, or OUCD, gathered in Bentley Hall on Tuesday night to hear Rick Neal introduce himself and talk about his campaign.

“I’ve never run for office before,” Neal said. "I thought I’d start small by running for congress.”

Neal, a resident of German Village in Columbus, said he has considered himself a Democrat since he was six years old, and he told his parents he wanted to vote for Democratic Senator George McGovern against Richard Nixon in 1972.

Neal is married to Tom Grote, and they have two adopted children. He said one of the most impactful moments of his life was when he was the first person to put in paperwork to adopt their children. Previous to the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, which legalized gay marriage, only one of them was able to adopt their kids since they were not legally married.

Katie Nolan, a sophomore studying environmental studies, said she liked how he emphasized LGBT rights during his speech.

“He really stands out in terms of who we have had in the past,” Nolan said. “He is very much on another level.”

Neal said he became more politically active after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election against Hillary Clinton. He considered doing a podcast, starting a Super PAC or supporting Democratic candidates more often in elections.

Neal said he and Grote met Stivers when the congressman reached out to the LGBT community in his district. Neal said Stivers has not done a good job of representing people from the district since Stivers became the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“I am the guy that runs towards the fire to help people; Steve runs away towards the swamp,” Neal said.

Anthony Eliopoulos, the president of the College Democrats of Ohio, said many candidates besides Neal are willing to meet the OUCD during their meeting times. 

“He really brings energy, and, when you can put a face to someone you are working for, it really gets you motivated to get out there,” Eliopoulos said.

Neal said he is optimistic about the election and thinks Democrats around the state, including as Sen. Sherrod Brown, gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray and Danny O’Connor, the Democratic candidate for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, will all win their races.