On Sunday, congressional candidate for Ohio’s 15th district special election Allison Russo made a trip to the city of Athens to hold a breakfast with Southeast Ohio labor leaders as well as a meet and greet with Ohio University students.
The breakfast event was hosted by the Southeast Ohio Central Labor Council and included the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, among other groups. The conversation centered around topics such as job availability, minimum wage levels, Congress’ ongoing infrastructure bill and how Russo is working to sway moderate voters in her favor.
Later in the day, Russo made her way from the Athens County Democratic Party office to OU’s College Green. On the green, her team set up a small table with pizza and coffee for students while Russo moved through the crowd to introduce herself and get to know students.
Starting her speech off with an anecdote about being a mom to three kids, she introduced herself and shared some of her background. Russo holds a doctorate in public health, currently sits in the Ohio Statehouse as a representative and had not intended to run for public office until 2018, she said.
Further, she comes from a working-class family, making issues related to that a focus of her candidacy.
Russo emphasized access to education for women and children as well as access to a clean water supply. Additionally, she addressed questions about her position on climate change and workers’ unions.
Climate change is the “existential crisis” of our time, she said. She believes that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed and that companies are beginning to see economic advantages to shifting toward more climate-friendly practices.
“I am very pro-worker and pro-union, and the reason is because I believe that unions, at the end of the day, create the environment for all workers, whether you're in a union or not, to have higher wages and better benefits,” Russo said.
Ultimately, she is very focused on the rights of working families, she said, and she is working to increase their voices in Congress.
The crowd of listeners included students regularly involved in politics and students working on Russo’s campaign.
Kelly Dawson, a junior studying political science and sociology-criminology, said she is involved in OU’s College Democrats, which is where she learned of Russo’s planned visit. She is most interested in Russo’s stance on criminal justice and climate change, she said.
Vishal Cain, an undecided freshman, is interested in similar issues but comes from a different background. He’s involved in the Democratic Socialist club at OU and is hoping Russo supports “radical” climate change policies.
“I know that she's running against former coal lobbyists,” Cain said. “So, even though her beliefs are more moderate than mine, I believe that I would still vote for Russo simply because it can be a lot worse.”
Russo spoke emphatically about student voting and involvement in local politics. She and her team encouraged updating voter registration as well as involvement in her own campaign.
Some students, like Chase Flanagan, a freshman studying psychology, are already involved in her campaign. Flanagan became involved in politics during the 2019 Democratic primaries and has continued to be involved since, he said.
The biggest concern for Flanagan is worker rights, which is a large piece of Russo’s campaign. He identifies himself as a “one issue, union rights voter” and believes Russo will fight for that issue.
“Having college students involved in the political process and elections is important. I mean, yes, I prefer that they vote for me, but at the end of the day, the thing that is really most important to me is that they are engaged, and they participate,” Russo said. “We have to come back and make sure that students … know that there is this special election that's happening, and there are also these local elections that are happening.”
The special election will be held Nov. 2. For more information, visit ohiosos.gov.