Updated Thu, Oct 25, 2012 7:50 am
The two candidates in the race for Ohio's 15th Congressional district, which includes much of Southeast Ohio, faced off in their one and only debate Wednesday night in Lancaster.
Republican incumbent Steve Stivers served as a state senator before being elected to Congress. Athens City Law Director Pat Lang is his Democratic challenger.
They answered questions on bipartisanship, college affordability, same-sex marriage and a slew of other topics.
The winner will be tasked with representing a 12-county region that includes Athens, Morgan and Fairfield counties. The expansiveness of the district presents challenges.
“We have some relatively affluent communities in central Ohio,” Lang said. “We also have places, of course, my home county of Athens County, which is perpetually among the highest poverty rates in the state of Ohio. Vinton County, actually the smallest county by population in the entire state, but I think the one thing that kind of ties the district together is it's full of largely middle-class, hard-working folks.”
Stivers says his experience in the National Guard and private sector make him “uniquely qualified” to address the district's problems.
“Southeast Ohio has a digital divide,” he said. “Southeast Ohio has a war on coal that we need to make sure that we address and stop the war on coal. It has unique opportunity in the Utica Shale and an opportunity for abundant, affordable power that could impact lives throughout this district.”
The pair also touched on agricultural subsidies.
“We need to move away from a government planning for agriculture and to a free market system,” Stivers said. “Even though I've been supported by the Farm Bureau and they continue to endorse my campaign this time, I think farm subsidies are the wrong approach.”
The candidates said they support crop insurance.
“It's important that we make sure that we have policies in place that are taking care of our farmers and the people that rely on agriculture to make a living,” Lang said. “That said, I think the farm bill is another example of where Congress has been broken here recently.”
Lang and Stivers both said they had either passed up raises or taken pay cuts to help cut government spending.