Two Democrats, Allison Russo and Greg Betts, are facing off in that party’s primary in Ohio’s 15th District congressional race. The special election for the office is on Tuesday, Aug. 3, though early voting has already been underway.
The seat opened up when incumbent Republican Steve Stivers resigned in May. The district includes all of Clinton, Fairfield, Hocking, Madison, Morgan, Perry, Pickaway, and Vinton counties, and parts of Athens, Fayette, Franklin, and Ross counties.
A recently retired U.S. Army officer who specialized in logistics and human resources management and served as director of human resources for the Ohio National Guard, Betts identified his top-priority issues for the 15th District as economic inequity, the threat of climate change, and what he calls “the continuing assaults on our democracy.”
Climate change, he said, “puts more and more Americans (and people around the world) at risk of the devastating effects of extreme weather,” and also “places the world at greater risk of famine and economic collapse.”
Betts sees attacks on American democracy in “the threat of domestic terrorism,” but even more importantly, in “the seemingly relentless assaults on our fellow citizens’ right to vote, in the form of a spate of bills introduced and passed in state houses across the nation, designed to restrict easy access to the ballot.”
As a distinguishing feature of his candidacy, Betts points to his “decades of experience in military leadership, policymaking, and effectively distributing limited resources, to accomplish often-life-or-death missions.” He cites his 30 years of service and multiple combat tours to the Middle East, which he says have given him experience in “military leadership, team building, and navigating extremely complex government systems (federal and state) to achieve results.”
Betts said his work as a policymaker “required in-depth research of federal and state law and often required intense, painstaking coordination with a myriad of other governmental and non-governmental agencies. I commanded a brigade in a combat zone that was responsible for providing logistical and sustainment support to all U.S. and coalition forces operating in the Middle East and Afghanistan, so I am adept at distributing very limited resources effectively to accomplish complex missions and solve extremely complex problems.”
While his primary opponent has 2-½ years of experience in the state legislature, Betts said, “I was actually a part of the federal and state governments for 30 years, which brings with it three decades of experience in navigating its myriad of complex programs, systems, and processes… I am positioned better than my primary opponent to hit the ground running, with little to no train-up required; which is particularly important, since the winner of the race will have only half of the Congressional term left to achieve any results.”
Betts said he’s running for Congress because “like many of my fellow citizens, I am fed up with the lack of action and — quite frankly — the lack of empathy, in Congress over the last several years.”
Betts said he wants to “close the ever-expanding wealth gap and to stop the relentless attempts to place power in the hands of the wealthiest few among us. I’ll fight to bring good-paying, union jobs back to Ohio’s 15th District and all of Ohio; so that we can lift our fellow citizens out of poverty, grow the middle class, and make our economy thrive again — in such a way that benefits all of us, rather than just a few of us.”
Russo represents Ohio’s 24th House District – part of Franklin County including Columbus, Grove City, Hilliard and Upper Arlington – in the state’s General Assembly. Her campaign website says she was raised by a single mom in a small, rural Mississippi town, and describes her as “a mother, wife of a combat veteran, and a public health professional who has helped veterans, families, and seniors get affordable healthcare.”
Russo’s campaign announced on July 22 that the candidate had broken the record for fundraising by any Democrat in the history of the 15th District, having reported raising $273,023 in her pre-primary filing with the Federal Elections Commission. That money came from 2,814 individual donors, the campaign reported.
“I am proud to have the support of so many hardworking Ohioans,” Russo commented in a campaign news release. “Folks are volunteering their time, chipping in a couple of bucks, and together we are building a grassroots campaign to defeat the lobbyists and special interests trying to handpick one of their own. We’ve already seen the dark money pour into this race because they’re scared of our momentum.”
On her issue priorities, Russo told the Tribune, “Ohio’s 15th Congressional District is large and every community’s needs are different, but the overwhelming majority of people agree that we all want our kids and grandkids to have the opportunities they’ll need to put down roots and raise a family of their own right here in Ohio. To achieve that we need: good jobs with fair wages, quality healthcare close to home, investments in broadband access and infrastructure, strong schools and job training, and fulfilling our country’s sacred duty to veterans and military families.”
Asked what sets her apart from her opponent, Russo said, “I’m proud of my proven track record of accomplishment and experience. I am currently serving my second term as a state representative in the Ohio General Assembly where I’ve been an independent voice for Ohioans, from taking on corruption to advocating for investments in working families and communities. I’ve also spent the last 20 years as a public health professional focused on helping veterans, families, and seniors get access to affordable and quality healthcare.”
She was prompted to toss her hat in the ring, Russo suggested, mainly by a desire to address inequities in the district, the state and the nation.
“The American dream is moving further and further away for most Ohioans,” she warned. “So much of what stands in the way of people getting access to the things they need — a good-paying job, affordable healthcare, quality education and training, and critical investments in our communities — is that politicians are looking out for special interests and political parties instead of working for their constituents.”
This story originally ran in the Logan Daily News.