Republican Jay Edwards (left) and Democrat Sarah Grace took questions from the media and voters at a forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Athens County (Aaron Payne)

94th House District Candidates Discuss Issues

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ATHENS, Ohio – The candidates vying for the open 94th District seat in the Ohio House of Representatives came together to discuss a number of issues during a forum held at the Athens Public Library.

Democrat Sarah Grace and Republican Jay Edwards both said they wanted to serve as the voice of the district in Columbus.

“I have so many different experiences in my background that I really believe have prepared me to be an effective, persuasive and compassionate representative of southeast Ohio,” Grace said.

“I want to act as a conduit from Columbus to southeastern Ohio, to and from, to make sure that our voices are heard and we are being efficient in coming up with actual solutions to make a difference in the lives of the people of southeastern Ohio,” Edwards said.

The two were able to find common ground on several issues proposed, including the need in southeastern Ohio for treatment resources to combat the opioid epidemic.

Grace proposed state government take immediate action to expand access to treatment.

“The state needs to declare this as a public health emergency so that some of the emergency funds could go for local communities to establish effective treatment centers,” she said.

Washington County was provided as an example of an area that would benefit from such a declaration.

Pointing to the success of local treatment programs, particularly using the drug Vivitrol to manage opioid cravings, Edwards said there is hope that treatment will soon be available to all those who need it.

He indicated the missing step, however is making sure people have opportunities to return to and sustain a sense of normalcy.

“To reduce on relapses, we need to see people through after the program has been completed to transition them within a job and transition them into a new life,” he said.

Creating economic opportunity was a reoccurring theme for the small business owner and Nelsonville native throughout the night.

A properly regulated natural gas industry, Edwards believes, would be a good way to bring in an economic boon unique to southeast Ohio.

“We have to take advantage of the natural gas industry we have right now,” he said. “We’re not Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and this is an opportunity to bring jobs, good-paying jobs to southeast Ohio.”

Solar and wind energy is the path to sustainable jobs, according to Grace, as she questioned the longevity of what she referred to as “boom and bust extraction.”

“If we invest now in renewable, those jobs will still be around for our kids and our grandkids, rather than having them grow up in an economy that has bust due to worldwide change in oil production and prices.”

The small business owner, predominately dealing with rental properties, said renewable energy would be a win-win for the economy and the environment.

Other topics brought up in the forum included food insecurity for southeast Ohio’s children, student debt, education and the minimum wage.

In all, the candidates fielded a total of 27 questions from the media and voters during the two-hour event organized by the League of Women Voters of Athens County Tuesday night.

Whoever is elected will fill the seat for the first time. The current representative for the 94th District, Debbie Phillips, cannot seek reelection due to term limits.

Video of the forum in its entirety will be available online at the League of Women Voters of Athens County’s website,