“I think we have a historic opportunity in 2018 to begin to right the ship. As I have travelled around the district I have felt the energy. At the end of the day we are going to be saved by the ultimate check and balance, which appears in the opening line of the preamble of our constitution, we the people are going to hold Washington accountable in 2018.”
Ken Harbaugh, a candidate for Ohio’s 7th Congressional District, met with dozens of local residents at the Tuscarawas County Democratic Headquarters on June 8.
New Philadelphia resident Dan Lanzer, a cook at Dee’s Restaurant and a New Philadelphia Ward 3 councilman attended the event. “I came to learn more about Ken,” he said. “I am worried about my health care.” Lanzer and his family are insured under the Affordable Care Act. They purchase insurance through the Marketplace. “Before the ACA we couldn’t afford insurance. It might be a long shot that he could win this district due to all the gerrymandering that has occurred. I like that Ken is focused on healthcare.”
Joanne Limbach of New Philadelphia said she was attending the event to learn more about Harbaugh. “It’s important to have competitive races,” she said. “We need better representation in the district.”
The Tuscarawas County visit came on the heels of an eight-day launch week that took Harbaugh to counties in the district where he and a group of volunteers cleaned up parks, planted gardens, rehabilitated a national monument and served food to homeless individuals at a food pantry.
Harbaugh visited farms, small businesses and senior centers. In between service events Harbaugh held town hall events in an effort to get to know residents and for them to get to know him. He said launch week was about service rather than banners and balloons.
“It’s been equal parts exhausting and exhilarating,” Harbaugh said. “Such a shot of energy. You guys are my caffeine,” he told the near capacity crowd. “It’s so wonderful to come in to a room like this and see the enthusiasm for democracy.”
Harbaugh stepped down from his job as president of Team Rubicon Global, a Los Angeles based nonprofit that deploys military veterans as emergency first responders after natural disasters in order to focus his full attention on the race against sitting U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs-R of Lakeville.
Harbaugh graduated from Duke University in 1996. He spent nine years in the U.S. Navy where he led reconnaissance missions in the Middle East and North Korea. He deployed as a medic in disaster zones. While in the Navy, Harbaugh taught naval history at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. He earned a law degree from Yale in 2008.
Harbaugh opened the discussion by commenting on poverty. “In many of the orbits that we inhabit, we are insulated from the grinding poverty that still exists in this district,” he said. While on a ride-along with Deputy Bethany Kirk of the Stark County Sheriff’s Department, he met a child who was living in squalor with her drug addicted mother. She had never been to a dentist and he wondered if she was even getting to school every day. “Unless we assume responsibility for that kid, unless I see that kid as my kid, we’re never going to break that cycle.”
Harbaugh said the country is at a political crossroads. “One fork says that we are 300 million islands sinking or swimming on our own merits, on our own skill, on our all too often own luck,” he said. “The other fork says that we are a community, that we’re in this together. I think that is what makes a nation.”
Key issues that Harbaugh refers to as values include health care, jobs, the opioid crisis, education and veterans. “If we focus on solutions rather than partisanship we can come up with answers,” he said. “The worst thing about our politics today is the way we put party before country. When you talk to Ohio families and Ohio businesses the last thing they really care about is whether you are Democrat or a Republican. They care about solutions.”
Harbaugh explained that when he joined the Navy at the age of 22 he swore to defend the constitution of the United States. He said he did not swear to defend a party or a president. He said the job of a congressman is to support and defend the constitution and to represent the constituents who sent them to Washington. “Until we get back to that we are going to continue to have these problems and not focus on solutions,” Harbaugh said. “I think we have a historic opportunity in 2018 to begin to right the ship. As I have travelled around the district I have felt the energy. At the end of the day we are going to be saved by the ultimate check and balance, which appears in the opening line of the preamble of our constitution, we the people are going to hold Washington accountable in 2018.”