Ohio Democratic Party, Otterbein prep for Dem debate

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WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — The hottest ticket in central Ohio right now might be the upcoming Democratic debate at Otterbein University in Westerville.

The Democratic Party has received approximately 20,000 applications for just a few hundred tickets. With talk of impeachment in Washington, the issue will likely be front and center on the stage and it will likely be former Vice President Joe Biden’s first opportunity to respond to President Donald Trump’s accusations about his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.

“Obviously, the Trump campaign is using this to really go after Joe Biden and this debate I think will be the highest-profile moment that Biden’s going to have since all of it to address, you know, what does he think about it?” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. “So I actually think my guess is it will be one of the earliest questions asked.”

Just 12 of the presidential hopefuls vying for the Democratic nomination are invited to the Debate at Otterbein and Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren will once again stand center stage.

“Certainly, Warren and Biden have to be considered the front runners,” Pepper said, noting their strong campaigns.

Otterbein and the City of Westerville are working hard on logistics and security. Up to 600 reporters will be attending the debate alongside the candidates. The Democrats see the City of Westerville as an opportunity to make inroads with voters, thanks in large part to suburban women.

“This part of the state, not just the City of Columbus, but the suburbs in Franklin County, it’s becoming real ground zero in terms of some of the shifts we are seeing in voting,” Pepper explained. “You are seeing a huge shift of women voters in suburbs that are turning areas that were red, blue.”

Pepper expects the debate to focus on the tariffs and their impact on Ohio farmers, declines in automobile manufacturing, gun control and the mass shooting in Dayton, and the controversial plan for Medicare-for-all.

The debate will happen during Otterbein’s fall break, but John Comerford, the university’s president, expects most students to stay on campus to witness the spectacle. Students were able to enter a lottery for the tickets allocated for the university, and there will also be a campus watch-party.

“We’ve also been clear to the folks on campus and also everyone in Westerville, that yeah, there’s going to be some inconveniences,” Comerford said. “Some streets will be shut down and some parking lots will be closed and you will have to walk a little further or use a shuttle, but everyone on campus has understood what a great opportunity this was to really show off to the world.”

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