Ohio Statehouse Newsroom

Protests in Newark as Vice Pres. Pence speaks

A few dozen protesters showed up at the 12th congressional district special election campaign event where Vice President of the United States Mike Pence was supporting the Republican in the race, Troy Balderson.

The vacant seat has been under Republican control for more than two decades and the race for that position is being looked at as a very important one across the nation. No matter who wins the special election next week, the results will have people talking.

Monday, protesters carrying signs with sentiments in opposition to President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Troy Balderson, shouted from across an intersection their disapproval of the current administration’s policies and their concern that Balderson will help them enact them.

Bullhorns blared with the typical chants we have come to hear at political protests reminding everyone in the area that, “this is what democracy looks like,” and that “a people united will never be defeated.”

This particular protest had a number of different people guiding a message and the different speakers were respectful in letting each group have a moment to air their grievances before the next group did the same.

One individual sporting sunglasses and a black bullhorn, was holding a blue sign that read: “Balderson hates puppies. In 2018 he voted against HB506!”

The man was happy to make sure that everyone waiting to get into the event knew about his position too.

People on the other side of the street, looked in curiosity at the group of protesters and acknowledged they had the right to be there and to be expressing themselves.

The people I spoke to say their protesters were not swaying them one bit. Many of them had either already made their mind up for who they are going to vote for, are close to coming to a final decision, or have already cast their ballot via early voting.

The claim Balderson has a dislike for puppies was seen as absurd and ridiculous by not only some of the people waiting in line for the event, but by some of the people who could not attend but were watching from across the street hoping to catch a glimpse of the Vice President.

Balderson himself addressed the claim during the event, ensuring those in attendance he most certainly does not hate puppies.

Which very well could be true since the man who was making the claim so loudly in the middle of the protesters was not only paid to be there, but blatantly misrepresenting Balderson’s voting record.

Balderson actually voted or House Bill 506 when it cleared the Senate Chamber 31-1. The bill itself dealt with rules governing puppy mills.

When I confronted the man and asked him why he was misrepresenting the truth, he simply said, “Let him say that.”

It wasn’t long until I bumped into a teenage girl and her mother. They were standing behind the protest, watching them.

I asked them what brought them down to the protest and I learned that Erica Romine, who is 15 years old, had never seen a protest first hand and she wanted to experience what one would be like.

“Since I’m so young I don’t really understand the different sides yet, and it’s just nice to see that difference,” said Romine.

It is generally accepted that exposure to things you are unfamiliar with does have some benefits, and according to Romine this was one of those instances as it opened her eyes.

When she learned the man claiming Balderson hated puppies was paid to be there and not telling the truth, Romain says it changed how she perceived what she was seeing and how it impacted her.

She says it also reminded her that she must be careful where she gets her information.

“I mainly just try to see what people actually say, instead of the things that people say about them,” said Romine.

I learned later from her mother that Romine eventually got to meet Vice President Pence and shook his hand. Her mother says between our interview and the handshake, this is a day she will never forget.

Meanwhile, many of the protesters continued to hold concerns over the future of healthcare in America.

They feel that whoever is voted into office next week, be it Balderson or his opponent Danny O’Connor, will have an effect on the future of Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA and protections for pre-existing conditions, and Social Security.

O’Connor’s supporters gathered before the protest outside the venue at the Licking County Courthouse, about a block away.

They hold no illusions that the election next week is not only important but it will be a difficult one to win, but they are confident that all is being done to make that win a reality.

With claims Ohio has politically gerrymandered congressional districts that will be re-drawn in a few years under new rules adopted by the State Legislature this spring; regardless of who wins, we may learn more from how close the margin of victory is than the end result.
 


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