WADSWORTH — High school students received first-hand experience of the political process Tuesday morning as hopefuls vying for local and state office spoke at a candidates forum.
Students in Wadsworth High School’s advanced government class helped organize the event, which featured U.S. Reps. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, and Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township, who are running for the redrawn District 16 seat; and Bill Batchelder, speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives who is seeking re-election to the 69th House seat, and his opponent, Democrat Judith Cross.
“It’s our third time having a forum, which generates some interest in the election and puts faces to names on the ballot,” said Ramizi Shepherd, teacher of the government course.
Shepherd noted more than 300 juniors and seniors were able to listen Tuesday to candidate’s speeches and answers to student questions.
Candidates mostly focused on their stump speeches and touched on various topics, such as health care, jobs, gun control, abortion and national defense. The students were encouraged by candidates to consider public service as a future endeavor.
Of the about 360 seniors at Wadsworth High School, Shepherd said 117 are eligible to vote for the first time on Election Day, Nov. 6.
One new elector, senior Kaylee Siffert, of Wadsworth Township, said the candidates running for office “sound a lot alike” whether they are Republicans or Democrats.
Despite that, she said she is “leaning Republican” in her first election.
“I think what we have now isn’t working,” the 18-year-old Siffert said. “We need a change.”
Another new voter, 18-year-old Samuel Drury, of Wadsworth, said he plans to cast a ballot with “moral and economic” issues in mind. He called the forum informative and educational.
“It’s a chance for us to ask questions and get an idea of what’s on the mind of our candidates,” he said. “This election is about our future.”
During the forum, students were split into two groups. One group listened to Democrats Sutton, Cross and Mark Kolesar, a candidate for Medina County commissioner, in the high school cafeteria, while another group went to the gymnasium for discussions with the Republicans, Renacci, Batchelder and Medina County Commissioner Steve Hambley, who is seeking re-election.
Wadsworth junior Chris Benson, 16, said he liked the format.
“This is a great opportunity for candidates to get in touch with young voters, and we can see who represents us,” he said.
Senior Emily Sims called the event “pretty cool.”
“It’s nice to get perspectives from both sides,” she said. “We’re lucky today.”
Contact Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.