Ohio House 29th: Gray (D) Speaks Out on Voting Rights
In Cincinnati this past Monday it was my pleasure to meet 29th Ohio House District candidate Brent Gray (D-Cincinnati). Gray faces the difficult task of unseating entrenched incumbent Rep. Louis W. Blessing, Jr. (R-Cincinnati), but Gray says he is "in it to win it."
First-time candidate Gray is a small business owner, operating a real estate investment company called Capital Ventures Group. He was inspired to get involved in politics during the 2000 Al Gore for President campaign. He served as a precinct captain in Cincinnati's 7th Ward during the mayoral campaign of Mark Mallory (D-Cincinnati) and is a precinct committee member of the central committee of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. He also sat on the selection committee for the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, helping to choose General Assembly candidates for endorsement in those areas.
Gray says the the biggest issue in his campaign is accountability, specifically holding his opponent accountable for not performing his duty of serving his constituents. He also cites education, the economy, and jobs as the biggest concerns on the part of voters he meets going door-to-door. When the abortion issue comes up, Gray says:
People have the ability to make their own decisions, and government should no more tell women what to do with their bodies than they should tell us how to practice religion. God gives us the ability to make a choice.Asked about his role models in politics, Gray mentioned former state representatives Bill Mallory, Sr. and Wayne Coats as inspirations, and said that his mentors have been 31st District State Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) and 33rd District State Rep. Tyrone Yates (D). Gray insists that this race is not about him, but about his message, including his Everyone Votes Initiative. "I'm just an average citizen, trying to make a difference," he told me, and then revised that slightly: "Average, but not ordinary."
At my request, Gray sent me the following letter to the editor that he wrote in connection with his Everyone Votes Intiative, which has been accepted for publication in the Cincinnati Herald:
Vote-By-Mail For a Better Day
It appears that the post civil war reconstruction period is reflected in present day politics. In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified which provided specifically that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of race, color or previous condition of servitude. This constitutional amendment superceded state law that directly prohibited the Black vote. What followed were Jim Crow tactics of intimidation and assaults from groups like the Klu Klux Klan to suppress the vote. Gerrymandering districts, albeit discriminatory, became the rule of the day to eliminate Blacks from serving as elected officials to advance the agenda of the governing class over that of working class citizens. This was historically one of the elements that laid the foundation for eliminating the popular vote and establishing the now antiquated and suspect Electoral College System.
Moreover, if we fast-forward one hundred thirty six years to present day, we find that our democracy is once again under siege. The 1965 Voting Rights Act currently hangs in the balance. Our civil liberties are being stripped from us under the guise of national security at the behest of the War Powers Act. Conservative court decisions without precedent or judicial reasoning legalize partisan gerrymandering. Manipulative GOP controlled elections and reforms dictate and influence our blind acceptance of these anomalies surreptitiously inviting what is in reality the insurgence of fascism.
Trends set forth reminiscent of the 2000 and 2004 elections call for immediate action due to similar yet alarming exit poll results and documented fraudulent activity under the jurisdiction of partisan elected officials who serve as state campaign co-chairs of candidates and have a stake in the outcome of elections. This practice represents a clear and disturbing conflict of interest and is an affront to democracy. Hundreds of thousands of votes were and are still unaccounted for, at least 170,000 in Ohio from the latest presidential election. The margin of victory was 118,000 votes. One of these officials, a former secretary of state now holds a congressional seat as her reward. What do you think the plan is for Ohio's secretary of state come November 2006? DO THE MATH!
EVI, the Everyone Votes Initiative, is our answer for a better day and a better way.
Based on the Oregon state election model, our goal is to register voters, saturate our district with absentee ballots and provide a pre-addressed envelope to be mailed to the Board of Elections. We have been targeted and disenfranchised by recalibrated voting machines or the lack thereof, Guinness book record lines, precinct and polling place confusion and intimidation by neo-conservative challengers. All Ohioans to include our senior citizens, the poor, disabled and minorities will have their voices heard in what is left of a constitutional right of passage being assailed. To take our country back we must acknowledge the past, reflect upon the present and plan for the future of generations to follow, one vote at a time.
Brent Gray, Candidate
10253 Menominee Drive Cincinnati, OH 45251-1727