DARKE COUNTY — For Steve Fought, the decision to run for Congress may have been last-minute, but his motivations were far more deliberate.
“First, the voters deserve a choice in every election. Secondly, I believe that I have the qualifications and the background to be a good member of Congress, and I’ve got about 95 days to convince people of that,” said the prospective Democratic candidate for Congress from the 8th Congressional District.
Fought, 62, is a native of Mercer County and former congressional staffer for Congressman (now U.S. Senator) Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. He is a lifelong bachelor.
He earned his law degree from the University of Cincinnati along with a masters degree in business administration (MBA) from the University of Toledo, a masters in communications from Gonzaga University and a bachelors (BA) degree in history from Capital University in Columbus.
Fought (pronounced FOTE) threw his hat into the ring following the decision of Corey Foister to drop out of the race. The 8th District will hold a special election September 13 to anoint Fought as the Democrats’ standard bearer, a painless task as he was the only Democrat to file for the spot within the deadline. Once official, he will face Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Troy) in the November 8 general election.
The 8th District was plunged into unfamiliar territory in October following the resignation of former Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, who held the seat for 25 years.
Current officeholder Davidson beat 14 GOP opponents in the March 15 primary, then won the June 7 special election to fill the remainder of Boehner’s term.
Fought faces an uphill fight, not only getting a late start, but in seeking to oust the incumbent Davidson in a predominantly Republican region. It is a challenge, however, for which he feels suited.
“They only had one day to find somebody,” he said. “Furthermore, I grew up in Mercer County (part of which is in the 8th District, along with Butler, Clark, Darke, Miami, and Preble counties) and I went to law school in Cincinnati, so it’s not as though I don’t know the area.”
“In fact I’ll put my knowledge of the area up against my opponent,” he added.
Fought’s decision to run came as he consulted with other Democrats following Foister announcing the end of his candidacy. He says he soon realized, as he was helping to find a replacement, that he himself might be the best choice.
“What I came away with was, ‘You know the district better than anybody. Why don’t you run?’” he said. “With the clock ticking, it finally made more sense for me to do it, because I do know the district, and what’s important in the district.”
Speaking of what’s important in the district, Fought said there is no one issue that takes precedence entirely because of how the district is drawn.
“There are different issues in different parts of the district. The issues that affect people living in Springfield and Hamilton are somewhat different than the issues affecting people who live in Greenville, or Versailles, or Arcanum. It depends upon where you are in the district.”
In regards to Darke County specifically, Fought believes the top issue is agriculture and its economic effects.
“The heart of the economy in Darke County is agriculture,” he said. “Darke County’s number one in the country in pullets, and number two in layers. There are a quarter million hogs in Darke County — number two in the state.”
“Here is the significance in that,” he explained. “Right now [Republican Presidential Nominee] Donald Trump is talking about a trade war with China. I can’t think of anything that would be worse for the economy of Darke County than a trade war with China. That would severely damage the agriculture industry, especially people in pork production, because China is the number-one consumer of pork and that is the number-one export market for the United States.”
“I’m 62. I remember when the Republican Party — it wasn’t that long ago — was pro-trade and anti-Russia. Donald Trump is pro-Russia and anti-trade. And I don’t think that people in Darke County agree with that. That’s a mighty tough sell.”
“Frankly the voters deserve better than that,” he said. “And I hope that Congressman Davidson and I have the opportunity to debate these issues. I look forward to a debate in Darke County with Congressman Davidson. I hope we debate in every county.”
“I think it’s important that candidates debate. I’m going to propose to my opponent that he and I have a series of debates…several debates to discuss the issues of the day. People are tired of politics. People hate politics, because candidates spend all of their time running each other down.”
“I think Congressman Davidson, being a West Pointer, he’s well-educated, I think he and I could have debates that would actually focus on the issues and discuss solutions to issues, rather than get involved in the ‘knock-down, drag out’ — I’m not interested in that.”
Fought, however, believes his authenticity could make a difference in the race.
“I don’t expect people to agree with me 100 percent of the time, and they might not even agree with me 50 percent of the time, but they’ll know where I stand, and they’ll know that I care about the issues and about the people of the district.”
As it regards the race grabbing headlines across America from now until November, Fought is pulling for Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton to win, building on President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
“I think President Obama’s done a good job. I’ll say that anywhere, anytime. [He] hasn’t been perfect, but I think he’s done an excellent job,” he said.
Not only is Fought jumping into a full-time Congressional campaign, he finds himself on the hunt for housing in order to establish residency within the district he hopes to represent.
“I’m going to devote myself to that in the next week or so,” he said, noting that he’s looking at a number of options with the help of friends. “The population center of the district is probably somewhere around Hamilton (in Butler County). I’ve got to make a decision where it makes the most sense for me to move.”
“I’ve been away for a few years, but my heart is definitely in Mercer County,” he explained. “When it came time to get the signatures, the Democrats in Mercer County assembled on Thursday morning and got me all the signatures I needed in about two hours. That was impressive and humbling too.”
Fought says his campaign website, www.VoteFought.com, will soon be active.
The circumstances surrounding the September 13 special election may have broader repercussions beyond the selection of a party’s Congressional candidate.
Secretary of State Jon Husted announced he will call on the leaders of the Ohio General Assembly to make appropriate changes to Ohio law to prevent such an occurrence in the future.
“It is a waste of time and tax dollars to hold a special election when only one candidate is running,” Husted said. “I hope the legislature will change the law to avoid this problem in the future.”