DARKE COUNTY — A rising star of the Ohio Democratic Party was the guest of honor at the Darke County Democrats’ Fall Fest dinner Thursday.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, 31 years old and one of the youngest persons ever elected and reelected to the Cincinnati City Council, spoke to local Democrats about his background and his campaign to win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in the March 2016 primary versus former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.
On hand to welcome Sittenfeld were Darke County Engineer and Chair of the Darke County Democrats Jim Surber; Mercer County Democratic Chair Carol Jeffries; Miami County Democratic Chair Dave Fisher; Darke County Municipal Court Judge Julie Monnin; and Darke County Treasurer Scott Zumbrink, among others.
Asking if those in attendance if they had watched the most recent Republican Presidential debate, Sittenfeld said, “After watching that debate, it’s especially good to be sitting in a room full of Democrats,” a statement which brought laughter.
Sittenfeld addressed wage stagnation, the high cost of a college education and what he termed “bad trade deals that stack the deck against hard-working Ohioans” as areas of immediate concern.
“Everyone in this room knows that given a level playing field, the American worker can out-hustle, out-produce, and out-work any other worker,” he said.
Regarding current U.S. Senator, Republican Rob Portman, Sittenfeld remarked, “Portman is wrong on all these issues. He’s wrong on building a fair economy. He’s wrong when it comes to trade. He’s wrong when it comes to making college affordable.”
“The solutions to the biggest challenges we’re facing are not that elusive. We know how to solve these problems. We can make sure we have an economy where there is equal pay for equal work, pushing back against the attacks on collective bargaining, and giving everybody a livable wage,” he said.
On student loan debt, Sittenfeld said, “Many of you probably know that the federal government has made $135 billion dollars in profit — $135 billion dollars in profit on the loans that they made to students and their families in the last decade. The very first proposal of this campaign that we put out, just by reducing student loan interest rates, would allow the average Ohio student to save $12,500.”
Regarding Social Security, Sittenfeld said, to much applause, “Let’s ask everybody, especially the wealthiest Americans, to pay the same taxes on their income, that 94 percent of folks are already paying, with a cap on Social Security, and make it solvent for the next 75 years.”
Sittenfeld addressed his young age and limited political experience, saying “Going from City Hall in Cincinnati to the United States Senate, that’s sounds like a pretty big leap.”
“I’m not trying to follow the most conventional path to the United States Senate,” he admitted. “What I would also say is that at a time when the approval rating of Congress is at 7 percent — an all-time low — where cockroaches and root canals somehow have higher approval ratings, and it’s no wonder that [former Representative and Speaker of the House] John Boehner wanted to come back to our neck of the woods, I’m not sure what people are looking for is more of the same.”
Sittenfeld expanded on his views regarding agriculture, an issue of major importance in Darke County, telling the The Daily Advocate, “The big thing is recognizing that one in every seven jobs in Ohio is related to agriculture. We need to make sure that the economy is strong and that Washington [D.C.] isn’t standing in the way — a healthy balance between regulations and conditions that allow growth.”
“Obviously I’m coming from a more urban background,” he added, “but the pledge I make is to always work with and together, hand in hand, with the farmers that make our state as strong as it is, and look to them for guidance.”
Asked about his position on gun rights, Sittenfeld said, “I absolutely support the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, to take the next generation of their family hunting, to protect their families. What I don’t think we need is to have politicians who are so afraid of the extreme end of the gun lobby that we’re in a situation where criminals and people with mental illness can easily go and access an assault rifle. I will always stand by law-abiding citizens and their second amendment rights, but that doesn’t mean cowering before the extreme wing of the gun lobby.”
On immigration, Sittenfeld said, “We are a country of immigrants, its part of our DNA, it’s how we’re going to grow and make our economy strong. Obviously we need to secure our borders, that’s always a key part, and can be done hand in hand with overhauling our immigration system and allowing for a pathway to citizenship.”
As to his preferred candidate for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination, Sittenfeld was noncommittal, but said, “I think both Hillary [Clinton] and Bernie [Sanders] are exciting candidates, and I would take either of them eight days a week over anyone on the other side.”
P.G. Sittenfeld’s website is www.pgsittenfeld.com. For more on Darke County Democrat events, visit the organization’s website at www.darkedems.org.
Erik Martin may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.