Democratic county commission candidates make their case ahead of primary election

A Montgomery County commission incumbent will face off with a Democratic challenger in the March 19 party primary.

Commissioner Judy Dodge and civil engineer Youssef Elzein shared their resumes and plans for the county during a South Dayton Democratic Club candidates forum at the Montgomery County Democratic Party headquarters in Dayton last week.

The two candidates are running for a chance to advance to the November general election. A Republican primary for the seat features candidates Kate Baker, of Huber Heights, and Jordan Wortham, of Dayton.

Early voting in the March 19 primary began last week.

Judy Dodge

Credit: HUE12, LLC

Credit: HUE12, LLC

Dodge, who was elected to her commission seat in 2006, said she would continue helping with efforts related to housing and economic development if elected to another term.

The commissioner pointed to millions of federal COVID-19 relief funds the commission allocated to efforts to help unhoused and food insecure people in Montgomery County. Some of those efforts included funding Homefull, a social services organization that serves people who need housing, job services and food aid.

Dodge said the bulk of CARES Act money allotted to Montgomery County went toward helping people with rent.

Montgomery County is seeing more homelessness than it has in recent history, Dodge said.

“Homelessness is up and up and up,” Dodge said. “That is a real concern of ours, as well as food. Food insecurity is horrible here in Montgomery County, no question about it.”

The commissioner said that county officials are trying “everything in their power” to address the rising cost of housing. This includes working with developers to create affordable housing communities.

Dodge also pointed to the county’s promotion of solar energy and conversations with local business leaders and schools during the forum. She said the county is committed to seeking sustainability solutions.

Before she was elected to her commission seat, Dodge served as the Montgomery County recorder. Dodge has also worked as a regional liaison to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and an assistant court administrator for the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court.

Dodge currently serves as the region’s chair for the One Ohio Recovery Foundation, a nonprofit created to distribute funds Ohio is receiving from the pharmaceutical industry as a consequence of its role in the opioid epidemic.

She is a graduate of Wright State University and a Vandalia resident.

Youssef Elzein

Credit: Justin Spivey

Credit: Justin Spivey

Elzein said the county should have its eyes set on creating more opportunities for job training and education to break cycles of poverty and boost the region’s economy.

He said he’s equipped to help Montgomery County move forward on that path and could also bring new ideas to the table.

“My experience working first-hand with leaders for the diverse communities of Montgomery County leads me to focus on housing instability, retaining the growing and diverse immigration population inside the county, and improving equal and equitable access to affordable health care and higher education,” Elzein states on his campaign website.

Part of this stability comes with addressing housing needs in Montgomery County communities. Elzein said revitalizing neighborhoods in the community could be an affordable housing solution.

“We give millions of dollars in grants and tax credits to developers that want to build,” he said. “Why not spend that money to rebuild our houses, to make it affordable to our residents?”

Elzein said during the forum that he’s not a politician, but a community servant. For years, he has worked as an Arab American activist in the community and is serving as a board member of the Dayton Arab American Forum.

He also promoted more youth programs to increase community engagement among young people and encourage them to take root in Montgomery County.

Protecting water resources, too, is a priority of Elzein if elected, he said on Wednesday. He said water needs to be a focus of the county just as much as alternative energy and other sustainability efforts.

“I want to strengthen the stability of our community and give our citizens the opportunity to contribute to the continued success of our Montgomery County,” Elzein said.

Elzein serves on multiple community boards and also is a member of the Miami Valley Immigration Coalition.

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