Dayton in the spotlight: MSNBC town hall event discuses presidential race

Dayton’s sharp political divisions were on full display Monday night during an MSNBC town hall event where local voters debated the politics and policies of President Donald Trump and his potential challengers in the upcoming 2020 election.

Right from the start of the event, which was moderated by MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews at Mendelsons downtown, participants disagreed about whether Trump was helping Dayton.

“I believe that President Trump cares about the 1 percent, the people who earn like he earns or earn like his friends and family earn, but…doesn’t care about working families,” said Stacey Benson, regional director, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

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Kate Geiger, a freelance graphic designer and longtime Dayton resident, disagreed with Benson. Geiger said she doesn’t always like what Trump has to say but said she supported him.

“I think he sees this as a conquest. I want to be president, I want to turn this country around, because the politicians, the state that this country was in when he took over was such a mess economically,” Geiger said.

Montgomery County voted for former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 before flipping for President Donald Trump in 2016. The election marked the first time since 1988 that the county voted in favor of a Republican.

In a video that played at the start of the town hall-style discussion, Democratic Mayor Nan Whaley made an appearance. In the video, she voiced concern about how 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton never visited the Dayton area.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined Matthews on the set of the taping of the town hall.

One man in the audience stood up and said he had no good options when it came to voting for president in 2016. He also criticized Brown for his work in the U.S. Senate asking that Brown and his fellow legislators to “quit stealing from me and calling it taxes.”

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Brown was in Dayton on Monday for meetings with local officials about damage from 15 tornadoes that touched down in the area on Memorial Day. Before replying to the man’s complaints, Brown commented on the community’s response to the tornadoes, calling it “inspiring.”

“I think (Trump’s) been a terrible president who’s betrayed workers,” Brown said.

The opioid addiction was a topic debated by participants and politicians during the town hall.

A doctor in the audience blamed pharmaceutical companies for the opioid crisis and credited Whaley and Gov. Mike DeWine for filing lawsuits against them.

State Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, told Matthews that Dayton is “ground zero” for the opioid addiction.

Plummer, the former Montgomery County sheriff, said that it has caused all sorts of crime. He blamed pill mills, over-prescribing by doctors and “Mexican cartels” and said that the country’s borders need to be sealed off, which was met by both groans and applause from the audience.

“We shut down pill mills, we took the pills away from our addicts,” Plummer said. “The Mexican cartel seized the opportunity and flooded it with heroin.”

The show was the second in a series on MSNBC focusing on the 2020 election. The first show was set in Pennsylvania.


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