Aftab Pureval is challenging Steve Chabot, the incumbent Republican, to represent Ohio’s 1st District in the House of Representatives. Opinion polls show this race is a toss up, so every vote will matter. My attempt to provide a rational assessment of the candidates is probably more than you want to wade through, so here is a quick summary:
- If you support Donald Trump, vote for Chabot.
- If you oppose Trump, vote for Pureval.
- If you just want the best person for the job, vote for Pureval.
I wish more of the us were in that third category, but the reality is that Trump continues to dominate the political landscape even though he is hardly mentioned by the candidates.
In 2016, I supported Aftab Pureval for Clerk of Courts, selecting him as the stand out candidate among those running for local office. He won, unseating the Republican incumbent. He then proceeded to deliver better service to the community:
- Ended political patronage
- Added Saturday hours to the Auto Title Division
- Built a new web site
- Granted free access to public documents
- Provided a legal self-help clinic
He did all while saving money (rounded up to $1 million in first year) and increasing the revenue . You would think that ending political patronage, reducing the size of government, providing better service, and saving money would please conservatives, since these are in keeping with their typical talking points.
In politics, however, you undermine your opponent’s record, whatever it is. Chabot’s first political ad tries to turn these accomplishments on their head. Eliminating unnecessary positions and getting rid of political appointees becomes, in Chabot’s ad, “firing long time employees.” Chabot’s ad concludes “Aftab may mean sunshine but his record is pretty SHADY”. As political ads often are, this ad is misleading, but at least you could argue that it is tethered to the truth.
The same cannot be said for the ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund. This paid ad, titled “Lies and Hypocrisy,” was the first thing to pop up in any Google searches involving the word “Pureval.” The ad somehow ties Aftab Pureval to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and features a picture of Gaddafi, looking sinister as ever, a scary picture of some terrorists, and, for good measure, a picture of Aftab Pureval and Hillary Clinton smiling together into the camera. The tortured logic connecting Pureval to Libya is completely refuted by the Washington Post, which concludes:
Even by modern mudslinging standards, these ads by the Congressional Leadership Fund stand out for their dark tone and their strained relationship with the facts. These attack ads are grossly misleading. We give them a cumulative rating of Four Pinocchios.
Pureval’s first ad, in contrast, is largely positive. His name is Aftab, which means “sunshine”. He is the son of immigrants: his mother was a refugee from Tibet, and his parents met in India. He was born and raised in Ohio and was educated at local colleges. He has only a slight dig at his opponent, who has “simply been there in too long”. He concludes with the promise: “New leadership that fights for you.”
There is one of Chabot’s attacks that seems to have some substance. Pureval, who is not accepting corporate donations, used money from the Clerk of Courts campaign funds. The question is whether or not this was spent for the congressional campaign, which would be illegal. Pureval’s campaign claims “All of these expenditures were appropriate and legal.”
One of the disputes is over Chabot’s record on health care. Chabot opposes Obamacare, saying that the American people deserve better. Of course, the Republicans have not been able to actually craft anything better, but that is not the point of contention. The argument is over pre-existing conditions. Chabot says that he has always supported protecting people with pre-existing conditions. Pureval says that he “voted to strip away protections from people with pre-existing conditions.” It appears that both claims are true. Chabot “supported legislation to replace Obamacare [that] guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.” This sounds great, but nobody could come up with an workable plan that met this requirement. The legislation he ended up voting for did not protect people with pre-existing conditions. I think Pureval has the better argument here.
However, the more substantive issue is how to address the heath care financing in this country. The Republicans have been up in arms over Obamacare for years, but have been unable to craft a replacement. Chabot has shown that he will loyally follow whatever the Republican leadership comes up with, which, most likely, will be more attempts to sabotage the system they inherited from Obama while they dither around, failing to come up with a viable alternative. On the other hand, some Democrats want to offer a “single payer” system; Pureval seems to be interested in more modest strengthening of Obamacare.
The two candidates fall along traditional party lines on the other substantive issues as well. Concerning the economy, Chabot emphasizes lower taxes and less regulation, especially for small businesses. Pureval talks of “equal pay for equal work”, protecting unions, and raising the minimum wage. On taxes, Pureval emphasizes fairness in taxation. He wants permanent relief for the middle class, and to “ensure that hedge fund managers don’t pay less than working families”. Chabot touts the Trump tax cuts. Thus, one represents the interests of the those he labels the job creators, the other the workers. Both claim to support the middle class.
Chabot supports a constitutional amendment that would impose a balanced budget. This is in line with traditional (pre-Trump) Republican thinking. It is a bad idea that would be disastrous if implemented. First of all, no business operates without using debt, and many of our most successful businesses go through periods where they loose money. Secondly, if we suffered a financial recession like 1929 (or 2008), having such an amendment would force the government to take the same actions that were taken in the Hoover administration, exacerbating the problem. Finally, while Chabot touts this proposal claiming to be concerned with prudent financial management, he votes profligately for tax cuts, increased defense spending, and consequently, ever larger budget deficits.
An issue not talked about directly by either candidate concerns race. When Chabot talks about immigration, he focuses attention on gangs, while Pureval, the son of immigrants, speaks of the American dream. Generally Cbabot plays the card subtly, labeling Pureval as an outsider by focusing on whether he was raised in the district (Beavercreek is in a neighboring district), or whether he lived in the district. Before deciding to run, Pureval lived on the other side of the carefully gerrymandered line splitting apart the voters in Cincinnati. For his part, Pureval “celebrates diversity and inclusion.” People who don’t agree with him on this will vote for Chabot.
If you care at all about protecting the environment, Pureval, though hardly a zealot, is the clear choice. He wants to properly fund the Environmental Protection Agency. Chabot does not even mention the environment on his web site. As late as 2014, he was saying “Despite claims to the contrary, the evidence concerning man-made climate change is far from conclusive.” Chabot is focused on energy independence, and wants to “increase domestic oil production.” Perhaps this is why the Koch brother’s PAC Americans for Prosperity has put its weight behind Chabot.
For Chabot, a central issue is abortion, which, he says, “has been described as the moral issue of our time.” (It irritates me that he expresses his central moral position in the passive voice and attributes it to others.) Chabot will do what he can to undermine access to abortions. Pureval thinks “we must support a woman’s constitutional right to choose safe, legal abortions established in Roe v. Wade.” Pureval does not think the election is about abortion, but for those driven by this one issue, the choice is clear.
I disagree with Chabot not only about abortion, but about what truly is the moral issue of our time. The Republican party has descended into deceit and bigotry. Trump is the result. There are a few brave souls in the party, such as John Kasich, who are standing up for traditional Republican values, but most, like Chabot, are just riding the wave wherever it takes them. Historians are sounding warning bells: we could loose our democracy. Steve Chabot, over two decades in Congress, has shown no sign of having the courage and independence that our time in history demands.
Though Chabot wants to paint Pureval as a lefty, he is not. He is a follower not of the anti-establishment social democrats, but of Obama. For example, he has not come out for reform of our marijuana laws, an issue that I think would bring out the voters. Whether Pureval will emerge as the kind of leader that I hope for is yet to be seen. I want to give him that chance.
My impression of the two candidates is that both seem to be genuinely nice people who want the best for this nation. Given my view of the current state of the Republican party, I would vote Democrat. However, in this case, I can enthusiastically support the person, not just the party.