Richards shares a personal story about his son’s death
By Brett Milam
Jeff Richards, the Democratic candidate for Ohio State Representative in District 66, which covers parts of Brown and Clermont counties, spoke to The Clermont Sun about his vision for the counties.
Richards, 63 and from Moscow on the banks of the Ohio River, is running against incumbent Republican Doug Green in November.
“I grew up in a household that was politically active. My first memory was JFK getting elected which was a big deal since I’m Catholic,” he said. “My major at the University of Cincinnati was economics and I understand deeply the destructive economic policies the GOP has subscribed to for almost 40 years.”
Richards also has an intimate connection to the opioid epidemic ongoing in the counties. His oldest son, Adam, became addicted after being prescribed painkillers after sustaining a knee injury, he said.
Adam lived with Richards until he was 28 years old, drifting from one job to another and he even stole from the family, to the point where, Richards said, they had to keep their valuables locked up.
“We really didn’t understand what was going on. Finally we had to kick him out in 2010,” he said.
When a friend contacted Richards to let him know Adam was addicted to opioids, they put him through rehab. He relapsed and they lost contact until 2012. At that point, he was going through the drug court program in Hamilton County.
“He was sober and living in a halfway house. For fifteen months we enjoyed a relationship with him,” Richards said. “In November of 2013 he relapsed. In February 2014 he died of an overdose.”
Richards’ prescription for the opioid epidemic is to treat addicts like patients, not prisoners.
“I believe drug abuse is a community health issue and not a criminal act. I want to see all first responders equipped with Narcan,” he said. “Treating addiction has to be holistic. We need to increase access to mental health treatment, job training, transportation and healthcare.”
One of the reasons Richards is running is because he thinks politics at the state and local level are important; in particular, Richards believes Ohio has fallen behind because of the antics of Republicans at the state level.
“Republicans have cut the local government fund by 50% since 2007 in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy donor class and large corporations,” he said. “This disproportionately shifts the tax burden to the middle class in the form of increased property taxes, sales taxes, tax levies and regressive income taxes.”
His three planks to correct the ship, as he sees it, are: 1.) a living minimum wage and workers’ right to organize; 2.) quality public education, no matter your zip code; and 3.) addressing the opioid crisis.
Of course, Richards is in rather an uphill battle given that Green defeated his Democratic challenger, Ken McNeely, in 2016 by more than 30,000 votes. McNeely tried in previous races in 2014 and 2012 and also lost those handedly. It’s worth pointing out that with a population of 137,778, the district’s highest vote turnout in those three elections was 2016, with 52,730 votes cast. That means slightly less than half the eligible voting population didn’t vote.
Richards is optimistic, though, saying that Democratic enthusiasm is “extremely high right now because one-party rule breeds corruption.”
“As far as my chances against Doug Green he has definitely raised more money from me. He received $5,000 from Bill Lager and has a lot of outside donors. I can’t compete with that so I have to work harder and recruit boots on the ground,” he said. “I will say after attending some township trustee meeting and village council meetings that Doug never addresses their concerns or returns their phone calls. Doug is a career politician and is in lock step with the Republican party. He votes whichever way he is told.”
Richards thinks he has a great chance to win because he thinks the voters want better, which is his campaign slogan: We Can Do Better.
As for what “Democratic camp” Richards is in, the Nancy Pelosi wing of things, considered more centrist, or the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez/Bernie Sanders wing, considered more radical left, Richards said he’s simply in the “constituents of District 66 camp.”
“We are a beautiful mixture of many camps, but most of all, we are for everyone,” he said. “A rising tide brings all ships up.”