By Kelly Cantwell –
Matthew Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, and David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, spoke to the Clermont Chamber of Commerce about the presidential election and the state of politics in general.
The legislative breakfast was held on June 9 at Holiday Inn and Suites Eastgate. Both Borges and Pepper were given 15 minutes to speak, after which they took questions.
“We are in a very interesting political time,” Borges said.
He is excited about the role that Ohio has played in the presidential election so far, as the state has played host to a Republican presidential candidate debate and will host the Republican National Convention and the first debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump in September.
Borges highlighted some accomplishments he has seen in the Republican party, such as high voter interest and turnout and more registrations. The Democratic party has not seen as high of a turnout.
He also discussed his concerns with Clinton, including that she is a proven liar, Borges said.
“We may have picked the one person who might actually be able to lose to Hilary Clinton. Unfortunately, they picked the one person who might actually be able to lose to Donald Trump. So we’ll have a very interesting sort of race to the bottom here,” Borges said.
He is proud of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s efforts in his campaign to become president.
Ohioans in general believe that Ohio is on the right track, Borges said based on surveys he has seen. He is excited about the direction Ohio is heading but said there is a lot of work to do.
Pepper began his talk by pointing out that Borges had spoken out against Trump, and that many Republicans don’t like Trump. Some voters even voted Republican just so they could vote against Trump in the primaries, he said.
He feels that Trump will have a difficult time winning in Ohio in November. Pepper hopes that this year Democrats, Independents and some Republicans will work together against Trump. It would benefit the Republican party to decisively reject Trump so their next candidate will be one that unifies the party, Pepper feels.
While Pepper is dedicating some of his time to the presidential race, he is also working on leadership development to find the right people for government at all levels.
“In the end, the strongest party is the one that has good people in office at all levels doing great public service,” Pepper said
Politicians need to be rebranded as people who serve the public, not as what much of the public thinks of them now, Pepper said.
Pepper and Borges continued on a similar note in the question session. Sometimes the focus is too much on the next election and not enough on serving the public, Pepper said.
Borges feels much of the public doesn’t trust politicians because politicians make promises and then don’t follow through. The public’s frustration in that can be seen in the success of Trump and Bernie Sanders making it so far in the race.
“Ultimately it’s up to the voters to pick the people and then demand that the people that they voted for go to those jobs and do the things they said they were going to do and deliver on those promises,” Borges said.
They also discussed getting millennials involved in the political process.
One way Pepper is attempting to do so is by offering internships and fellowships with stipends so that millennials can afford to take them. So many millennials are struggling with college debt that they can’t take a volunteer position.
Millennials could soon be the largest population in politics, and they are already making their mark on society, Borges said. This group wants to take things in a different direction, which is why he believes they flock to Sanders and Trump.
Borges talked with a group of Trump supporters during a focus group, and found that they support Trump because they feel he tells it like it is and be cannot be bought. Those two things rose above all else so that even though some supporters did not agree with all of Trump’s policies, they would not sway from supporting him because of the emotional connection they have with him.
One idea that really sticks out to Pepper is the thought of children in America growing up with Trump as president and learning that that is how a leader acts.
However, Pepper feels Trump is behind on fundraising and organizing, while the Democrats are organizing as if the presidential race will be close; two things he thinks will work in their favor.
Matt Van Sant, chamber president/CEO, was very pleased to hear hope from Borges and Pepper about the future of the political process.
There are always risks with hosting this type of event, but Van Sant feels that understanding politics is part of understanding the risk of running a company in a place where the government has an impact on business, he said.
Politics is serious business, and Van Sant hopes that attendees understood that and went away knowing they should hold in regard the work politicians do.
“Public service is hard work. Public service is vulnerable to your family and yourself and we need to respect our elected officials,” Van Sant said.