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Miami student running for Ohio Representative debates incumbent

The virtual debate between Sam Lawrence and incumbent Sara Carruthers was live streamed in Shideler Hall for Miami students to watch.
The virtual debate between Sam Lawrence and incumbent Sara Carruthers was live streamed in Shideler Hall for Miami students to watch.

This year’s Ohio House Representative race in the newly created District 47 features quite a bit of difference between the two candidates. One is 60- year-old incumbent Republican Sara Carruthers who has represented Ohio House District 51 since 2019.  The other is current Miami Student 19-year-old Democrat Sam Lawrence.

In a virtual, live streamed debate held on Oct. 13, voters got a look at Lawrence and Carruthers’ platforms.

Both candidates have ties to Miami. Carruthers is a 1984 graduate of Miami, and Lawrence is a current sophomore majoring in political science. Despite their similar backgrounds, the debate proved the two candidates hold two different approaches to representing Ohio’s 47th House District. 

The debate was moderated by Miami’s Menard Family Center for Democracy, the League of Women Voters of Oxford and Journal-News. Topics of discussion included abortion rights, gun laws, gerrymandering in Ohio, election practices and the costs of a college education.

Both candidates expressed different focuses they would put into practice if elected. 

Lawrence argued heavily for abortion rights, redistricting and creating a more transparent government for his consuitents. Lawrence centered his arguments around the idea that there is heavy corruption in the Ohio House, something Carruthers disagreed with.

“I want to bring a perspective to our politics that makes government work for the people,” Lawrence said.

Carruthers used the debate to address concerns of House practices and promote her current legislation. Carruthers talked about House Bill 772, which she has been working on with Representative Douglas Swearingen. The bill would require teachers and school staff to inform parents of all issues concerning their students’ safety and well-being.

“What this does is give them guidelines and I’ve been told by a couple of schools that it actually helps them because the counselors don’t really know what they can share with parents,” Carruthers said.

Carruthers also used the debate to address the amount of bipartisanship that she has demonstrated in her legislation and her use of tax dollars to repair infrastructure and help local schools. Carruthers ended the debate by applauding the state’s leadership.

“We’re dealing with so many problems being pushed on us from failed leadership at the federal level, but I know the leadership here in Ohio is on a good footing now,” Carruthers said. “I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Lawrence, however, disagreed.

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“Columbus has been filled with this culture of corruption for longer than I’ve been alive,” Lawrence said in his opening statement. “I think it’s time for a change.”

At the end of the debate, moderators estimated 300-400 viewers tuned into the online debate, including many Miami students. After attending a viewing party held in Shideler Hall, Ben Caruso, a first-year public health major, felt proud of his peer’s performance. 

“He is so young to show that type of leadership,” Caruso said. “He’s a strong debater, and I think he showed that tonight. I continue to be impressed by him.”

If elected, Lawrence would be one of the youngest representatives in the history of the Ohio House, along with Derrick Seaver, who was elected to the House at 18 years old in 2001. Ohio’s current U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown along with former representative Christina Hagan took office at the age of 22.

Patrick Houlihan, Lawrence’s political director who’s also a current student at Miami, said Lawrence’s age isn’t a hindrance but a way to “provide a new set of experiences and a new set of views.” 

“Our laws and our policies shouldn’t be written and decided solely from an older generation’s perspective,” Houlihan said.

For more information about elections in Butler County, visit The Miami Student’s voting guide.