2022 Midterms – Interview With Local Candidates


Nick Watts, Co-Editor-in-Chief '23

The 2022 midterms have finally arrived! Through plenty of eventful primaries, scandalous stories, and even a couple of October surprises, the day has been anticipated by all, and now it’s here. To prep you, the voter, or you, the future voter, with more information about candidates running for local office, I took time on Sunday, November 6th to immerse myself in the craziness of the Hamilton County Board of Elections to hear from the candidates themselves about what this election has meant to them. The following are highlights of my interviews with six candidates for local office, from the State Legislature to the Supreme Court, to Congress.

Note: Interviews have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Orlando Sonza – Republican Nominee for State Senate District 9

I first got a chance to interview Mr. Orlando Sonza, a veteran, financial advisor, and first generation Filipino-American running for the State Senate. I began by asking him what compelled him to enter the race. “Yeah, I mean two things. One is just seeing the divisiveness in our country where we’ve lost all aspect of civility when it comes to public service and that’s not how our country was founded, and so me just being real passionate about being not just a servant, but a public servant is bringing civility and respect back into our political process no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. I think best legislation is achieved when people can work together, even though they don’t agree on every single issue and that starts with respect and civility.”

“Totally agree,” I said.

He continued; “Yeah, but the second one is just I have four kids and they’re all under the age of eight and so when I think about how my kids are going to grow up in Cincinnati, Ohio, three things come to mind. Public safety, the local economy here in Cincinnati and public or just education in general, and those are three areas that I just want to do better for my kids as they grow up in Cincinnati. And that’s why I decided to run.”

“Why was important to run as a Republican?”

“Yeah well one because. I am a conservative at heart. I know that look, parties are not perfect and are our ultimate, how we advance good and positive change for our country is not going to come down to party affiliation. It’s going to come down to values. And which values do I align with the most as an individual? It’s conservative values, yeah, and so that’s why I’m running as a conservative.”

Marilyn Zayas – Democratic Nominee for Ohio Supreme Court vs. Pat DeWine

Next, I discovered Judge Marilyn Zayas among a crowd holding a sign. She is running for the Ohio Supreme Court, a high-profile body that recently received a lot of coverage regarding the divisiveness of the district maps and whether or not they were gerrymandered. The following is from my interview with her.

“What compelled you to enter the race for the Supreme Court?”

“Because we need to get politics out of this seat. Politics has no place in the court. We need a justice who really understands that we are here to serve everyone. When I was growing up, I wasn’t even supposed to make it out of high school based on the neighborhood I was in. What my family wanted for me was a fair chance. And when people come to court, isn’t that the same thing they want is a fair chance? So we’re not here to represent any particular political interests. We’re really here to make decisions that are guided by the law, guided by the Constitution and apply it equally to everyone. And that’s what this fight is about. It’s also a fight about integrity. I mean much has been written about my opponent’s (Justice Pat DeWine’s) failure to recuse in cases where his father played a heavy hand, so you know how can there be fairness if there’s a lack of integrity? So to me it’s not about a D or an R, it’s about doing the job, it’s about you know, making decisions guided by law and Constitution.

“You talk about a lot about taking politics out of the decisions, what, what specific steps will you take to work towards bipartisanship between the Republicans and Democrats on the court?” I asked.

“Well, I already have a record of doing that when I joined my court, it had been 20 years since a Democrat had been elected in a contested race. I rolled my sleeves up, made sure that I was there to represent the law. More than once I was able to, through being very thorough, be able to present things to my peers that maybe they had not seen, and my reputation grew very quickly because I’m supported by both prosecutors and defense attorneys and they just know, like they say, look when Marilyn’s on the bench, the one thing we know about her is she’s gonna follow the law so it’s just bringing that same reputation to the Supreme Court.”

Jenn Giroux – Republican Nominee for the 27th House District

After walking around some more, I spotted Ms. Jenn Giroux. After originally planning to run against Congressman Steve Chabot in the primary, Giroux dropped out. She later sued to be on the ballot for the Republican primary in the 27th House District after a judge denied her request. Judge Robert Goering, however, later allowed her to be on the ballot. She won the primary and has drawn much attention for this method of appearing on the ballot as well as continuing to propagate the false narrative that the 2020 Election was stolen. “There’s no way Joe Biden got the votes he said he got. Nobody in the national media wants to look at all the evidence coming out of these states,” she falsely asserted earlier this year.

“What compelled you to get into this State House race?”

“Honestly, it was the overall picture of what I thought was the country in freefall. Seems like there’s a full out rebellion against God and country. I think the economy has been horrible. As a mother of nine, I know what it’s like to make sure you pay, you try to pay your bills, and when things are tight, you gotta figure out what you’re going to do with what bills you pay. Groceries are high, gas is high, crime is everywhere, and as a mother, I believe everybody should feel like they are in a neighborhood that is safe and protected and a good place to live.”

“A couple of the other candidates that I’ve talked to today have been concerned about just about civility in politics and bringing bipartisanship back. My question is what, do you think of that and would you take steps if elected to the statehouse to work towards more bipartisanship instead of partisan division?” I asked.

“Well, I think, absolutely, working together with both parties is important. I think there, often times, is an impasse where there’s an issue where either side feels like it’s non-negotiable on political or moral issues that they can’t cross that line. But there is a lot of common ground. For instance, I know on the ballot right now there is an issue about setting allowing judges to set bail based on, you know community safety (Issue 1) and there’s also another issue too that you need to be a citizen to vote (Issue 2). I’ve seen in the recent weeks that Democrats are saying that they are now going to be in favor of those, whether that is for a political expediency or not, I don’t know. But that’s coming together on a ballot. Right?”

Rachel Baker – Democratic Nominee for the 27th House District 

I next was able to catch up with Rachel Baker, candidate for the State House. She is a nurse, social worker, and single mother of three children whom she adopted from China.

“Rachel, what compelled you to get involved in the race for the State House?

“I really started getting interested with what was going on with my kids’ local school district. They go to Forest Hills and we’ve had some kind of national extremism creep into our school district and I saw that kind of extremism. That’s also happening at the statehouse, and I wanted to help bring things back to moderation.”

“If you are elected, what would be some top priorities for you in the statehouse?”

“I think personal priorities would be I wanna look at public education and funding of public education jobs. I want to look at gun safety legislation in the state and I would say looking at reproductive health, access and really access to health care and mental health services for everyone.”

“Yeah, but kind of bigger than issues that interest me personally is that I really want to bring state representatives back to representing the community that they’re a part of. So I I want to, I feel like, in the last month or couple months we’ve been like cramming for this election. Learning what the State House is, learning what your state Rep does, and I wanna really be a representative that means to the community throughout the next two years. So, at the next election we all understand the State House. We understand what kind of decisions they make and people are more engaged in the process so. I think my bigger issue. Then a specific issue is just bringing people back into engaging with local and state government.”

I then asked about the steps she would take to increase bipartisanship in the Statehouse.

“Divisive politics and you know, I think that we can come together on a lot of issues that that people at the base might have different ideas about how to solve the problem, but we see the same problems and we want to make Ohio a good place to live. We want to make a good future for our kids. I mean, I think we need to bring things back to what we’re there to achieve and have us see each other with humanity versus villainizing the other.”

Greg Landsman – Democratic Nominee for the 1st Congressional District 

Greg Landsman is a current Cincinnati City Councilman who has served on Council since 2017. 

“What really compelled you to to get in the race for 1st District?”

“It was January 6th. I, you know, I’ve been involved in local politics for years and believe so strongly and folks working together in our democracy and to see that, the insurrection, and then to have members of Congress, including the person who’s supposed to represent this community, vote to try to overturn an election, you know, I’ve got kids. I care deeply about what happens to their future, and so I jumped in a year later, and, you know, a whole host of other things are top of mind with voters. Whether it’s, you know, freedom related to choice, or if it’s the economy and frustrations with wages. We desperately need somebody who’s gonna fight for us and our economy, and yeah, that’s why I’m running.”

“If elected to Congress, what would be some top priorities for you?”

“So the biggest ones are the HR one, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. It will help to ensure that we have the strongest possible democracy and that everyone gets to vote and it’s get rid of gerrymandering and all this corporate PAC money. The second is to codify Roe and protect these freedoms. We can’t have some states that are free and some states that aren’t. It’s just terrible. And then, you know, we need to get wages up and cost down and just rebuild the economy so it’s working for working people and stop all of the giveaways to the folks who are already doing great. You know the millionaires and billionaires and the corporations.”

“As we’ve seen in Congress, this the divisiveness and vitriol and politics. I guess my question is, what steps would you take to increase bipartisanship in Congress and and actually, that’s I’ve talked to a lot of candidates, today for office and that was one thing that a lot of them have talked about in common is bipartisanship.”

“They want it. Yeah, everyone wants it I think two things. One, I think it happens more than you realize or more than we realize, because you know the media only covers the fight as opposed to all of the people working together. And then two, I think it’s really important for folks to see their member of Congress in the community working with, you know, in my case Republicans, getting things done not just in DC but here. So you know working on the issues that folks care about seeing Democrats and Republicans do it here. That I think is what matters most.” 

Chris Monzel – Republican Nominee for 28th House District 

Chris Monzel is a former Cincinnati City Councilman and Hamilton County Commissioner who ran for the State House last year and was defeated. 

What compelled you to get into the race for state representative?

“So I believe in giving back to the community. I was blessed to grow up in this district and have all the opportunities afforded to me that I want to make sure that other families and other children their children have those same opportunities. You know, I went to school there. I work there, I raised my family there and to me, this is a chance to give back and make sure that other people have those same opportunities.”

“I’ve always believed in serving God through serving others, and I’ve done that on Cincinnati City Council for 10 years and serving as a county commissioner for eight years, so it’s been something that’s always been a mission that I believe in. With that, the areas that I really want to focus on are the economy; try to make sure that we keep our taxes low and our government spending in check so that we don’t have to pass on more fees and more taxes to you, which, right now, and in this economy, you don’t want to pay more. Yeah, that’s one.

“So the second one is dealing with crime and making sure that our police and our prosecutor’s office and judges have the resources necessary to do their job to keep our community safe. And then the third one is dealing with education. Making sure that we have resources for our schools and that the parents are involved in that process and that they can participate in the schools. And to me, not only just typical schools, but also looking at like our vocational programming and making sure that not everybody goes to four-year college, but they might have opportunities to get a trade and be able to get a job and make a living. So yeah, that type of educational opportunities I want to increase for our students.

“Some of the other candidates have brought up that I’ve talked to today, that I’ve kind of found in common, which I’m happy about, is a lot of them have talked about turning down the temperature and getting more bipartisanship back in the various bodies that they want to be elected to. So, if elected to the State House, would you take steps to increase bipartisanship and if so, how?”

“Oh yeah, absolutely. Every time I’ve been involved from the City Council level to the Hamilton County level, you know, bipartisanship is the way that you have to do things. I found typically 80% of the time we agree on the same things. It’s pretty little, about 20% or less, that we don’t, so, to me, we have to figure out a way, this is something that you know I was lucky being in those positions, that you can agree to disagree without being disagreeable. I mean, how can you do that? And still, you know, respect each other treat it so professionally, with courtesy. That’s what’s missing and we need to bring that back. That’s what I’ve done when I’ve been in office, and I will continue to do that.”