Responses to CCPC's endorsement application questionnaire from:
Aaron Godfrey, candidate for US Congress, OH-16
Political Party Affiliation: Democratic Party
Current or previous elected offices: none
1.) The fight for a $15 minimum wage is critical to the well-being of the working class. Today, in Ohio, the average rent in Ohio is so high would take 84% of a full-time employee's income after taxes - if they were paid $10/hour! Not even our actual minimum wage! We must fight for a $15/hour minimum wage, and chain it to realistic economic indicators so that it increases with inflation. No one working 40 hours a week should be struggling to get by, and this is an important step in making that a reality.
2.) Maternity (and paternity) leave should be required for all full-time employees. It's critical for the early development of the child - and if the rest of the world can afford it, why can't we??
3.) Having lost my dad to a preventable disease thanks to a broken healthcare system that left my family behind, I know firsthand how important it is that we move to a Medicare-for-all system. Medicare for all is the inevitable end of the healthcare crisis in this country, but we need to do everything we can to make it happen as soon possible. I want to phase in Medicare for all slowly, with a goal to transition over a period of 6 years, to give markets and businesses time to adjust. We can start the rollout by offering Medicare for anyone living in a county or state with no options on the healthcare marketplace, then slowly phase out lower-quality plans with Medicare. Of course, we would have to include a provision to ensure everyone has care if they need it - we can't allow anyone to fall through the gaps while Medicare is phased in: after all, the idea is to prevent needless deaths due to our current healthcare system. Through the full transition, I would help ensure the ACA is supported and funded for as long as it is needed.
4.) As a graduate from a working class family that, like millions of other Americans, suffers from a great deal of student debt, the issue of affordable higher education is incredibly important to me. We need to first relieve those stuck in debt, and then address the broken system that causes college to cost so much to begin with. I would support legislation that would prohibit the Dept. of Education from profiting off of student loans, and require them to cover the cost of tuition for all students looking to enter a public college. (i.e., I support free tuition at public schools.) I would also like to see forgiveness programs expanded, by bumping up the timeline and allowing most students to discharge their debt (tax-free) after 10 years of on time payments. Even further, I think we should credit graduates who spend their free time building their local communities: we need to create a program that credits graduates on their student loan payments for community service at valid charities (homeless shelters, kitchens, animal shelters, etc.). This plan makes everyone a winner: the graduate, the community, and our country.
5.) The Cleveland area has lagged behind in public transportation for too long, despite it being vital to the ability of the working class to get to their jobs (or find new jobs). We must ensure that whoever we send to Congress is willing to fight for the funds we need for our public transit here in the 16th and beyond - I will be that candidate.
6.) The stock market collapse - and the inevitable collapse of our current bubble - should not go unpunished. These are crimes perpetrated by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country, and until we hold them accountable, we are doomed to repeat this cycle over and over again.
1.) Citizens United must be overturned. We cannot allow dark money to continue to dominate our politics. I will support an amendment to the Constitution to this effect, and I will do everything I can from within the House to push for public campaign financing. We also need to enforce stricter rules on how campaigns spend money in online ads, to reduce the influence of adversaries, as we all saw happen in 2016.
2.) To maximize voter participation, we need a candidate that can relate to the people across the district, using that relatability to bridge the divide between Progressives, the Democrats, moderates, and center-right voters. Additionally, we need a candidate who can inspire people of all ages to get out and vote. I am that candidate. My working-class background, my pulling myself into the middle class, and my knowing real struggle - from being laid off, unable to find work, living paycheck-to-paycheck, having close family suffer from a broken healthcare system - I could go on - gives me a way to connect with the average voter that other candidates do not have. That emotional connection, which I can make with the help of the CCPC's canvassers, will guarantee us a win in the primary in May, and the general in November. And once elected, I will continue engaging with voters by holding frequent town halls throughout the district, and have get-togethers at local coffee shops to give voters a chance to interact with me directly. I will not abandon the local clubs & grassroots organizations I've met with either, and will do what I can to make appearances when possible.
On the point of generating enthusiasm among voters - millennials are a significant portion of the electorate now, and their support must be earned to ensure victory, especially in this political climate, and in this district. I am a millennial myself, and by talking to them where they live, work, and study, I will be able to relate to this crucial demographic in a way that no other candidate for this office can. Whether I'm talking to a student paying their way through college, or a graduate staring down the barrel of inescapable, crushing student loan debt, these voters will see themselves in me, and they will find in me a voice for their interests in DC - a voice that truly represents them, and a voice that will listen to their needs and fight for them in DC with a passion that is absolutely unmatched by my competitors, both in the Democratic Primary and in the General Election.
The importance of a powerful ground game in this election cannot be understated: I believe it will make the entire difference in the effort to put a progressive in DC representing the 16th. So it is critical to have the support of the CCPC: our boots on the ground, our phones in our hand, our letters in the mail - these are all vital to the success of this campaign.
3.) The most important thing we can do to reduce the power of lobbyists is to stop the revolving door from government to K Street. Government officials should be barred from ever working in the lobbying industry - not a 2 or 3 year ban, a permanent ban.
1.) Nonviolent crimes should not be carrying some of the penalties they do. Marijuana is the perfect example: not only is this a substance with a majority consensus supporting its legalization, but it is not inherently dangerous. Why are we ruining lives with harsh prison sentences for carrying it?? We need to reduce the penalties for nonviolent crimes, and get rid of mandatory minimums: especially when it comes to substances like marijuana with a well-known bias towards putting people of color behind bars. The only thing the war on drugs has done is lead to the mass incarceration of vulnerable minorities. It's time to end it.
2.) Cops need to be held to higher standards. When we can't trust our cops to act lawfully, and when they get away with it, it deteriorates our trust in them, crippling their ability to protect and serve. Body cameras might be one way to address this problem, but proper training is probably the best solution: we need to train cops to not reach for their guns so quickly, if at all possible - especially when so many of these cases didn't call for a firearm at all. We must stop training the police like drop-in military rescue, and instead as protectors of the citizenry.
3.) Public education is critical to a progressive agenda, and we need to make sure that we support it as best we can - it's the best investment that we, as a society, can make. We need to end charter schools, which unfairly siphon off public money meant for our public schools, or at the very least, apply much great regulations on their operations (so as to not shut out the few that do a good job in their community). For example, it'd be great if we made sure the schools actually exist before we start giving them taxpayer money. Or that their students are actually attending class and doing their coursework, or that as many students are registered as the school claims there are. It should be a huge embarrassment for the state that Ohio is featured in national media such as Vice for our failing charter school experiment. We need to fix it.
We should also be encouraging schools to take a less heavy-handed approach with standardized testing. Allowing the teachers more freedom in their curriculum to respond to their classes needs as they grow is critical to a successful education system. I'd also favor policies that lead to a greater emphasis placed on STEM fields: the earlier we get them involved in STEM, the better prepared they'll be for college, should they decide to pursue an academic career after high school. A strong focus on STEM education helped us win the Cold War: returning to those policies can propel America ahead of the competition in the 21st century.
4.) The question of economic development in minority communities is tied to the last question regarding education. First and foremost, we need to make sure that the schools in disadvantaged communities are equipped to help the students grow beyond the limitations of the circumstances. Beyond that, we should offer incentives for business to develop in underserved areas, and if possible, renovating old existing structures to reduce urban blight and increase property values.
1.) The biggest reason I decided to major in physics was so that I could take an active role in the development of green technologies to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. We need to do everything we can to boost renewables in our district and beyond. On a federal level, I would support legislation to give renewables the same tax benefits that fossil fuels currently get, and I'd support incentives for business to invest in R&D for renewable energy technology & energy storage tech (an equally important, but often overlooked, part of the green energy revolution).
2.) We need to end fracking. Once and for all. That alone would do a great deal to secure our water supply. Beyond that, I would do everything I could to protect and expand the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and fight to make offshore wind in Lake Erie more economically inviting (it's a great resource we're only just now starting to take advantage of). We should also ensure strict dumping regulations with impactful penalties for their violation to prevent illegal dumping in our rivers and lakes.
Preserving the natural beauty of our country is extremely important to me. I will act in office to ensure our national monuments, parks, forests, wilderness areas, and so on are protected from interference. I support bans on mining and oil exploration on these lands, too. My dedication to a green energy future is a part of this commitment, too: the best way to protect our country's natural heritage is by preventing an ecological calamity that climate change threatens to be.
1.) Military action should be an absolute last resort. We should engage with diplomacy as much as possible, and avoid getting into unnecessary armed conflicts. This includes preemptive strikes, and getting ourselves entangled with foreign wars, except in cases of human interest (e.g., to prevent genocide or attacks on civilian populations). If, in office, I had to vote on authorization of military force, I would do it with the people on my mind: I will not forget that our soldiers are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and so on. We can never forget the human cost of war: through that lens, I think it is easier to process whether or not a conflict is worth engaging, and easier to understand the importance in avoiding conflict whenever possible.
2.) This is a nation of immigrants, and to impose harsh restrictions on immigration is hypocrisy at its finest. I support a clean DACA, support providing aid to fleeing refugees, and am strongly against any sort of immigration ban that uses race or religion as its justification.
3.) The military budget is bloated beyond belief, and has turned into a system of established corporate welfare. We should audit the Pentagon and the Department of Defense to eliminate waste and create a more efficient government. We should also be far more open to eliminating contracts that have been reduced to jobs programs - we shouldn't be spending taxpayer money on jets or tanks we do not need when that money could be reallocated to other important domestic projects such as education or infrastructure.
1.) Our anti-discrimination laws in this country embody the spirit of our founding fathers. I support them, their enforcement, and expanding them to encompass any afflicted minority group.
2.) Reproductive rights, the right to choose, and LGBTQ issues are not issues the government has any business meddling with. It is not the government's role to determine what sorts of relationships are appropriate for the people, nor is it the role of government to interfere with the most private, intimate decisions we make in our lives. The government's role here is to protect the disenfranchised, prevent discrimination, enforce equal pay for equal work, and ensure affordable, easy access to affordable healthcare that meets the needs of the women in our country. In Congress, I will fight to ensure all of that.
3.) First and foremost, Social Security is an earned benefit, *not* an entitlement. I would fight against any and all attempts to privatize or otherwise eliminate Social Security. I would also fight to increase its solvency by increasing the income cap from its current limit of $127,700. I am against raising the retirement age.