Oberlin Students Impact Local Politics

Barbara Turnbull lights up when she talks about Democratic candidate Janet Garrett. The third-year Oberlin College student, a communications fellow for the Janet Garrett for Congress campaign, believes in her candidate. It’s why she does the work, advertising events and photos on social media, as well as canvassing and phone banking, to elect Democrats up and down the ballot for the upcoming Nov. 6 midterm election.

Conversely, Turnbull grimaces when she talks about Republican Jim Jordan, the incumbent Congressman for Ohio’s 4th congressional district, which includes Oberlin College. Jordan has been implicated in covering up sexual misconduct at Ohio State University in the 1980s, when he was working as an assistant coach for the university’s wrestling team.

Naturally, Turnbull finds it difficult to balance being a full-time student with her campaign work. But because of Jordan’s disgusting behavior and his harmful policies, she’s committed to replacing him.

“He founded the Freedom Caucus,” Turnbull said. “He’s as right-wing as they come … and he’s running for Speaker of the House now.”
Many Oberlin students work for Garrett’s campaign. She is a former union leader and retired school teacher who worked many years teaching young children in the Oberlin school system.

“She really knows the community,” Turnbull said. She and Garrett know that apathy among voters is high, but if they can unite the people dissatisfied with Jordan, then they have a path to victory. Garrett’s mottos express this drive: “People over Politics.”

Ken Harbaugh uses a similar slogan, “Country Over Party.” Harbaugh is running to represent Ohio’s 7th congressional district, which include cities such as Canton and North Ridgeville. Harbaugh is a former Navy pilot and disaster relief coordinator from Avon, Ohio. He founded and led Team Rubicon, which gives veterans work as natural disaster first responders and deploys them in emergency situations. Ohio’s 7th is a heavily gerrymandered district that hasn’t seen Democratic representation in some time, but College junior Alec Perlow sees this election year as an opportunity.

Perlow is an organizing fellow for the Harbaugh campaign. He trains volunteers, canvasses in the community, and organizes phone banks for the campaign. He has been working for the campaign for over six months, and has gradually taken on more responsibilities. Harbaugh is running against incumbent Republican Bob Gibbs in a race that has gotten significant attention from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

One of the most admirable things Turnbull and Perlow do for the campaigns is also one of the most difficult: convincing non-voters to join their team of Democratic voters.

“I noticed a lot of these people have never been talked to [about political participation] before,” Perlow said. “This is the first time that anyone is knocking on their doors.”

Turnbull sees something similar happening with non-voters in the 4th District: People who are unhappy with the Republicans in office, but haven’t found ways to engage in politics in the past.

“They don’t necessarily know about Janet, but they know they don’t like Jim Jordan,” Turnbull said. In a district where there are almost twice as many independents as Republicans, the path towards victory is convincing these people — who may not be enthralled by the Democratic Party — to vote for Democrats.

That’s where Oberlin students come in. These campaigns can only succeed if we assist them. I can’t pretend to believe that an electoral victory on Nov. 6 will solve all of the country’s problems. But I do believe that the United States will be better off with Garrett and Harbaugh in Congress. I do believe that their victories would be a step in the right direction. Most importantly, I know that these campaigns can only win if Oberlin students step up and knock on a lot of doors in the next month. That’s all I’m asking for: a few hours of volunteering in the next four weeks.

The Ken Harbaugh for Congress campaign meets for canvassing every Sunday in Wilder lobby at 2:30 p.m. If you want to canvass, you can contact Alec Perlow at [email protected]. If you want to canvass but can’t do it on Sunday, Alec can help find a different time that works for you! If you’re interested in being a paid canvasser for the campaign, ask Alec Perlow for more information. If you want to volunteer with the Janet Garrett for Congress campaign, contact Marilee Marks, the Lorain County Democratic Party field organizer, at [email protected]. Garrett’s campaign is coordinating with the Ohio Democratic Party to canvass for Democrats throughout Ohio, including Sherrod Brown for Senate and Richard Cordray for Governor.