By Amanda Renae Chapa and Nahid Hassan
Sullivan City, Texas and Upper Darby, Pa.
Editor’s Note: This piece was reported and written before the Aug. 3 primary. Greg Betts was defeated in that race by Allison Russo.
On Aug. 3, a special election for Ohio’s 15th Con-gressional District will be held to replace former Re-publican Rep. Steve Stivers, who resigned in May. Re-publicans hope that they can keep the seat, as they have since 2010. But they face competition from an unlikely challenger: Demo-crat Greg Betts, a self-titled “political outsider.” Betts, who served for more than 30 years in the U.S. Army, is a retired colonel with ex-perience as a military and government policymaker.
Although the political newcomer is aware of the challenges he faces running in a Republican stronghold, he said that as a military lo-gistics expert, he has had an immense amount of experi-ence running the programs, systems and processes en-compassing the federal gov-ernment. When he retired from the Army early this year, he knew he wanted to continue in a governmental role because of his love for serving people.
His campaign for the seat also comes at an un-likely time. Betts was herded into the race when Stivers stepped down to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Though Betts has never held elected office, he said he has the background necessary to “hit the ground running as a legislator.”
Betts reiterated that past gerrymandering makes it difficult for Democrats to win the district. “Only Republicans have won the gerrymandered Republican districts, and only Democrats have won the select Democrat districts,” he said. He noted that the partisan-ship of modern politics does little to mitigate the issue, but did not specify any ex-plicit plans to overcome the problem. His plat-forms take a populist Democratic approach, with promises to support a $15 minimum wage, univer-sal health care and infrastruc-ture reform—as well as in-creased funds for veterans. “I know full well just how imperative it is that we honor our sacred ob-ligation to care for them both during and after their service to the people of the United States,” he says on his website. This sentiment comes from Betts’s own history serving in the military.
While his ideas for change may appeal to left-leaning voters, his plans lack detail.
When asked to describe how he would regulate mar-ijuana usage, he remained ambiguous. “The nice part about it is that we’ll be able to process it,” he said, draw-ing comparisons to how the government regulates alco-hol usage. He suggested tax-ing marijuana to fund health care and other necessities but remains vague about the spe-cific allocation of potential new funds.
Betts faces fierce com-petition in Republ ic a n Mike Carey, who secured an endorse-ment from former Presi-dent Donald Trump, and remains the leading candidate. Despite his uphill bat-tle he has remained firm in his desire to make positive change. His underdog campaign shows a man vying to help others, and with it, the change he has promised to bring change to Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.