Here are the 4 Democrats wanting to represent Dayton, Springfield in Congress

Four Democrats are competing in the March 19 primary for a chance to face off with the U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton for his District 10 seat in November.

Ohio’s 10th district of Congress includes Montgomery and Greene Counties, as well as part of Clark County.

Candidates Amy Cox, David Esrati, Joseph Kuzniar and Tony Pombo talked to the newspaper about the economy, military spending, reproductive rights and more.

Amy Cox

Credit: Amy Cox

Credit: Amy Cox

Cox, of Eaton, said she’s running for Congress because she thinks public policy consistently fails working class people.

“Think about those basic needs and how Corporate America has taken over,” she said. “You have to get those things under control to get basic needs met.”

The Preble County-based candidate does not live in the 10th district, a point that has come under criticism by Montgomery County Republican Party officials and others.

Cox said she was asked to run for District 10 because of her working class platform and her background as a former teacher.

“We’re in scary times,” she said. “There’s too much at stake here. And I have run in Montgomery County before. Most of my work is done in Montgomery County.”

The Montgomery County GOP filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission last week, where they criticized Cox’s work history and residency, among other items. The FEC complaint includes purported personnel records showing her teaching contract was not renewed by the Twin Valley Local School District in 2018 because of a poor evaluation tied to performance, attendance and timeliness.

Twin Valley Schools has not fulfilled a records request from this news outlet for Cox’s personnel records.

Cox told this news outlet that she resigned and wasn’t fired.

“I had 25 sick days or more when I left my teaching job, so there was never an attendance issue. And, here’s another thing, those teacher evaluations, they can write whatever the hell they want in them,” Cox said. “There’s all kinds of teachers out there that have dealt with this (expletive) before — everywhere. If they want to get rid of you because you’re expensive, you’ve been teaching, you have a master’s degree, they can say whatever they want.”

Cox is endorsed in the race by the Ohio Democratic Party.

Cox said that if elected, protecting women would be her “number one priority.”

“Women are in trouble with limiting our health care,” she said. “You see that play out all across the United States. And then there’s these draconian laws where even when their lives are in danger, they’re told to go sit in their car until they’re almost on death’s door. I just can’t believe I’m living in a country where this is happening.”

Cox said other priorities if elected center on housing affordability and the empowerment of workers who want to unionize.

Cox also said more scrutiny should exist around the purchase and ownership of “weapons of war.” She suggested requiring personal liability insurance, background checks and specialized licenses for assault and military rifles.

“Nothing has gotten better around gun violence in this country,” she said. “You can love the idea of sport hunting, target practice. But that doesn’t mean that outweighs the safety of people minding their business.”

Cox previously ran against Republican State Rep. Rodney Creech for the 43rd district seat in the Ohio House, where Creech took home 71% of the votes during the general election in 2022.

Cox works as an urban agriculture scientist at Guided by Mushrooms, a business in New Lebanon, and has previous experience in food science. She has degrees in education and biology.

David Esrati

Esrati said Congress needs leaders who can think outside the box, something he said comes naturally to him as the owner of a Dayton-area advertising firm.

“We need a government we can trust again,” Esrati said.

Quality, affordable healthcare is at the center of the Dayton man’s campaign. Americans should have healthcare as good as their congressman’s, and if Americans can’t access healthcare, Congress should not have it, either, Esrati said.

Part of his vision for healthcare reform would include allowing for people to buy into Medicare with a flat fee.

“How is it that we’re being distracted by people talking about trans bathrooms, banned books, DEI, all this stuff,” he said, “when the reality is, Congress has healthcare and you don’t, and your healthcare costs have gone up 250% in just the last 20 years, and the number of billionaires in this country has quadrupled?”

Esrati also said he is 100% pro-choice and wants to see a resurrection of federal protections for abortion, is tired of “thoughts and prayers” and no action surrounding gun violence, believes in the importance of allyship and support with Ukraine, and wants homeownership to be an accessible step for all.

The Army veteran said the U.S. military spends more than “the next eight nations” combined on defense — something he’d like to see change if elected.

“I consider being able to afford your insulin a matter of national security,” he said. “And, we shouldn’t have to be worried about being shot by people who aren’t members ‘of a well regulated militia’ that are running around with military grade arms.”

Esrati said he sees his main opponent as Turner, whom he’s previously challenged for the Congressional seat and other leadership roles. Esrati won the packed Democratic 2022 primary — without any support from the Montgomery County Democratic Party, he said — and took home nearly 40% of votes in that year’s general election against Turner.

A different energy comes with this election year. Esrati said the 10th District can be flipped, as Republican voters in November may choose not to back Turner after the Congressman came under scrutiny for raising alarm across the country after pointing to a “serious national security threat,” asking President Joe Biden to declassify information. Esrati called Turner an “intelligence leaker.”

Aside from owning The Next Wave Marketing Innovation, Esrati is a local activist and operates a news blog. He has also invested time and dollars into restoring his Dayton neighborhood.

Joseph Kuzniar

Kuzniar, a retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Air Force and Enon resident, is running for public office for the first time in his life.

“I don’t know much about politics,” Kuzniar. “But I do know what needs to be done. And I know how the federal government works.”

He said his main reason for this new mission is to uplift Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the largest single-site employer in all of Ohio. Kuzniar pointed to deteriorating buildings at the military base, something the general public may not notice due to limited access to the location.

“What we have to do is protect what assets we have there,” Kuzniar said.

Kuzniar said the vitality of the military base is crucial to retaining talent in the region and spurring other business development.

“There’s this vicious circle that exists,” he said. “We need to help the base. We need to get the jobs. We need to help people entering retirement.”

The Enon man wants to protect Social Security if elected, and he is also concerned about housing access.

“We have too many homeless people. Many of them are veterans. That’s not right,” he said. “It’s an issue I’m really upset about.”

He also pointed to the lack of Veterans Affairs retirement facilities in Ohio: only one in Sandusky and another in Georgetown.

Kuzniar is also a proponent of gun safety and responsible gun ownership. He himself is a collector of antique weapons, some dating back to 1690.

“I collect guns, I’m for guns,” he said. “What do you need guns for? Protection of the house. Hunting. Even sports, target shooting. But AR-15s and AR-16s? Those are for military and police.”

The veteran said he may have not served in an elected position, but much of his career included collaboration with national agencies and congressmembers and their staffers. He previously worked as a manager for Department of Defense shuttle missions, and after active duty retirement, he was hired by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Tony Pombo

Beavercreek resident and political newcomer Pombo decided to throw his hat in the ring after seeing state leaders’ reaction to the passage of Issue 1 in August and November.

“We have a government that isn’t doing what the people want it to do,” Pombo said. “We need someone in that seat who will be a man of the people.”

Pombo is a computer scientist and previously worked as an electrician, which put him in the households of people from all ages and backgrounds. He said during this time, he listened to his clients talk about their obstacles: healthcare limitations, fixed incomes and more.

He said if elected, he wants to improve the lives of the average District 10 resident by working to reduce healthcare and higher education costs, supporting Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and other major employers in the region, safeguarding Social Security and more.

“You should be able to work full-time on minimum wage and afford to live,” he said.

The son of an immigrant, Pombo said he would seek solutions to “eliminate any benefits” to moving to the U.S. while undocumented. He suggested making the process to become an immigrant less complex and said he supports the use of ID cards for immigrants.

Pombo said he is pro-choice but does not view abortion as a “substitute for birth control.” He also identifies as a moderate Democrat and believes his views may woo Republican voters if he advances to the general election this November.

In addition to that, he said his technical background give him a competitive edge over Turner if elected.

Pombo has not accepted donations to his primary campaign, saying he wants voters to save their money to support whoever advances to the fall.

Montgomery County GOP files complaint against Cox

The Montgomery County Republican Party says it filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging a campaign finance violation from Amy Cox, one of four Democrats competing in the primary to take on Dayton’s Republican Congressman Mike Turner this November.

The complaint was signed by Montgomery County GOP Chairman and state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp. It alleges that Cox failed to file her federal statement of candidacy within the FEC’s required time frame.

According to federal rules, all federal candidates are required to formally notify the FEC of their candidacy within 15 days of becoming an actual candidate, which occurs when the individual or someone authorized on their behalf raises or spends over $5,000 toward a campaign.

Publicly available FEC filings show that Cox eclipsed $5,000 raised as early as Oct. 17, 2023, making her a candidate under FEC rules. Plummer’s complaint alleges that Cox did not file the follow-up paperwork until Nov. 29, nearly a month after the 15-day window expired.

When asked for comment last week, Cox deferred this news organization to Corey Colombo, an attorney for Cox overseeing the complaint.

Colombo said that his office received the complaint late Friday and was looking it over, but he declined to share any further details on such short notice. Colombo did note that Cox’s candidate committee was at least known to the FEC due to a statement of organization filing on Oct. 3, a full week before the committee raised any funds.

Cox linked the complaint to Turner, despite his name being unmentioned in the FEC filing.

“No one should be surprised that Mike Turner is turning to desperate D.C. tactics,” Cox told this news organization. “He can’t defend his radical anti-choice, anti-democracy record, so his only hope is to attack me — a mom, a teacher, a union member and a Miami Valley lifer. Mike Turner is scared, and should be.”

Dayton Daily News archives show Turner himself filed FEC complaints against his challengers in 2020, 2018, 2016 and 2013.

Turner’s campaign declined to comment for this story.

- Avery Kreemer, staff writer

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