Voices: Attacks on Steve Huffman ‘unhinged vitriol and character assassination’

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Ohio Representative J. Todd Smith says attacks against Ohio Senator Steve Huffman are wrong. Huffman received sharp criticism in June after he asked a witness

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Editor’s note: State Sen. Steve Huffman received sharp criticism last month after he asked a witness in a hearing whether the “colored population” has been hit harder by COVID because they may not wash their hands as well as other groups. This commentary by Ohio Rep. J. Todd Smith will appear in the Dayton Daily News’ Ideas and Voices page. Smith represents Ohio’s 43rd district which covers Preble and portions of Montgomery County.

Recently, my State Senator Dr. Stephen Huffman made some comments during a committee meeting which some thought to be racially insensitive or even racially motivated.

While reviewing a resolution addressing racism and public health, he admitted to stumbling over the words used in the resolution “people of color” and instead accidentally used the words “colored people.”

ExploreLawmaker Huffman asks about 'colored population' not washing their hands as well as others

He was subsequently attacked for being racist in the national media and fired from the doctor’s group with which he was employed for 25 years.

“If anyone thinks Senator Huffman is a bigot, there can be only one of three explanations: they do not know Senator Huffman, they are a bigot themselves or they are just a purposefully uninformed ideologue.”

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Much has been said about the comment but nothing has been said in the news or social media about the life of Senator Huffman that would put that one moment in context.

Here are a few things I can tell you about this man having known and worked with him for a number of years now.

Dr. Huffman is a devout Christian who was raised in Miami County in an overwhelmingly white community. He chose though to drive his children to downtown Dayton so they could attend the racially diverse Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School and thereby gain greater exposure to their faith and the world at large.

During his children’s time there, Dr. Huffman volunteered as team physician for every sport in which his children played.

Ohio Representative J. Todd Smith
Ohio Representative J. Todd Smith

This had him serving all the young athletes, black and white, going into their homes at all hours of the day to check on them and encourage their progress.

Dr. Huffman has also for the last 14 consecutive years went on foreign mission trips to provide free medical services to African communities

ExploreLawmaker fired from physician job; groups call for him to resign seat

Senator Huffman has spent a lifetime serving all facets of community here and abroad with not one hint of bigotry or bias. The question to be asked is if one unclear and misinterpreted statement is enough to destroy and disqualify a lifetime of service.

It is interesting to note that during the hearing not one of the members of the crowd or committee took any offense, got up and walked out.

Not one.

The statement was that benign. It was not till later when some realized this could be twisted, weaponized and used for political purpose in an election year.

If anyone thinks Senator Huffman is a bigot, there can be only one of three explanations: they do not know Senator Huffman, they are a bigot themselves or they are just a purposefully uninformed ideologue.

Steve Huffman, candidate for Ohio House 80th District, 2014
Steve Huffman, candidate for Ohio House 80th District, 2014

This type of unhinged vitriol and character assassination has to stop. We as a community and nation are trying to have an honest conversation about the issues of race. Allowing this kind of illegitimate action pushed by partisan, self-serving opportunists will not advance that cause. Such dishonest actions will hinder and ultimately destroy any honest conversation.

J. Todd Smith is State Representative for Ohio’s 43rd district which covers Preble and portions of Montgomery County. He is married with four children and lives in Farmersville, Ohio.