by Ethan Goodman
Alaina Swope wants change and she’s ready to bring it.
The 23-year-old Zanesville native is running for Ohio State Representative to represent OH-97 and enters the race with a clear message.
“It’s about time Muskingum and Guernsey counties have a representative who is of and for working people,” Swopes declares on her website.
The Buckeye Flame caught up with Swope to talk about her political origins, her priorities, and how her queerness plays a role in her path forward.
What drew you to politics?
My first experience in politics was working for the Bernie Sanders in 2016 campaign. He was my first model of what a politician can be. That’s what lit the fire in me. I spent a lot of time in college working on his campaign, learning from people who have been in the game longer and learning how to build community. The rewarding part is seeing the sheer power people have when they get together for what we believe in. I believe in change and I believe we can get good working-class legislators in our government and see the policy that will lift people out of poverty and make healthcare accessible to everyone.
How have your life experiences prepared you for the Statehouse?
I am a working-class candidate and I am really proud to be because I have worked in in the service industry for almost 7 years now. It is a big part of who I am. I am close to the struggle of the folks I am fighting to represent because getting into the statehouse–the job that I am essentially applying for–is to be the voice of the people in my community. Of course you need the legislative skills and you need the policy knowledge. But the core of the job is to represent the people of your community. Most of my experiences up to this point have prepared me well to be a responsible and accessible representative.
What would be your policy priorities if elected?
I would want to start with really putting my name on a bill that would raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. The emphasis is on “at least” because we have to start somewhere to get to the end goal. My people need a living wage and that comes with fighting to keep unions strong, and fighting for unionized green energy jobs and green policies to make Ohio a more forward thinking, carbon neutral state. My district and my community need high paying jobs with benefits and secure retirement plans.
[Another] big issue that needs to be addressed in my community and in Appalachia in general is Broadband expansion because many of our constituents and our people don’t have reliable internet connection. Many people pay an extreme amount of money for a really poor connection.
And [we need]education reform. I wholeheartedly disagree with the system of funding schools with local property taxes. It’s a really complex issue but the system we are still using was deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1997 and yet we still have it in 2020. We need legislators fighting day and night to fix this because it’s really letting our students and teachers down.
What does it mean to you to be an openly queer woman running for office?
Sometime when I talk about this I get pretty emotional, so I’ll try not to cry here. When I first decided to run for office and run this campaign, it’s a pretty scary thing to do in general. Then add a layer of being a young woman, and being a progressive in a rural, traditionally conservative district. Those things were scary to go up against. So, building the courage to come out publicly was something that took me some time because I was worried the conversation about me–about my candidacy–would focus too much on my sexuality or who I was dating.
But it became more clear to me as I continued to campaign and meet more people, that it is way more important to be a visible queer person in rural Ohio, than it is to worry about what what comments they might make. [Those comments] becomes completely irrelevant when I think about the queer kids in Zanesville and Cambridge who don’t see themselves in any type of leader in their area, let alone someone running to represent them. I know what it feels like to be a queer kid in Zanesville and not really understand what queerness is. Thankfully I was privileged enough to go away to college, travel the world, and get to see what queerness is and what it looks like and means to me. If I can bring that back to Southeast Ohio, and bring it back proudly, that’s what it means to me to be openly queer and running for office.
- Learn more about Alaina Swope’s bid for the Ohio House of Representatives by visiting her website or Facebook page.
- Registering to vote LITERALLY takes less than two minutes. Go to https://www.vote.org/register-to-vote/ohio/ to start and finish this process right this very second.
Ethan Goodman is a political advocate based in Columbus, Ohio