Democrat Ken Harbaugh is making his first run at political office in a district that leans so Republican that incumbent Bob Gibbs didn’t even have a challenger four years ago. But Harbaugh is also one of the hundreds of vets taking a run at Congress this year with the backing of partisan and nonpartisan veterans groups. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports from one of a series of town halls that Harbaugh has organized throughout Ohio’s 7th Congressional District.
Ken Harbaugh was a Navy pilot who ran a nonprofit through which vets delivered emergency relief to disaster spots around the world. But the first question asked of him at the meeting in a Steelworkers hall in Dover was what kind of constituent service he’d provide in a district that cuts from Lake Erie, southwest to Amish country and back Northeast to Canton.
The second question was about gun safety. Harbaugh called for “common sense” gun control and elaborated after the meeting.
“I grew up hunting with my grandfather who grew up hunting to feed his family. But I go to these VFW halls and say, ‘You guys, if anyone in here needed a bump stock to get their deer on the opening day of the season, you’re a terrible hunter. You need to go back to the range. And everyone gets that.”
Harbaugh also responded to questions about the shrinking middle class, Social Security, veterans, worker rights and health care.
He acknowledges his parents voted for President Trump but says healthcare led him to the Democrats.
“Lizzie, our middle daughter, needed four surgeries before she turned 4 years old, and Annmarie and I scheduled the first one of those not knowing how we would pay for it. We got lucky. I got a great job with a Cleveland firm and they took care of us. But it shouldn’t be a role of the dice. We’re the richest country on earth.”
Harbaugh is running against incumbent Republican Bob Gibbs for the district, which veers from near Lake Erie southwest to central Ohio, then northeast through Canton. Both easily won their party primaries. Harbaugh has the backing of veterans groups who are supporting one of the largest classes of vets running for Congress in the post-Vietnam era.