LORAIN — Candidates for Domestic Relations Court Judge want to see more diversity in the division’s staff but disagree on what that actually entails.
At the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress candidates’ forum Wednesday night, candidate and local defense attorney Mike Duff said the county is a very diverse one and the court staff should reflect that.
“Many of those staffs up there are mostly white and that does bother me,” he said. “I think something should be done so the staffs of judges reflect the people of this county in the same percentages.”
Incumbent Lisa Swenski disagreed, saying she doesn’t believe percentages are the answer but that she’s a big believer in racial diversity as well as “all kinds of diversity.”
“I tried to bring that with me when I came to court,” she said. “I would love to have a more diverse staff. I think we need to make a better effort to get people into the court to at least apply. Diversity is how we move forward. We learn from each other.”
Duff and Swenski are being joined by two other fellow Democrats — defense attorney Jack Bradley and magistrate Charlita Anderson White — in a primary race on May 8.
White said when the question about diversity among court staff was brought up a few years ago, she alone was the answer.
“A couple of years ago during the judicial debates the question was asked and the answer was me — Charlita Anderson White,” she said. “‘She’s qualified. She’s African-American. She’ll represent the community. That’s a very lonely place to be and when you come into a building where the people don’t look like you, you don’t understand why and you don’t know if you’re going to receive the appropriate cultural sensitivity.”
At the forum Bradley spoke about the need for Spanish interpreters in the Domestic Relations Court as things such as child custody, divorce and juvenile records hang in the balance. He said while residents might speak conversational English, they might not understand legal jargon in their second language.
“I think that every citizen is entitled to understand everything that’s going on from the time of their arrest to until the time their case is disposed of,” he said. “Interpreters should always be made available either in person or through the telephone.”
The forum also featured candidates from races for the Ohio General Assembly, including those running for the 13th state Senate district, held by term-limited Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and the 56th state House district, held by a term-limited Dan Ramos, D-Lorain.
Two of the Democratic candidates for the 56th district attended the forum, Joe Miller of Amherst and Cory Shawver of Lorain.
Miller discussed his experience as an elected official in Amherst, serving on City Council at large and Shawver said while he didn’t have experience as an elected official, he did have policy experience, having worked for elected officials such as former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott.
The other two Democrats running for the seat — Mark Ballard II and Claudia Olaes — were absent.
Current state Rep. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, who is running for his mother’s state Senate seat, touted his work for Lorain County while in the statehouse, pointing out a key moment where he bucked his party.
“I went against my party and voted no on House Bill 70 because it wasn’t good for Lorain County or this district,” he said. “I’m willing to stand up for what’s right in this district.”
House Bill 70 is a piece of legislation passed in 2015 that allows the state to take over school districts that have fallen into academic distress due to consistently low performance on state report cards. Youngstown and Lorain school districts are the only two that have been affected.
Manning will face Ryan Sawyer of Norwalk in the Republican primary and Democrats will be given the choice of Sharon Sweda and David Ashenhurst. The winners of the respective primaries will face off in November.
Candidates seeking to represent the 4th and 9th Congressional districts also attended the forum, although the incumbents Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, both were absent.
Representatives from the Lorain County Mental Health Board and the Lorain County Board of Developmental Disabilities also attended to discuss their respective renewal levies, Issue No. 4 and Issue No. 5.
Spectrum cable customers will be able to watch the forum periodically before the election on channel 1025.
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