YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Community Mobilization Coalition of Greater Youngstown along with the Junior Civic League held a candidate forum Monday evening giving the opportunity to candidates in several races to participate.

No Republican candidates chose to take part in the virtual forum. Other Democratic and Independent candidates presented their stances and argued why they felt they would be the best pick in the upcoming November election.

Candidate for Ohio Senate J.D. Vance did not respond to the invite to participate, but his opponent Tim Ryan did and was asked several questions. One topic he was questioned on was President Joe Biden’s recent student loan forgiveness decision. Ryan was asked why it was difficult for him to say he supported it.

“My wife and I are still paying off her student debts… I think it’s outrageous that there are 9 to 10 percent, 12 percent student loan rates, I think that’s where the problem is. My idea of how you fix this is you allow people to renegotiate down their rates, down to 1 or 2 percent… My big problem with it is that we didn’t do anything with it to fix the cost of college,” Ryan said.

In the race for Congress in the 6th District, Republican candidate Bill Johnson did respond to the invite to participate, however, could not due to a prior commitment.

Candidate Louis Lyras spoke on the importance of unions and his own connection to the working class. When asked about his thoughts on unions shrinking, he said it dates back decades.

“The unions have been shrinking since the mid-80s… They’ve been shrinking and it’s partly our fault because we’ve allowed, we as far as a union person, we’ve gotten lazy… What we’re doing now is we’re really enhancing a lot of apprenticeship programs. We wanna bring a lot of people in, young men and women… Not just college education, we wanna make sure that the trades are being addressed, and that will build the unions. But we wanna make sure there’s legislation like the Pro Act that guarantees that we support the unions,” Lyras said.

Lyras also made mention of his experience as a business owner, being co-owner of Penguin City Beer in Youngstown.

The next race was for the 7th District Court of Appeals judge. Mark Hanni did not respond to an invite to join, but Judge Gene Donofrio took part and spoke on the importance of non-partisan people working in the courts.

“There’s certain forces that would like to bring in partisan politics to the judiciary and there’s absolutely no place for partisan politics. We are to make a decision based solely on the facts in front of us and the law of the case,” he said.

In the race for Ohio Senate in the 33rd District, Michael Rulli did not participate or respond to the invite. Former senator and state Representative Bob Hagan answered the panel’s questions and explained why he decided to run again.

“I never imagined that I’d be standing and running for election again, but there’s a battle raging for the future of our state, the soul of our nation and the very existence of our democracy,” he said.

He went on to speak about inflation and the public school systems.

Other candidates who took part in the forum included candidates for state representative of the 59th District: Gregory Beight, Lauren McNally and Eric Ungaro; candidates for state representative for the 58th District: William Bruce Neff (candidate Al Cutrona did not respond to the invite); and candidates for county commissioner: Carol Rimedio-Righetti (candidate Geno DiFabio, Jr. did not respond to the invite).

At the end of the forum, Pastor Kenneth Simon thanked the candidates who participated and made mention of the ones who did not, stating that for 23 years both parties have participated in the forums but that recently changed.

“All of a sudden, in the primary of this year, one of the parties of candidates decided to ignore our forums. Not only ignoring ours, but most of the forums in the community. So I want you to take note of that because people who disrespect us do not deserve our vote,” he said.

To watch a playback of the full debate, click here.