In November, Danica Roem made national headlines when she defeated Bob Marshall, a 25-year Republican incumbent, for a seat in the Virginia state legislature. Roem, a Democrat, was the first person in the country to win a state legislative seat after openly campaigning as #transgender.
Now, Alice Freitas, a 22-year-old trans woman, wants to follow in Roem’s footsteps. Originally from Stow, Freitas has lived in #Kent for a few years. She has declared her candidacy for Ohio House District 75, which includes Kent, Streetsboro, Ravenna and all of southern Portage County.
Freitas formerly attended #Kent State, studying forensic psychology. She took a year off of school to focus on her political career.
Fusion: What issues are facing the 75th district and what’s your plan to address them?
Alice Freitas: Some of our biggest concerns are directly related to students. The opiate epidemic has been one of the biggest problems the 75th has faced. We’ve been hit particularly hard.
When it comes to the epidemic, we want to funnel more money into mental health programs that has been previously siphoned away. We want to lobby the federal government for more block grants to put Narcan [a medicine which revives people from opiate overdoses] in the hands of every emergency worker, from firefighters to policemen to the EMS workers. And I want to make a statewide ordinance that bars #local municipalities from disalllowing officers to administer Narcan.
When it comes to students, we want to do an expansion of what’s called the Ohio Opportunity Grant. It’s sort of our local Pell grant. We feel that if we increase it from its current $800 limit, it’s going to allow more and more people to get a higher education.
F: Is that $800 per semester?
AF: Per semester and per student.
But we feel that if we match or get close to what the federal level is able to do with the Pell grant, that we can fully fund most people’s public educations, which, if we’re able to do that, will make Ohio one of the most progressive when it comes to college education.
The other issue, which is also an idea close and dear to my heart, is that if you’re a college student, there’s a work requirement in order to get food stamps. Which can make it difficult for lower-income students to receive benefits. That’s a requirement we’d like to be rid of.
Editor’s Note: In 2013, Gov. John Kasich issued a directive which required all able-bodied adults without dependents to work, volunteer or attend job training programs for at least 20 hours per week, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. Further explanation of the directive can be found in the Ohio Administrative Code 5101:4-3-11, “Food assistance: work registration and exemptions.”
AF: We want to clear up these requirements. A big problem, also, is that their electronic filing system, if you use that, they get to you exponentially slower. Which means that people who don’t have access to transportation, it means they’re at the back of line, compared to everybody else.
Along the lines of education, we’d like to get more money into the local trade schools. Because higher education–I believe it’s a false term, for one. I think that education is education. And that college isn’t for everybody. And we need to give the out, for everyone in the district to get an education that suits their skills and would most benefit them.
F: What originally made you want to run for office?
AF: Getting the [#LGBTQ] nondiscrimination ordinance passed in the City of Kent. I decided that yes, I could, of course, advocate from here to Kingdom Come, but there’s nothing more powerful than being the voice that gets to say yes or no.
And after doing some of my own research, I realized that a trans person had not only never been elected to office in Ohio, but had never even been on the ballot. And I believe that’s something that needed to change. I may be 22, but I think I bring good ideas to the statehouse.
F: Over the past year, there has been a lot of talk about a variety of controversial issues, such as healthcare, different tax plans and gun control. What are your positions?
AF: When it comes to gun control, we definitely need to get our act together. Ohio has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. For example, there is no statewide gun registry. You’re not required to register any firearm in the state of Ohio.
Editor’s Note: Only Hawaii and the District of Columbia require registration of all firearms. Four additional states require registration only for certain types of firearms.
AF: And there’s actually a specific ordinance from the state that says that local municipalities are not allowed to create this, even in home rule areas which are traditionally allowed to operate more like autonomous regions.
And the fact is, we’re not allowed to research it, from the federal standpoint of the CDC [Center for Disease Control]. So, we definitely need to bump up background checks. I personally believe that we need to do everything in our power to get weapons away from people that plead down from domestic violence charges. Even if you plead down to a lesser charge, we should make it a state requirement that the federal ban on gun ownership should go into effect, no matter what you plead down to.
F: Would that mean that if someone is just charged with domestic violence, this would apply?
AF: No. This is only if they take a plea deal on that domestic violence charge. If they are acquitted, no action would be taken.
F: And on the healthcare and tax reform issues?
AF: When it comes to healthcare, we definitely need to step it up everywhere. We fully accept that police and firemen and ambulance workers are a right, something that everyone should have access to. I see it as simply a common sense proposal to say that everyone should have healthcare, regardless.
Until we can take it to Medicare on the national level, what we can do here in the state is expand our Medicaid program. Which is already doing a lot of good work in the state of Ohio. If you look at a lot of other states, like Texas, they don’t cover nearly as much as we do.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of room for improvement in every healthcare system. But I think simply expanding the range of people that can receive Medicaid will give us a good stopgap measure to take the time to look at how can we get everyone healthcare.
F: Do you mean supporting what Gov. Kasich did to expand Medicaid or expand it further?
AF: Expand it even further. I think even if you get into the lower middle class that those people can barely afford healthcare as it is, as premiums are rising. And you shouldn’t be making the choice between making your car payment or having health insurance.
F: And on tax reform?
AF: This may sound cliche, but the richest need to do their part. We need to expand our taxes on the richest people in our population. They can take the hit much easier than our lower class. Ohio’s shown that we can do a lot of good with that money. From domestic violence to human trafficking to preventing all sorts of crimes to healthcare. If we have the money, we can do good things and I see no reason why the richest shouldn’t be able to contribute to the rest of us.
F: What’s your plan for winning the Democratic nomination? Why should Portage County vote for you instead of your opponents?
AF: It’s a tough race, I’ll give you that. I’ll be quite frank, I’m happy that it’s only women running. The 75th has three women running. But here’s the thing, the other two women, they’re separated from the issues of the majority of the county. Much of the county is students, Kent State and otherwise. And I don’t think they’re as close to the issues as I am.
F: A lot of the Kent State students don’t live here permanently, though.
AF: Many of them do. And we need younger people in #politics. We have a significantly different perspective. Even if you look at the slight age differences for people in our generation, going from non-tech to full-tech, there’s an entirely new idea set that we bring.
If you just look at a majority of Ohio’s paper bureaucracy and how difficult it can be to navigate. Bringing technological advances, digitizing our files in order to make them more generally available to the public, can do nothing but good. The more transparent the government is, it’s easier for the citizens to raise their issues, rather than it being mired in a sea of paperwork.
F: You’re essentially a political newcomer. If you win the Democratic nomination, how do you plan to take on the Republican nominee, Jim Lutz, who is running unopposed in the primary and has run for office before?
AF: I think that the best strategy I can do is get in front of people. It is really easy to demonize somebody that you don’t see. If I can get in front of people and explain to them what I’m about and what I want to affect in Ohio, that they’ll listen. And I think there’s no better remedy than talking with people personally. And once you get down to and really see that our interests are more aligned than they are different, that I’ll be able to, at least, tear some of them away.
F: If you do not win in the primary, will you support the Democratic nominee?
AF: Of course. Ohio is an intensely gerrymandered state. And this is one of those boxes we’ve been put in where a Democrat will most likely come out. Nothing is a guarantee but it’s been a gerrymandered district for quite some time. And we need to show as much solidarity as we can, when it comes to the statehouse. Because, more than likely, based on all the polling data we can see, there may be a majority, if not a supermajority, in the Ohio statehouse. And so we need to put up as close to a unified front as we can.
But, with that said, an addendum: that doesn’t mean we roll over. If the nominee is to go back on traditional Democratic or even leftist ideals, I wouldn’t be able to back them.
F: Which ideals are you referring to?
FA: At least, specifically to me, some of my most personally-held ideals are things like the Ohio Fairness Act [which prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing and access to public goods and services], which was trying to be put through the statehouse. If they were to come out against that, I don’t know if I could support them. There are certain things that, I could support you, but I can’t support you if you don’t support my right to live.
F: Last year, you filed to run for Kent City Council. However, you didn’t appear to get on the ballot. What happened?
AF: Unfortunately, there was a tragic paperwork issue. Before the 2016 presidential election, I had filed with one of the on-campus groups which were handing out voter registration and I updated my voter registration. Now, unfortunately, this voter registration never made it to the local board of elections and previous to this, I lived in Stow. And so, it showed, when it was coming around to  election time, that I was still technically a voting resident of Stow and as such, was not eligible. I didn’t have the residency requirement for one year.
F: Who do you support for Ohio Governor?
AF: That’s a tough question. Politics in Ohio are tough, because Ohio is a deeply purple state. And, I will say that I have heard a lot from the candidates, but I’m going to wait until I’m able to meet more of them and get more of their detailed ideas on policy before I make my final decision.
F: Anything else you’d like to share?
AF: Just the idea to always stay active. In this sort of political turmoil that we seem to be facing, every week a new scandal, it’s easy to get burnt out. If you’re a political activist, make sure to take time, because we’re all feeling the burn out at this point. And just because you have to take a break doesn’t mean you’re stepping away from the fight. If anything, you’re coming in to relieve the troops who have been here. Take the time you need and keep fighting the good fight.