NORWOOD, Ohio – The Democrats brought star power to the Cincinnati area Sunday for a rally just three days before the hotly contested midterm elections.
Music superstar John Legend shared the stage with 1st Congressional District candidate Aftab Pureval and encouraged a crowd gathered two blocks from the Hamilton County Board of Elections to overwhelm Republicans at the ballot box.
“Show up at the polls to vote in such overwhelming unprecedented numbers that their dogged efforts at suppression won’t work," Legend said.
"We're not just voting against their agenda, we're not just voting to hold (President) Trump accountable and check his abuses of power, though those are good reasons to vote. In Ohio, we also have positive reasons to vote, too!"
Legend also came to endorse Issue 1 – perhaps the hottest-button item on the Ohio ballot.
"I support Issue 1 because I believe it will save lives, families, and strengthen our communities. It protects public safety. It'll save the taxpayers money, too," Legend said.
Issue 1 would amend the state constitution to reduce penalties for using and possessing drugs like heroin, meth and cocaine. Those charges would become misdemeanors and carry no prison time.
“Every day people are struggling from the cycle of addiction," Legend said. "They’re in and out of incarceration, and they’re getting worse, not better, while their communities and families continue to suffer.
"I know first-hand about these issues."
Legend said the focus should be shifted from incarceration to treatment.
“People with addiction don’t need to be warehoused behind bars with their problems ignored. They need treatment. They need help,” Legend said. “We’ve tried the option of locking people up. It hasn’t solved the opioid epidemic. It hasn’t solved our overdose crisis.
"Voting yes on Issue 1 will save $100 million a year. Direct those savings to addiction treatment ... victims of crime ... putting the focus on healing and helping instead of locking up a bunch of low-level offenders,” Legend said.
Beth Bullock of Bethel disagrees.
"Totally against it," Bullock said of Issue 1. Her son died of a drug overdose in 2016.
"This is setting up for failure,” Bullock said. “It sounds good in theory. But when the rubber hits the road, this isn't going to work."
Bullock said she’s concerned that Issue 1 will hurt drug users by not getting them the treatment they need.