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Vote and Live: State Rep. Fred Strahorn on maintaining religious convictions in politics

By Zack Frink

On Sunday, state Rep. Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, opined on a variety of topics during the second installment of the “Vote and Live” virtual lecture series. The series organized by the Historic McKinley United Methodist Church engages politically prominent leaders on their faith and why November’s election is important.

Led by pastor Peter Edward Matthews, “Vote and Live” was integrated into the church's regular Sunday worship service since McKinley is operating differently due to COVID-19.

Strahorn discussed numerous topics including adversity the Dayton-area has faced within the past year, the importance of completing the census and how he aligned his faith with his political career.

“In politics, in your effort to walk a line between the U.S. and state constitutions, it can be difficult to make that match with your faith in a very literal way,” he said. “But I think there is nothing wrong with having your faith inform the directions that you go in within interpreting those constitutions and so that has always been the case for me.”

Strahorn’s religious views and desires for political bipartisanship were put to the test when he stepped down as House Minority Leader in January 2019. He supported Republican Ryan Smith for House speaker, but Larry Householder eventually won the job.

Householder, R-Glenford, and four others are accused of using nearly $61 million in dark money to build political power and pass a bailout law for an Akron-based energy company and its subsidiaries.

Looking back, Strahorn knew that he had to stick to his religious convictions. “For me, it was what's mom gonna say about this and is my soul intact when this is done?” he reflected. “I got to keep my soul intact and whatever anybody else does is on them. But I'm here to tell you today, I feel like my soul is intact and that's the most important thing to me.”

Analyzing the political system, Strahorn believes in implementing campaign finance reform as a primary way of reducing corruption in politics. “I'm a big proponent of publicly financed campaigns because I shouldn't be beholden to anybody but you for every vote I take,” he said. “I don't know why the American public doesn't see that as something that they should move on and happen.”

Since Strahorn is term-limited, he plans on getting back into real estate and focusing other efforts on education and cultivating Black entrepreneurship. Democrat Willis E. Blackshear Jr. will face Republican John Ferrell Mullins III for the vacated seat.

Looking towards national politics, Strahorn emphasized that every election is the most important election of your lifetime. He urged people to continually be active participants in the political process.

“This is your country, your process and you have the ability to make it look like what you want to,” he said. “Your obligation or commitment to voting or to politics or policy in America does not begin and end on election day. That is just one element of the process.”

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