ATHENS – Ohio Democratic governor candidate spoke to Athens County Democrats last week about her plans to revitalize the state and advocate on behalf of training and economic opportunities for working families.

In her speech, Sutton recalled growing up in Barberton, near Akron, the daughter of a boilermaker, going to law school, and winning election to Barberton City Council, then going to the Summit County Council, and at 29 being the youngest woman ever elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. In 2006, Sutton was elected to succeed now-U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown representing Ohio’s 13th Congressional District.

Sutton recalled a trip she took on Air Force One with then-President Barack Obama while she was in Congress in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession.

“We were trying to figure out how to make things work for everyday Ohioans just like the family I grew up in,” she said. “I was talking to the president about what I always talk about, and that’s how do we make things work, how do we create good jobs and opportunities, how do we get the economy back on track for people.”

Sutton said she then had something of an epiphany thinking about her father and how he worked to support the family and didn’t get to live his dreams. Yet, just a generation later she was on Air Force One talking to the U.S. president about how to make things better for working families.

“That is what drives me. That is why I won’t quit until we win this race and we govern in a way that creates an economy that works for everyone in this state,” she said.

Four Democrats are running currently for the gubernatorial nomination in 2018, including Sutton, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, from Boardman, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and former state Rep. Connie Pillich from the Cincinnati area.

After Sutton’s congressional district was divided up in 2011 after redistricting, she lost her 2012 re-election bid in what had become the heavily Republican-leaning 16th district. She then went to work for the Obama administration at the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation encouraging trade on the Great Lakes.

In a sit-down interview with Plunderbund before the Democratic dinner, Sutton spoke about why she has now decided to run for governor.

Sutton said that she has based her career around working to help families and communities like the ones she grew up in, whether she was in office or as a public-service union lawyer representing firefighters and educators.

She pointed to her accomplishments in Congress such as working for additional pay for American soldiers taking on extra tours of duty, fighting bad trade policy, and spearheading the “cash for clunkers” program to help revive the automobile sales and put 60,000 people to work. She also authored the provision of the Affordable Care Act that stopped insurance discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, she said.

Sutton said she doesn’t see Ohio as part of the “rust belt” to which some people disparagingly refer but rather what she calls the “opportunity belt.”

“We have merits in every part of this state,” she said. “As a governor with the right vision to partner with those who are on the ground, to help them maximize the merits and empower them with the tools and investments we need to make, we can really do amazing things in this state.”

In August, Sutton rolled out her proposal to create a new Ohio Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, which she said would put Ohio workers at the center of economic policy and planning while streamlining state bureaucracy with focuses on training, worker safety and job growth.

“I believe that when workers are at the center of our policy, we will increase jobs and wages and prosperity,” Sutton said. “We’re going to rekindle the spirit of innovation that drove Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and John Glenn to change the world.”

Not too long ago, she said, there was no Silicon Valley, no Microsoft, no Apple, but just some guys working in their garage.

“At this very moment, there’s someone working somewhere on the next big thing – I want it to take flight in Ohio,” she said.

Under Sutton’s proposal, the Department of Labor would seek to advocate for the economic well-being of Ohio workers while enhancing the state’s business climate, she said. It would work with other state agencies and engage educational institutions and break down barriers that make it difficult for state government agencies to work collaboratively, she said.

“This new department will build a new foundation in Ohio based on creating opportunities that will benefit workers and businesses,” she said. “Workers will no longer be an afterthought. The well-being of workers will be at every table. And, I believe we as a state and a people will be all the stronger for it.”