This summer, Leeper-Perkins Road resident Melissa Ackison was invited to the White House to talk with President Donald Trump about the failure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Now, a few months later, she’s fed up and is looking to take matters into her own hands.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that the Republican establishment was just as lethal to the president or the peoples’ agenda as the Democratic Party,” she said. “Party lines are meaning very little at this point in time.”
Ackison, who’s relatively unknown in politics, announced her bid for the Republican nomination for one of the two Ohio seats for U.S. Senate last month. If she gets the nomination, she’ll run against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown.
She’s a small business owner who grew up in the West Side of Columbus. She co-owns Ackison Surveying, LLC, in Blacklick with her husband, Rich. She has four children, one of who, Nathan, works with her at the company; another, Nicholas, is in the army and is scheduled to ship off to Afghanistan today. The other two are eight-year-old Royce and one-year-old Cross.
According to her, a combination of factors led to her decision, though it was spurred by the gridlock seen earlier this year in the denial of ACA replacement bills in congress.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat,” she said. “It matters if you’re being an obstructionist to any activity.”
When the “skinny” repeal was turned down by the U.S. legislature this summer, Ackison said she looked to see who was running for senate next year. She didn’t like what she saw.
“I did not feel confident that they stood a chance and had the emotional vested energy that I had for people,” she said.
For Ackison, her choice comes from experience as well. She herself lives with a condition call fibrous dysplasia, a disorder where scar-like tissue develops in the place of normal bone. The left side of her face is artificial, and she said she’s had more than 22 reconstructive surgeries. She said the marketplace has been “decimated” by the ACA, making it hard to find affordable plans.
It was this issue that brought her family to Washington, D.C. this summer. The Trump administration invited her to speak about problems with her young son, who was mistakenly kicked off their insurance plan and then denied coverage. After that, her family couldn’t afford high premiums and deductibles of their ACA marketplace plan.
“It financially stripped my family,” she said.
Ackison said she believes these higher premiums are designed to steer people toward a single-payer system. She said she believes in a more free market driven system.
“At least tell people and be honest about what you’re doing,” she said. “Don’t financially cripple people along the way.”
Her time struggling with the ACA is the center of a major theme in Ackison’s campaign; she styles herself as someone who can legislate from experience, not from looking at statistics from a distance.
The way the federal government handles problems drives home her opinion that community-based solutions work far better.
For example, she reached out to the state to gauge how the U.S. was handling unemployment. According to her, she found out that many of the programs in place were being rated less on job placement and more on how quickly people were put on entitlement programs.
She said it’s not necessarily that people are lazy, it’s that the way policies are implemented, it’s often more financially sound to stay on entitlement programs. The government cannot expect someone to seek out work if being on welfare is more fiscally responsible for them.
“Many individuals would love to have better economic opportunity,” she said. “However, if they step out of line or they increase their hours or they earn a little bit more, they’re going to lose some of the systems they they’re set up on.”
Ackison said immigration is a piece of that problem as well. In the private sector, she said she developed integration programs for immigrants who came to work in distribution centers. She said assimilation of immigrants into local culture is important.
“I have no problem going into these communities,” she said. “This is how we’re going to get things resolved and fixed. It’s not going to come from Washington and out-of-touch policies.”
Ackison is extremely focused on her campaign, but she said in the end, if she’s elected, it won’t be a long-term gig for her. She said to her, many of the problems in politics today come from the fact that many in congress are there for several consecutive terms. They’ve become disconnected from the people they represent.
Ackison said after her six years in the senate, she’ll likely move onto something new back in the private sector.
“The republic was never designed to create a career lifestyle,” she said. “This is a one-term deal for me.”
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