AKRON, Ohio — As November’s midterm elections approach, Republican Madison Gesiotto Gilbert spoke exclusively with Spectrum News about her race against Democratic State Rep. Emilia Sykes in Ohio’s 13th District.
A full, uncut conversation can be watched above or the full transcript can be read below. This interview took place on Aug. 26, 2022.
The full report on the race in the 13th Congressional District can be watched and read by clicking here.
Taylor Popielarz: So, you’ve been running for a while now. You’re making your pitch every day to voters. What is your 30-second elevator pitch for why you’re running, why you deserve to win?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Yeah, I jumped into this race because I was sick of the same issues people across the district were sick of and the lack of solutions. I’m the only candidate in this race that’s talking about the commonsense solutions on these issues, when it comes to inflation, when it comes to [the] energy crisis, when it comes to the prices from the gas pump to the grocery store. People are making decisions they simply shouldn’t have to make. It’s impacting people personally, as well as businesses across the district, and I’m excited about having a solution in January that can actually have a positive impact on these issues.
Taylor Popielarz: The new 13th District is pretty vast, goes from farmland to cities like Akron. Would you say there’s a top issue facing the district right now?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Inflation. Absolutely the top issue. We’re seeing it across the district, we’re seeing across the state, and we’re seeing it across the country. That’s the issue that we hear about the most on the trail, that’s the issue that continues to poll the highest. That’s what people are worried about, and that’s what they’re feeling. And it’s very unfortunate because a couple years ago, we had a very prosperous economy and people weren’t faced with the type of decisions that they’re faced with right now. And it really breaks my heart to see and hear the stories of what types of decisions people are making that they really shouldn’t have to be.
Taylor Popielarz: As voters start to pay attention to the election in the fall, and they start to compare you and your opponent, what’s your argument for why you’re right for the job and Emilia Sykes is wrong for it?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Well, once again, I’m the only candidate talking about the commonsense solutions to these issues. The reality is in Washington, and it’s really not just Democrats, but Republicans and Democrats, both for many years have continued to spend, spend, spend. We didn’t get to $30 trillion of national debt by accident. And continuing to grow the government and continuing to spend money we simply don’t have is not the solution that’s going to work. And so, I think that’s the main difference. You know, when you look at what I want to do for the district, I want to see government shrink, not grow. I want to see people be able to once again go back to that prosperous economy. And I mean, another thing too that we continue to talk about is just people being fed up with career politicians. It’s something I’ve been talking about for years. I’m sick of people who have never had a job outside of the taxpayer dime. And as a business owner, I know what it’s like to sign both sides of a paycheck. I know what it’s like to struggle with the issues people across this district are struggling with. And I feel like I can relate and hopefully bring to the table these solutions in January.
Taylor Popielarz: To that point, you’re a first-time candidate. It’s been reported that you’re more than a year late to file a certified financial disclosure form. That’s part of law when you run for office like this. As people learn about you and your background, why haven’t you been able to file that paperwork?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: How could you be more than a year late when I haven’t even been a candidate for a year? I don’t think that really makes sense.
Taylor Popielarz: Well, the—I guess, when the deadline happened. I read reports about it, so I wanted to ask you about it.
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: I’ve not been a candidate for a year in anything. I’ve never been a candidate before this. That doesn’t make much sense.
Taylor Popielarz: OK. But have you filed the financial disclosure form that’s required?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: We will be filing.
Taylor Popielarz: And I know you’re past the deadline. Maybe it’s not been a year, but you’re past the deadline, so why?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: We’ll be filing the report. Feel free to look at it.
Taylor Popielarz: OK. As people learn your background, obviously, they might have seen you on TV or read some of the columns that you’ve written in previous years. Talk about the experience you have in the workforce. You alluded to the fact that you’re a small business owner, what is that business? What should people know about you on that front?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Sure. So, I’m an attorney. I’ve been serving the community for the past four years, practicing in Canton, Ohio, which is not too far from where I’m from in the Massillon/Jackson Township area. Spent my whole life in Jackson Township. And obviously my husband and I are now small business owners, so the past two years have been very difficult for us. We own Seven Hills, it’s a public golf course, little restaurant and bar in Hartville, Ohio, here in the district. And we’ve been dealing with the worker shortages everyone else has been dealing with. Last year was very, very difficult. I was doing all the hiring for our business, I couldn’t get workers to save our lives. Did everything from online to going around to hardware stores and diners and going the old school way, putting up fliers, trying to find people who wanted to come and fill these positions, and being seasonal was even harder on us. So I went, you know, from not being able to fill them to getting my whole family together, trying to do and learn everything we could. I was serving as bartender; I was running leagues; I was out there cutting grass sometimes. We did everything to keep our business alive and unfortunately, competitors of ours closed. It’s a very difficult time to be a business owner in a place like the Midwest because of what’s been going on. On top of that we’re dealing with the gas prices. All of our carts are run by gas, our equipment to maintain our course is run by diesel, so that’s been a cost for us, unexpected this year. And then with what’s going on overseas, we’re dealing with increased prices with fertilizer as well.
Taylor Popielarz: You’re a Stark County native, as you alluded to. It’s also been reported that in the last couple of years, you’ve bought a few different homes in the county and there have been allegations from some political watchers in Ohio that you were district shopping, including texting with the Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, as the redistricting process was playing out. What’s your response to those accusations?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Sure. So, I think if you look at it, it’s actually very inaccurate reporting. So, I bought a house when I graduated from law school and I was practicing. That house is in the same district as both the other houses they’re reporting on. My husband and I bought a house together that was actually on our business, on our golf course. We still own that, and it’s still there. And then we moved literally 10 minutes down the road, where I’m from, into our hopefully permanent home. So, it’s all in the same district. They’re all within, you know, miles of each other. So, the fact that people are pretending they were all different districts and I’m district shopping is just quite funny, honestly.
Taylor Popielarz: You did initially want to run in the 9th District, which at the time was centered in Toledo. What was your thinking with that before you jumped back to the 13th?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Redistricting was up in the air. There was a lot of confusion as to where the maps would ultimately end. And a couple of days before filing, they ended the way that they did and we’re excited to be here in my hometown running. And we’ve had great response on the ground and the message is resonating and we’re excited about Nov. 8.
Taylor Popielarz: The new Ohio 13 will, for the first time, include all of Summit County. Your opponent and her family have a long political background—
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: It’s been over 50 years since Summit’s been whole, so we’re excited about it.
Taylor Popielarz: As someone who lives right outside of Summit County, that’s where you grew up and everything, do you think it will be a challenge to go up against somebody who’s kind of known in that county as political royalty?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: I think any toss-up district like this is a challenge. I think the biggest mistake that any Republican across the country right now can make is running like they’re ahead. We should always be running like we’re behind, making sure that you’re doing everything to get the message out there, to meet every single voter you can possibly meet, and share the message of what you want to do. I’m running because I want to be a voice for this district and that’s what we’re making sure we share with people each and every day.
Taylor Popielarz: You were an early supporter of Donald Trump when he entered the political scene in 2016. What drew you to him initially?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: The president’s policies that he was proposing, promising people in 2015 that he was going to bring to this country. Obviously, a lot of people, including Republicans, very skeptical of him at that time. They didn’t believe him. He’s never been a politician before. They didn’t think he was going to execute on those promises, and we ultimately saw that he made promises and kept them. A lot of what he said on the campaign trail in 2016 ultimately came to fruition and it did positively benefit people. So that was why I supported the president, and [am] very happy with what he did during those four years, you know, policy-wise.
Taylor Popielarz: When the Capitol was attacked on Jan. 6, 2021, did Trump’s reaction to that change your impression of him at all?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: I think when you look at what happened at the Capitol, and you look at any incident of political violence, it’s just simply unacceptable. I don’t support anything that is against the law. Everybody should be held accountable for their actions and to the fullest extent of the law in any situation.
Taylor Popielarz: I looked back. On the morning of that day, Jan. 6, 2021, you had tweeted, “Without free and fair elections, who are we as a nation?” I wanted to check in now. Do you believe what the former president still claims, that the 2020 election was stolen?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: I think, no matter what moving forward, you look at any election; we need to make sure that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat. Doesn’t matter what election it is, whether we look back 10 years or we look forward 10 years from now. As Americans, what’s so great about our country is that we have free and fair elections that many other countries do not. So making sure we protect that system, in addition to doing things like, you know, purging outdated voter rolls across the country, something I’ve been talking about for many years before 2020. All very important.
Taylor Popielarz: You’ve welcomed his endorsement in this race. I know you’re still a fan of his. He’s kind of made it a litmus test since 2020, that people who he will support, in theory, have to agree with him that the 2020 election was stolen. Is it fair for constituents in Ohio 13 to feel that that’s what you believe?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: I’m proud to have the president’s endorsement. I’m proud to have the endorsement of incredible Republicans, from not only here in Ohio, but across the country. I mean, the list is very, very long and we’re super excited. I mean, we have Senator Rob Portman’s endorsement. We have former Speaker of the House John Boehner’s endorsement. We have leadership far and wide: Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik, Tom Emmer. So many leaders in the Republican Party have stepped behind us, and some of them early on in the primary actually, because they recognize the importance not only of these 2022 midterms, but the importance of this district and the importance of the message of what we’re trying to spread and do for Ohio’s 13th.
Taylor Popielarz: On the policy front, Roe versus Wade getting struck down was obviously a big story. A lot of people across Ohio have a lot of feelings about it. You’re about to have a baby. Your opponent has been very critical of your–
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: About three weeks away [laughs].
Taylor Popielarz: Yeah [laughs]. And you’re still chugging along.
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Very close to having a baby.
Taylor Popielarz: It’s very impressive. Your opponent has been very critical of your stance on abortion. I was with her just yesterday. She was telling voters that you don’t believe in any exceptions, even for rape or incest. As a soon-to-be mother, and also as a conservative, can you explain your stance on it? And for voters who may say, I think that’s a decision I should have the right to make, what’s your argument against that?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: When you look at the court case, it was always something that should have been in the states, for the states to decide. So, I think that the Supreme Court made the right decision on that, now it’s back in the states and the people will make those decisions. And the legislatures will do their jobs in each prospective state. I am fighting and running in this race because I want the future of this country to be better for my son, and for my children. The American dream is really why so many people have come to this nation. My family came to this nation to chase the American dream, to live out the freedoms and prosperous opportunities that we’re so blessed to have as Americans. I want every single American to continue to have those freedoms and opportunities and to have that faith in the American dream. A lot of people, I think, have become very discouraged and we want to change that. And so we’re in this race trying to fight for the future of this nation and I’m very proud to be able to do that.
Taylor Popielarz: Is it true that you don’t believe in exceptions for things like rape or incest?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: It’s true that, what I just told you, that I think it’s for the states to decide. And I’ve always been a huge pro-life supporter. You can look back 10 years. It’s not a secret what I believe, and I’m very proud to stand up for life.
Taylor Popielarz: And then lastly, for you, you alluded to your opponent earlier, calling her a career politician, both her parents have been in office. What do you say to voters who look at the Sykes family and say, I like that because they’ve been at the state legislature. Clearly, it’s kind of a natural step to go up to Capitol Hill in D.C. Why should we trust you as a political newcomer? What’s your argument?
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Well, I think that’s the exact problem that we have. It shouldn’t be a natural step to live off the taxpayer dime for decades. I mean, we need people—and that’s why I support term limits—we need people who come into office for a short period of time to do good, not come into office to make a career of it and to live off of taxpayers for 10, 20, 30, 40 years. People are sick of that. It’s not just Democrats, Republicans too, we’re sick of it. We want people who are going to get in there, who are going to legislate, who are going to be a part of the solution, then go back to living off—you know, whatever they do, whether that be an attorney or small business owner or manufacturing worker. Whatever their prospective job is, that’s what you should go back to. You shouldn’t be on the political dime for 20, 30, 40 years.
Taylor Popielarz: Alright, we covered a lot. Thanks so much.
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert: Great, thank you.