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Now is time to be vocal

News of Sen. Barack Obama making his first visit to the Tri-State this week, comes on the heels of a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows the Illinois senator ahead by 6 percentage points against Republican nominee John McCain in Ohio.

With that kind of a margin, his trip to Portsmouth looms large and could end up being a turning point in the campaign.

Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has put his support behind Obama and the campaign’s hope of the popular Appalachian governor can provide a key boost in this pivotal region.

“I think it’s important for people to see Barack Obama and to hear him personally, and to understand that Barack Obama is reaching out to them and asking for their support,” Strickland told the Associated Press.

It appears the Appalachian region of Ohio, based on the attention given to the area from McCain and Obama, is poised to make it clear the federal government has to do better here.

With unique challenges, it is important for both candidates to understand this region needs investment. To think that the Appalachian Regional Commission has to fight for a budget that totals fewer than $100 million annually is a little bit ridiculous.

The agency is responsible for infrastructure and development improvements for a region of the country that spans 13 states. In many cases, those funds can be matched with state dollars, but that kind of financial support is simply not sufficient if the real goal is to have tangible improvements that can lead to growth in Appalachia.

In the scope of the federal budget, even with the current financial decline taken into consideration, that is an amount that is unacceptable.

Now that this region has the attention of the national campaigns, it’s time to make our voices heard.