Growing up on the south side of Chicago in the 1980s, Julius Bailey says he was definitely a city boy.
But it was the summers he spent in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana that provided him with his rural influences. In Louisiana he saw people without a good pair of shoes and those for whom eating meat was a rarity. These visits gave him new perspectives that he carries with him to this day.
“I understood poverty for the first time,” says Bailey, a Springfield resident and associate professor of philosophy at Wittenberg University.
These types of influences along with a desire to be a voice for the forgotten have convinced Bailey to seek the Democratic nomination for Ohio's next governor in the 2022 election. Bailey announced his interest in candidacy this week.
Bailey recognizes his hurdles: He has never held office, doesn't have large coffers and is Black in a nation that has elected few Black governors. He knows he's not the typical, seasoned politician.
“Quite frankly, I think that could be my biggest asset,” he says.
Bailey, 48, lived in Chicago with his mom, stepfather, and a younger sister, and his biological father was a professional football player. He counts his grandfather, a Baptist minister, as one of his greatest mentors, but Bailey converted to Catholicism in elementary school and for a time wanted to become a priest.
“At center who I am is a man of deep faith,” says Bailey, who has two daughters, ages 21 and 13.
It was as a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., that Bailey saw politics up close when he earned a congressional internship and later traveled to London on a Fulbright fellowship to study and, while there, worked for a year at the House of Commons. When he returned to D.C., he decided to focus more on community work and worked for Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition.
He earned a doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later moved to Ohio to teach at Central State University. Since 2010 he has been at Wittenberg, where in addition to teaching philosophy, he also is a pre-law adviser and director of both the African and Diaspora Studies program and the Justice, Law and Public Policy program.
His interests and focus both as a philosopher and as a cultural critic have made him an author and, more recently, the host of his own online radio show. Bailey has written four books and edited two more. His current book, “Racism, Hypocrisy, and Bad Faith: A Moral Challenge to the America I Love,” was published earlier this year.
His radio show, “Straight No Chaser with Dr. Julius Bailey,” was prompted by COVID-19, when he wanted to continue to engage and teach despite the pandemic.
“I needed to get my voice out,” he says, adding that he also wanted the show to be a platform for other voices.
The show's first season ended this week, with thousands of views. It centered on African American voices, he says, and guests included vice chairwoman of the Ohio Democratic Party and former Dayton mayor Rhine McLin, as well as philosopher Cornel West, under whom Bailey was a head teaching fellow at Harvard University.
The second season of Bailey's show is scheduled to begin on Sept. 7, and he says it will expand to also focus on marginalized people.
Bailey says he comes from a theological position that leadership is about service. As part of that service, he has been involved in youth organizations both when he lived in Illinois and since moving to Ohio, such as Springfield Promise. He also has led Wittenberg's Minority Men Striving to Succeed (M2S2) group since 2017.
Ohio's election for governor is in November 2022, and Bailey says he will use the next two years to reach as many Ohioans as possible. Bailey says he is running for hope, opportunities and investments in human potential, including for Ohioans in urban areas, rural counties and marginalized communities.
“It's really about all of us,” he says.
That includes Springfield, where he is troubled by the cycle of poverty but encouraged when he sees families of different races in the same neighborhood. Baily says leaders often say that Springfield is a small city with big-town problems, but he feels that Springfield has the capacity and will to make changes.
Bailey says he spoke to more than 100 people as he was considering a run for governor. Only one person told him to reconsider – because his heart is too big.
“When I heard that my heart was too big for politics, I took that as a challenge,” he says.