DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The chairman of the Democratic National Committee stopped in Dayton Monday on his way to Tuesday’s democratic presidential candidate debate in Westerville. Tom Perez says Ohio is not only in play, he insists the state will flip next year and vote democrat. 

At Tuesday’s debate at Otterbein University, Perez expects all 12 candidates to address gun violence. “The differences, frankly, between the democrats and republicans are 100%.” 

Perez says one of the issues that most illustrates that divide is gun violence. After meeting with families affected by gun violence, Perez and others repeatedly slammed GOP leadership over a failure to act on reform measures. 

Crystal Turner lost two children to gun violence. She says, “My children’s lives were taken. You owe me change. I want to see my grandchildren live. We simply want change. I don’t want a prayer, I don’t want a thought, you owe me change.” 

Perez was one of several democrats barnstorming Ohio ahead of Tuesday’s primary debate at Otterbein University. He says, “Ohio is in fact a battleground state, and we’re competing everywhere and we’re going to win everywhere.” 

Perez guarantees a win in Ohio, but republicans beg to differ. An Ohio GOP official says in a statement: “Ohioans have made it clear that [democrats’] radical ideas are not welcome here.” 

In order to win Ohio, someone will have to emerge from a cluttered field; a record 12 candidates will be onstage Tuesday. Asked if he was concerned the primary debate will expose weaknesses inside the party, Perez says, “I think we’re going to expose the remarkable depth of our party. We’re going to expose and highlight the unity of values that we have.” 

Reliable state polling is not yet available for the primary, but the top three democrats are each polling ahead of President Trump in general election polls conducted in Ohio. 

Perez says, “Do we have differences of opinion among these candidates? Absolutely. But make no mistake about it: we want to get to the mountaintop, and the other side is very content with taking us to the bottom of the mountain again.” 

Perez pointed to the number of times President Trump has visited Ohio while in office –12 so far– as another sign Ohio is back in play.