Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Tuesday, March 7

OH House 75th: Byrne (D) Carries the Democratic Banner

This is the inspiring kind of kind of story that I just love.

The 75th District of the Ohio House of Representatives is in a very conservative, largely rural portion of Northwest Ohio: Henry, Paulding, Putnam and Van Wert Counties. Incumbent James M. Hoops (R-Napoleon) is term-limited and is running for the State Senate 1st District seat of term-limited incumbent Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napolean). Wachtmann in turn is seeking to trade places with Hoops, running for the latter's seat in the House, along with County Commissioner Tony Burkley (R-Paulding). There hasn't been a Democrat State Representative there in 40 years, and the last Democratic candidate got only 30.81% of the vote against Hoops.

So who will put forward the Democratic agenda in the 75th District, in defiance of the odds? Meet graduate student Angie Byrne (D-Van Wert), of the Van Wert High School Class of 2000. As detailed in this story from the Times Bulletin, Byrne gave her first campaign speech a few weeks ago at the Jefferson-Jackson Democratic Banquet. "I will give this all the energy I have," a beaming Byrne said, "it is up to Ohio's young people to initiate a change." Byrne stressed education and the environment as issues. "Education is a fundamental right, not a luxury, and we need to keep young people here in Ohio." She also wants to revise Ohio air and water pollution laws in order to hold large-scale Ohio farming operations accountable for harming the environment.

Byrne is focusing on health promotion and health behavior in completing her master's degree in public health at Ohio State University. She is also a student research assistant for the John Glenn Institute and is the membership secretary for the Ohio Young Democrats. Byrne earned a BA in political science from Ohio State University in 2003. After that she spent nine months volunteering at a Christian youth facility in Kentucky.

The keynote speaker at the banquet was ODP Chair Chris Redfern, who praised young Democrats for becoming involved in the political process. "Our young Democratic members will make the difference," he said, "they are our future and our present." Redfern urged Democrats to put forward an agenda for positive change in government. "Solutions will win the election in November," he said. "Talking about it less, and doing more of it." He highlighted affordable health care for all, lower taxes, and employment as key issues for Ohio. "Taxes have never been higher and opportunities lower, [and] people need to know that the job they have today will be here tomorrow."

Incidentally, Byrne is not quite the youngest Democratic candidate for the General Assembly. Wittenberg University student Ben McCullough (D-Montpelier), who is 19, is the sole Democrat running in the nearby 74th District House race. And there is precedent for a candidate of that age group succeeding. Derrick Seaver (R-Minster) was an 18-year-old student when he won the 78th District House seat, which he is now relinquishing in order to go to law school. Seaver won office as a Democrat, but later switched parties.

Byrne's bid has not gone unnoticed outside Ohio. A native of Ohio who publishes a Democratic blog in North Carolina had this praise for Byrne:

"Unfortunately, Ohio is no longer the state it was when I was growing up. National trade policy, bad public policy choices by Republicans and Democrats, and the failure of both parties to deal with the changing economy have put Ohio in dire straits. Because of this, Ohio is losing its intellectual capacity at extremely high rates.

"The situation in Ohio is very complex and is going to require new solutions to fix the problems at hand. One individual who can offer new solutions to Ohio's problems is Angie Byrne. Angie is bright, articulate, and passionate in her pursuit to make Ohio a better place to live.

"I first met Angie two years ago at the Ohio 5th Congressional District Presidential Delegate meeting. I was serving as the coordinator for North Carolina Senator John Edwards and Angie was running to represent the Senator at the 2004 Democratic Convention. I realized when I met Angie that there was something special about her. I understand now that her talents are in helping the Buckeye State regain its rightful spot in national economics and education.

"Angie is running for State Representative in western Ohio. She is staking out a moderate course towards policy, which should suit her district very well. The people of western Ohio will have a great representative in Angie Byrne. I urge them to elect Angie because she is committed to putting people in front of politics."


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