Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Saturday, September 9

Ohio House 57th: Interview with Matt Lundy (D)

I enjoyed sitting down for breakfast a few weeks ago with 57th Ohio House District candidate Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) at the Bob Evans Restaurant in Avon, Ohio. Lundy is a very direct, engaging person with an interesting career in television journalism and public service. He is Assistant Safety-Services Director for the City of Elyria, in the administration of popular Mayor Bill Grace (D-Elyria) who ran for Congress in the crowded May primary in the 14th District. The day before we met, Lundy had participated in a rally in Elyria that was one of the last stops on the statewide Turnaround Ohio bus tour. A crowd of 400 to 500 cheered hometown favorite Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) and Lundy said it was very inspiring, reminiscent of a gigantic rally for Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) at Lorain County Community College during his 2004 presidential campaign.

Lundy grew up in Pittsburgh but moved with his family to Avon Lake when he was thirteen. His father worked for the Canteen Vending Machine Company. Lundy graduated from Avon Lake High School and attended Lorain County Community College, finishing his undergraduate education with a bachelors degree in Human Resource Management from Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. He has taken courses toward an MBA degree at Tiffin University. He was an investigative and political reporter on television for twenty years in Utah, North Carolina, and West Virginia. He also was news director at a TV station in Tennessee. As a result, Lundy is very knowledgeable about government and is quite comfortable speaking in front of a camera or in public.

Lundy's interest in government goes back to high school, when he rode his bicycle to attend city council meetings. He was student council president in high school and was offered the editorship of the school newspaper. He returned to Ohio and entered the public arena himself by winning election to the city council of Avon Lake and running for Lorain County Commissioner in 1994. (He was endorsed by the Lorain Chronicle Telegram but lost to long-time incumbent Betty Blair in the primary.) He also worked as public relations director for the Cleveland Heights/University Heights public schools for four years.

For a long time "people haven't paid much attention to General Assembly races," Lundy said, but now people are recognizing their importance due in large measure to high tuition and the public school funding crisis. Lundy said he was inspired to run by opening the newspaper and seeing all the scandal in state government. "You can either sit and complain or get involved," he said. "Ohio is my home state," he continued, "and I want it to be viewed with pride. I don't want it to be the butt of jokes."

Lundy's interest in education and the school funding issue was heightened by working for the Cleveland Heights/University Heights public schools, and by working on school funding tax levies. He has learned firsthand that our schools are not being properly funded. However, his primary reason for running is "seeing the fun and games going on in Columbus, and not wanting that to keep going on." Having worked as an investigative political reporter, he feels he's especially qualified to go to Columbus and clean things up.

Lundy's opponent is Rep. Earl Martin (R-Avon Lake). When Lundy left the Avon Lake city council after two years to return to TV journalism, Martin was appointed to replace him. Now, Lundy says, Martin is part of the problem in Columbus. As an example, Lundy points to Martin's sponsorship of House Bill 206, a self-serving law that would have increased Martin's rights as an owner of lakefront real estate. (Among other things, the law would have changed the waterfront boundary of private property from the high to the low water mark. In addition to limiting the public’s right to walk on the beach, this legislation would also limit the state’s authority to control construction along the shoreline.) Martin has also engaged in a noisy feud with neighboring cottagers over beach privileges, at one point erecting a fence to back up his claim that the cottagers had forfeited their beach privileges by failing to pay certain property taxes. "This is part of the culture in Columbus," Lundy said. "Republicans feel the rules apply to everyone else but them. If they can't get what they want, they just change the rules."

Lundy has a two-part approach to bipartisanship in the General Assembly, distinguishing between Republican legislators who engage in the "fun and games" and those who are "embarrassed and acknowledge there's a problem." As to the former, Lundy believes that his role is to draw a line in the sand and refuse to yield, while he expects that he can work with the latter and find common ground. Asked to identify his role model as a public official, Lundy said that his political heroes are Justice Thurgood Marshall and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., because of their tremendous impact on the country.

From going door-to-door in his district, Lundy says that the top concerns on voters' minds are frustration with all the school levies (people "don't think they can pay anymore") and anger over the corruption in Columbus (they have a "throw the bums out" mentality). Lundy has been talking to a lot of voters identified as independents, who he says will determine the outcome of the election in the closely divided 57th District. Lundy has some moderate-to-conservative positions on social issues that may have cross-over appeal. As a devout Catholic, for example, he is pro-life, although he also says that he is "not extreme." Although he was concerned about the concealed gun carry law, Lundy feels that it has worked out fine, so long as there are background checks and gun safety training. In fact, his father has a concealed weapon permit.

Asked about charter schools, Lundy drew a distinction between for-profit and parochial schools, saying that public money shouldn't be provided to the former. The owners of for-profit schools are making heavy campaign contributions and getting state money without adequate accountability controls. Lundy believes passionately that "Ohio's kids can compete with anyone," and we "need to provide them with education that allows them to do well in college and in life." College, he said, has got to be more affordable. The cost of tuition keeps going up, but funding for higher education has dropped from 13% of the state budget to 10% since Governor Taft took office.

Influenced by columnist Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat," which he calls "a real eye opener," Lundy is a "big believer" that education drives the economy, and that Ohio needs to be focused on generating high tech research-and-development jobs. He noted that he is working on a grant that would bring the City of Elyria $5 million to develop a "job ready" site focused on bringing in high tech jobs, because "high-tech companies need sites ready for their facilities."

Lundy knows Rep. Sherrod Brown and thinks very highly of him, praising his passion and energy. He has coordinated some campaign activities with Brown's staff and with 13th Ohio Senate District candidate Sue Morano. Lundy says 13th Congressional District candidate Betty Sutton (D-Copley) is "a great lady, a dynamic lady" who "knows how to put on the gloves." Lundy is heavily endorsed by education organizations (including the Ohio Educational Association, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees) and labor groups (including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, and UAW).

There will be a fundraiser for Matt Lundy on Thursday, October 5th, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at St. Jude, 590 Poplar Street, Elyria, Ohio. The suggested donation is $25 per person.

UPDATE: Matt Lundy sent me the following clarification of his comment that he is "not extreme" in his pro-life stance: "I simply want people to be aware that I do support an exception when it comes to the life or health of the mother. I don't and never will support Blackwell's extreme position on the issue."

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