Ohio House Races: News and Notes
Spicy news bits with commentary sauce - yowza:
24th House District: The Columbus Dispatch today takes a long look at this contest between former univeristy trustee and businessman Ted Celeste (D-Grandview), brother of former Ohio governor Dick Celeste, and incumbent Geoff Smith (R-Upper Arlington). The Ohio Manufacturing Association rates this district at 58% Republican, but in 2004 Kerry won by 1% and Paula Brooks (D) took 55% of the vote running for Franklin County commissioner. The Celeste name and the tough climate for the GOP this year put this district "among at least a dozen House races statewide that went from solid GOP to competitive." Smith is a former lobbyist who has been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. "I gave up a much more lucrative job to take this job," said Smith in a debate. "My family are dedicated public servants. I didn’t run for social issues. I ran for businesses." The Republican party has paid for numerous TV ads and mailings attacking Celeste as a tax raiser, though Celeste has not been in public office. "Celeste has only recently countered, with much smaller ad buys. He has pledged repeatedly to run a positive campaign, though some recent ads on his behalf do contain some negative messages about government scandal and corruption." On the issues, Celeste has pushed mental health parity (the requirement that health care plans offer equal coverage for mental and physical ailments) and fixing school funding, particularly the reliance on property taxes. "People are really frustrated with the process, and they keep saying, ‘Why hasn’t the legislature dealt with this?'" Celeste said. "It’s not just more dollars, it’s how do you define that formula so it works for us better." Smith defends the status quo, arguing that the state has reduced the funding disparity between poor and wealthy districts and that shifting funding to the state will reduce local control and thus hurt suburban districts. "We’re doing the best that we can." he said. Smith also focuses on his support of limiting civil lawsuits against doctors and businesses, and a 2005 business tax overhaul that included a 21 percent income tax cut.
32nd House District: The Cincinnati Enquirer today endorses replacement candidate Kim Hale (R-Cincinnati) over Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati), brother of the mayor and son of a former Ohio house majority leader. The Mallory family has held this seat for 32 of the past 40 years. Of Mallory the editors write that his campaign has been "under the radar," that he was removed as president of the West End Community Council "because of questions about his role in the CityLink social services proposal," and that he "could have limited effectiveness as a lawmaker" due to "various legal and ethical questions." Hale is president of the Dayton Street Neighborhood Association and a member of the Cincinnati Human Services Advisory Committee. She "decided to run after GOP candidate Mike Poast discovered he wasn't really a resident of district" and is a "progressive-minded community activist" who is "bright, hard-working, good at networking and collaboration" and "would focus on attracting and encouraging small businesses." Something tells me that we're not getting the whole story here.
44th District The Akron Beacon Journal has a long story today about this campaign that pits university student Joseph Crawford (R-Akron) against returning veteran statesman Dr. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron). Sykes is trying to succeed spouse and state auditor candidate State Rep. Barbara Sykes (D-Akron), who replaced him when he gave up this seat due to term limits in 2000. Sykes said he has been campaigning particularly hard in the district in order to increase voter turnout for his wife's race. "We're trying to increase the turnout in our district in our home territory. It's important that she solidify our base," he said. "We've been going door-to-door every day, making telephone calls, holding speaking engagements." Sykes said his work as director of the Columbus Program in Intergovernmental Issues at Kent State University has shown him the need to increase civic participation. Also, he said, "I'm looking forward to being part of the Democratic revolution this year." One of his top priorities will be working to fix the school funding issue. "Particularly for primary and secondary, we need to improve the formula with less reliance on local property taxes and more revenue sharing at the state level," he said. Sykes has had to contend with the fact that he was charged with drunken driving in June, pleading guilty in August to a reduced charge of not having physical control of his vehicle after consuming alcohol and paying a $1,000 fine. Crawford, 20, said he's been involved in politics since starting at the University of Akron two years ago. He grew up on a farm in Fremont and said if elected his top three priorities would be lowering taxes, enticing jobs to Ohio and improving higher education.
46th House District: The Toledo Blade yesterday endorsed incumbent Mark Wagoner (R-Ottawa Hills) over challenger Mark Dansack (D-Monclova Township). The editors write that Wagoner "already has mastered the steep learning curve legislators face due to the restraints of term limits" (huh?) and call Dansack "a little rough around the edges with his somewhat tentative pledge to be a 'citizen-legislator,'" although the latter's "earnestness" is "sincere" and they "see a future for him in the political arena."
Meanwhile, Dansack has been proving this week that his pledge is not "tentative" by issuing in daily installments his detailed argument for why he should be elected in place of the incumbent. Today's press release is a recap of Dansack's life experiences, from teen-aged volunteer athletic coach and volunteering for the American Heart Association and American Leukemia Society through paying his way through college and pursuing a masters degree in public administration while working in manufacturing at General Mills. Dansack lost his job of 18 years when that plant was shut down and he now works with workers compensation claimants as a legal aide at a law firm. These experiences buttress his positions on the issues. For example, the plant closing informs his support for state job retraining programs:
"We have the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) at the Federal level to assist these workers in seeking education and training for a new career, but we don't have compatible programs at the state level to complement WIA. One of my goals is to establish programs to help retrain these displaced workers, who have in most cases done nothing wrong, but become too productive, making their positions obsolete."The Toledo area faces more job losses in the future with the pending closures of the Maumee Stamping Plant and a ConAgra facility. His new employment fuels his outrage over the scandals, mismanagement, and disastrous benefit cuts that plague the workers compensation system:
"What was begun as an insurance system to protect the rights of injured workers has become a mass of bureaucratic red tape that often finds injured workers waiting weeks and even months to get basic treatment and testing they need to get better. The system is broken, and my opponent voted for Senate Bill 7, which is basically a bandaid on a surgical wound. I have called for a complete overhaul of the system, as it is simply not working for Ohioans and results in the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars."Finally, as a parent, Dansack is anxious to support Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon) when he becomes governor and tackles the dilemma of school funding. Wagoner, on the other hand, supports the status quo on school funding. Dansack concludes that the choice is simple: "elect a representative whose real life experiences will assist him in formulating policies that work for middle class Ohioans" or "re-elect a first term legislator who surely is sufficiently ambitious, but whose ambition has overwhelmed his integrity as he conducts his campaign for re-election."
49th House District: The Toledo Blade yesterday chose city council member Matt Szollosi (D-Oregon) over businessman Steve Hornyak (R-Oregon) in this contest for the open seat of term-limited Jeanine Perry (D). The district stretches "from eastern Lucas County to Oregon and Harbor View, and runs across North Toledo and Washington Township to include a chunk of far west Toledo and a small piece of Sylvania Township." Writing that it is a "close call," the editors prefer Szollosi for having "the knowledge and the political acumen" that he will need "to succeed in the rough-and-tumble legislature, particularly if Democrats make significant gains." Hornyak is "involved in the travel industry, real estate investment, and advertising" and is president of a school board that "engineered a $50 million building program without state aid." They conclude that "both men would serve the district well."
83rd House District: The Marion Star profiles the race between Shawn Allen (D-Belle Center) and incumbent Tony Core (R-Rushylvania). Allen is a facility manager at Rudolph Foods in Westminster. In addition to being a legislator, Core is a farm owner and an attorney and has served on different community boards. "I really feel like we've lost the focus in school funding," Allen said. "We can sit back and let things go as they are or try to make a change. I'd like to help make some changes. The problem needs fixed and I would put it on the forefront." Core wants to clarify misperceptions of lawmakers' efforts to correct school funding and improve economic opportunities. "People don't understand it and they think there should be more dependence on state funding and less on property tax," Core said. "Local property taxes are an important part, you just can't be over-reliant on it." He claims that state lawmakers have increased state funding but "have not circumvented local control by providing so much funding that schools no longer need to seek local operating and building issues." He wants to "continue the progress" that he says the General Assembly has already made. The district is in Logan, Union, and Marion counties.