GREENVILLE — Many Darke County Republicans got their first look at the candidates running for office at a “Meet the Candidates” event Saturday.
Sponsored by the Darke County Republican Women’s Club, the gathering attracted 11 Republicans vying for the 8th District U.S. House seat.
Republican voters will be asked to cast two ballots in the March 15 primary: One for a candidate to fill out the unfinished term of Rep. John Boehner, and another for the GOP nominee to run in November for a full two-year term. The person voted to finish the former representative’s term will in all likelihood be the same candidate chosen to run for the seat this fall.
Eleven of the 15 candidates who have filed to run for the House seat were in attendance: (in alphabetical order) State Sen. Bill Beagle of Tipp City; former Army Ranger Warren Davidson of Troy; State Rep. Tim Derickson of Oxford; businessman Scott George of Troy; attorney Terri King of Middletown; Edward Meer of West Chester Township; John Robbins of Monroe; contractor Jim Spurlino of Centerville; airline pilot Kevin White of New Carlisle; former teacher J.D. Winteregg of Troy; and TV/radio producer George Wooley of Troy.
Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce him- or herself. Following this, the candidates were allotted 30 seconds each to answer questions submitted by the audience.
On the question of education policy, virtually all candidates expressed their displeasure with Common Core standards and, by extension, the U.S. Department of Education.
Scott George said, “I have a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old, so I’m very familiar with Common Core. Standardized testing and the results of those tests tell nothing about the quality of a child’s thinking. That’s just information and they just regurgitate that information. Information is not knowledge.”
Rep. Derickson responded, saying, “The good news with Common Core is we finally have a bill that has legs underneath it, to do away with Common Core at a state level. Let’s move that up to the federal level. The federal government has no business dictating to us in the states what our curriculum and education policy should be.”
“The Department of Education, at the federal level, frankly, does not need to exist,” he added.
J.D. Winteregg, a former educator, said, “I’m adamantly opposed to Common Core, not only because of my experience in class, but also because of my experiences in higher education. Common Core is just a symptom of what’s going on in higher education. I’ve got two masters degrees, I’ve completed the Ph.D coursework teaching teachers to teach, and what they teach us is that ‘capitalism is the root of all evil’ and the only way to [destroy] it is to promote activists for social justice. That’s supposed to be our role as teachers. That is wrong. It doesn’t matter what the Common Core standards are, because that is what they’re pushing teachers to teach.”
Regarding the proposed “Flat Tax” or “Fair Tax,” which, generally speaking, would eliminate the current income tax in favor of a flat sales tax on new goods, the majority of candidates said they agreed with the concept and believed that the existing federal tax code needs significant restructuring, if not elimination.
In his response, Sen. Beagle said, “In Ohio, we have been reducing income tax rates which are punishing success and transitioning to consumptive taxes which is what we need to do at the federal level. We have the highest income tax rates, corporate income tax rates in the world. You’re seeing it as corporations move overseas.”
“We need a fairer, simpler tax system that’s easier to comply with, and then we’re going to, as others have said, get rid of the IRS and we can expand growth in the nation,” he said.
Warren Davidson, noting he loved the “elegance”of the Fair Tax, said, “I think the biggest problem in this is math. We need to start with Common Core, teach math, communicate that with people. [Democratic presidential candidate] Bernie Sanders couldn’t possibly be popular if math worked in America.”
George Wooley said, “It’s easier to start a business in Russia and China, less regulations there, than here in the United States, so we obviously have a problem with corporate taxes.”
The candidates were also asked what would be the most important legislation they would propose if elected to the House. The most touched-upon topics in response to the question related to immigration and border control, followed closely by budgetary matters and the economy.
Terri King accused elected leaders in Washington of ignoring laws already in place.
“We have the Congress and the president that won’t even follow our laws or abide by our laws,” she said. “That would be my major legislation — is to start to secure the borders, right away. I’d build the wall, and not only build it on the south, but I’d build it on the northern border. I support [Republican Presidential candidate Donald] Trump’s plan. I agree with him. We need to secure our country because we are being attacked on every side.”
Also on hand to introduce themselves to voters were John Adams of Sidney and Matt Huffman of Lima, candidates for the District 12 Ohio Senate seat.
Adams and Huffman are former members of the Ohio House, both ineligible to run for re-election to a House seat due to term limits.
The two were asked for their thoughts on the “Heartbeat Bill,” a measure which would have restricted abortions in the state if a heartbeat is detected.
Adams “It should be passed. It’s immoral that we do not pass the Heartbeat Bill.”
He added, “The Heartbeat Bill could save 20,000 babies a year. You can’t be wishy washy about it. I voted for it every single time — my opponent did not.”
Huffman responded, saying, “I agree with everything John just said, except, that is false — I have voted for the Heartbeat Bill each time. I co-sponsored the Heartbeat Bill. I was one of the original folks at the press conference when the Heartbeat Bill was announced.”
“This issue, abortion, is really the great civil rights argument of our time,” he said. “A hundred years from now, people are going to look back on this and say ‘Why wouldn’t they do something about it?’”
Don Eckhart, seeking to unseat Sen. Rob Portman in the primary, was in attendance, as were Republican candidates for the state judiciary — Pat Fischer and Mary Donovan.
Voters were introduced to the three Republican candidates for a seat on the Darke County Board of Commissioners — Matt Aultman, Fred Dean and Joe LeMaster. Candidates for the GOP State Central Committee also spoke to the gathering.
Darke County Republican Women’s Club President JoEllen Melling said she was pleased with the number of candidates who came to the event, in spite of the bitterly cold temperatures.
“It was hard getting everyone together. Some [candidates] didn’t respond. But we did get a good turnout today,” she said. “I think Republican voices do need to be heard and we’re hoping for a wonderful win in the primary and then in the fall.”
When asked if she thought Darke County Republicans would pull together behind the March 15 nominees, Melling said, “From what I’ve learned over the years with the Republican party, I’d say ‘Yes.’ I believe they will pull behind whoever the person is that we choose.”