Candidates vie for Ohio House 80th District seat


DARKE COUNTY — Voters will be choosing between Republican Jena Powell of Arcanum and Democrat D.J. Byrnes of Piqua to represent the 80th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Powell won the Republican nomination during the primary election earlier this year in May. Powell received approximately 45 percent of the Miami County vote and approximately 70 percent of the Darke County vote, facing off against Miami County Commissioner John “Bud” O’Brien, attorney George Lovett and merchandising manager J.D. Winteregg.

The Democratic parties of Miami and Darke counties appointed Byrnes to run as the Democratic candidate. Byrnes replaced Scott Zimmerman of Troy, who ran as a Democratic write-in candidate for the seat during the primary election in May and received the Democratic nomination to be placed on the ballot for the general election.

The following are the candidates’ responses to a questionnaire sent out by the Piqua Daily Call. Each candidate was recently given a chance to update their questionnaires that had been previously published. Candidates’ statements do not reflect the views of this publication.

• Jena Powell, Republican candidate

Occupation: Business owner

Previous political experience: None

Qualifications: Business owner

Reason for seeking office: I am running for office because I believe that I can represent the values and interest of our district well. I have chosen to build my life here, I knew I needed to run as I watched many of my friends decide that more opportunity awaits them elsewhere. We need to fight against government overreach which affects each and every one of us. Overregulation and too high of taxes stifle innovation and competition. An oversized government doesn’t lift its people up, it suppresses them. I will fight to reduce regulation and cut taxes so small business, families, churches, and nonprofits can thrive.

Goals for office if elected: Enact legislation that protects life from conception to natural death. Enact legislation that protects religious liberty and freedom and conscience. Reduce the regulatory and tax burden that is strangling opportunity and placing an enormous economic burden on the businesses and citizens of Darke and Miami counties.

What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: The greatest need is reducing the regulatory and tax burden that is threatening the families and small businesses in our district.

For more information about Jena Powell, visit her website at

• D.J. Byrnes, Democrat candidate

Family information: Girlfriend of seven years who brought me to Piqua in 2016 and three beautiful rescue cats (Starcat, Stinky and Luna)

Occupation: Senior editor at Eleven Warriors

Previous political experience: Piqua Parks Board, Piqua 3-A precinct captain, Miami County Democratic Party Secretary

Qualifications: I am the only candidate in this race that hasn’t accepted unaccountable dark money from the special interests and power-hungry party bosses that pollute our political ecosystem, which means I answer directly to the good people of the 80th District. I have knocked on doors from Tipp City to New Madison and talked to thousands of voters — including mayors, county commissioners, Chamber of Commerce directors, mental health professionals, and more. As a Democrat in this district, I will have no choice but to be the most responsive state representative in history, otherwise the voters will replace me with alacrity.

Reason for seeking office: As an avid follower of state politics, I could no longer in good conscience remain on the sidelines while wealthy politicians rewarded their corporate sponsors with tax cuts at the expense of working people. Workers’ rights and universal healthcare cornerstone my campaign to empower district municipalities with full funding and an infrastructure overhaul.

Goals for office if elected:

1. Ending what I have dubbed “the Rural Ripoff.”

The Kasich Administration brags about a $2.7 billion Rainy Day Fund, but it came at the expense of rural communities like the ones that comprise the 80th District. It’s led to stagnated wages, underfunded schools, crumbling roads and the opioid epidemic. Working people pay taxes for services — not for their hard-earned money to sit in an account on which they earn no interest. We should return those dollars to local municipalities and give our elected officials the resources they need to most effectively do their jobs.

2. Solving the healthcare crisis.

Nobody pays more for healthcare and receives less than Americans, and it’s because we allow insurance conglomerates to profiteer on our sick and elderly. I am the only candidate that has vowed to defend protections for pre-existing conditions and Governor Kasich’s crowning achievement of Medicaid Expansion. I look forward to fighting the powerful insurance lobby for increased access to wildly popular programs like Medicare and Medicaid. We will pay for that expansion by ending corporate welfare and tax giveaways to the rich. That increased access will make workers healthier and more productive. And while I realize universal healthcare won’t happen overnight, we could begin that quest on Day 1 with common-sense solutions like fully funding our County Health Departments so the most rural residents of our district wouldn’t have to travel 30 miles each way for basic medical procedures.

3. Expanding Clean Campaign Finance and Workers’ Rights.

We deserve politicians willing to turn away the corporate money that corrodes our political system at every level. We deserve things like living wages, a fair tax code for middle- and working-class families, guaranteed family and sick leave, overtime protection for low-wage salary workers, and reliable rural broadband internet.

What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed in the position you seek?

We must advance an agenda that benefits the many, not the few. Wealth inequality recently reached heights unseen since the Gilded Age, and the Statehouse couldn’t even get payday loans with 600 percent interest off the backs of our most economically vulnerable citizens without an (ongoing) FBI investigation into corruption allegations against former Speaker Cliff Rosenberger. The minimum wage only guarantees abject poverty for anybody willing to work 40 hours a week. Our public schools fell from No. 5 in the country to No. 32 after Republicans gambled and lost $200 million on for-profit “schools” operated by unscrupulous campaign donors at the expense of children and teachers. We need politicians who protect regular people from corporate greed and understand the everyday struggles of workers, an we need a state government that understands the importance of investing in the future of rural Ohio to keep young people from fleeing our regions for opportunities in nearby big cities.

For more information about D.J. Byrnes, visit his website at



By Sam Wildow

[email protected]

Reach Sam Wildow at [email protected].

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