DARKE COUNTY – Two former Ohio House representatives are seeking the Ohio 12th Senate District seat in the March presidential primary.
Republicans John Adams and Matt Huffman hope to replace current 12th District Senator and Senate President Keith Faber in the primary. Faber is term-limited. There are no Democratic challengers on the ballot, so the primary winner likely will get the seat.
The 12th Senate District includes Allen, Champaign, Mercer and Shelby counties and parts of Auglaize, Darke and Logan counties.
Adams, 56, served eight years as the Ohio 85th District representative. He lost his seat due to term limits. The Sidney resident owns Francis Furniture of Celina and is a former Navy SEAL.
“I am fed up with the politicians telling you all the good things they did in Columbus. Almost all of them play the games of going along, getting power and doing what the establishment wants so they can stay in office and get their next job. I am not that man,” he said of why he is running for Faber’s seat. “I am passionate about fighting for the values we believe in.”
Huffman, 55, of Lima, is a former Ohio 4th District representative, who also left due to term limits. He is an attorney and a former president of Lima City Council.
“Like most people, I have the sense of, if you are here on Earth, try to make it a better place,” he said of his reason for running, adding his family has been involved in politics. His father was the Allen County prosecutor, and his uncle was the Miami County prosecutor. “It’s my way of trying to change things. Since I got into office, I really enjoy the problem-solving part of it.”
Candidates sound off
Adams said Huffman is backed by career politicians and others not interested in local issues.
“The Columbus lobbyists, politicians and influential people have helped Matt raise over $100,000. These people actually think it is ‘their job’ to get ‘their’ candidate elected. Matt is getting a lot of endorsements and financial help, but don’t be misled that he is there to fight for your interests,” he said. “I have. I will. And, Columbus knows that. I think you, the voter, deserve to know it, too. This is your seat, not Columbus’s.”
Huffman said one of his strengths is convincing others that his ideas are best for the state: “If you are conservative, and you want to get things done in Columbus, Ohio, you don’t do that by compromising. It’s not about compromising. If you think you have better ideas, it’s about explaining to people why your ideas are better … The satisfaction you get when you get it all done and say that you got it all done, that’s part of the legislative process. If you are just going to vote and make speeches, I’m not interested in that, because anybody can do that.”
Huffman added he thinks this race is about local issues and taking those issues to Columbus. He said he does not take endorsements from individuals or groups outside the district, unless they have local business or offices in the district.
“My campaign is about local folks in the 12th District. This needs to be about the 12th District, not the state, not the federal government. My opponent has endorsements from people in Medina and other counties, but this is about these seven counties. This race is about who is the best representative for the 12th District.”
Adams said Huffman is a product of the establishment: “With all due respect, my opponent may be a nice guy, but he is heavily supported in this race by most of establishment politicians because he was a ‘yes man,’ especially during his last years in office. He is getting (U.S. Rep.) Jim Jordan’s endorsement because Matt was his campaign manager when Jim ran for the Ohio Senate in 2000.”
Candidates tout pro-life stance
Both candidates say they are pro-life advocates, but each views what’s needed in government differently.
Adams wants to focus on illegal immigration, the “protection of our Constitutional rights” and upholding strong family and pro-life values.
“We have a federal government that continues to erode those rights and we need my fighting spirit to oppose them,” he said. “When in office, I introduced legislation to stop Sanctuary Cities from protecting potentially dangerous illegal immigrants. I will continue to draw upon my military experience to keep our country safe.”
Adams added he believes upholding the Constitution is of “utmost importance.”
“It is too risky to open up our Constitution to a convention which will lead to unintended changes. Today’s politicians simply do not have the moral fiber of our Founding Fathers,” he said. “I wouldn’t trust current politicians to change our Constitution. The Founders got it right; leave it alone.”
Huffman said he wants to ensure the governmental bureaucracy makes sense. In some instances, he said, government agencies are increasing fees and fines for services to raise money, since few legislators are willing to raise taxes.
“One of the things I want to do is get to bureaucracies that are punishing people and make sure that it’s not about creating revenue for the department,” he said.
Huffman said he wants to address jobs in the state, especially in West Central Ohio, to match businesses with employees. He said he also wants to link area schools with manufacturers, to ensure potential employees have the skills to step into a local manufacturing job. Huffman added he also wants to reduce government incentives to not work.
His other focus is drug use in the state and region. Huffman said he was against Issue 3 – the marijuana legalization ballot initiative that failed in November – because it would increase availability of drugs. He said one of the big problems he hears from local employers is that potential employees have trouble passing drug tests.
“If it’s legal, if it’s more accessible, more people are going to do it. We simply won’t have people able to go to work because they won’t pass the drug tests,” he said.
Huffman added he would like to institute the ability for local judges to expunge old criminal records for some individuals. He said some people get busted for something small when they are young, and decades later they still cannot get a job because of that record, even if they have stopped using. If that record could be expunged, it could put people back to work, he said.
“The economy works because people are working. It’s about people having jobs,” he said.
Local funding needs to change
Both candidates say they want to address the impact state budget cutbacks have had on local government and school districts.
Adams said he thinks “what the state failed to do during the recovery was lead by example.” He said state spending increased 30 percent in the last three budget cycles, while the Consumer Price Index increased 10 percent.
“We asked our local government to cut their spending, but Ohio did not,” he said.
Huffman said he would like to see funding restored to local government and school districts and would like to see the funding stabilized in the future. Agencies have had to juggle budget cutbacks that differ every time there is a new governor or new legislators in the Statehouse, he said, and he wants to tie funding to a clear funding formula for local agencies and schools.
“What we truly need is a formula, a true school funding formula and local government revenue formula, based on a percentage of a particular state revenue,” he said. “If we have that, what happens is the revenue for local governments and local schools will change based on how the economy is doing. But it’s not erratic. Therefore it makes it somewhat predictable.”
Huffman added he would like to have the formula adjusted to account for students that left big districts for small ones, and districts that have a lot of funding from local levies receive less state revenue.
Heroin addiction needs addressed
Adams said he supports state efforts to reduce over-prescription of pain medication.
“Addiction to pain medications has led people to switch to heroin when their prescribed drug cannot be obtained,” he said. “Additionally, treatment programs are essential in this fight against heroin and other drug usage.”
Huffman said legislation has been put in place to crack down on “pill mills” and doctors who prescribe for profits. That approach only deals with the most serious examples of abuse and profiteering. The rest may take a change in how doctors prescribe, he said.
“The question becomes what strategically can the health profession – doctors and pharmacists – do to provide legitimate pain relief,” he said. “If we make it harder for abusers to sell the prescription drugs, they will do less of it.”
Huffman added he believes the federal government also needs to enforce its laws to keep drug traffickers from crossing the border.
“The issue is with the failure and unwillingness of the Obama administration to deal with border problems,” he said. “Immigration issues are certainly affecting jobs, but another huge issue is the flow of drugs into this country. Trying to get federal officials to enforce the law, as a state official, is important.”
Schools need more local control
Adams said local school officials need more freedom to determine what is best for students, without excessive government intervention.
“A major problem with education is that our teachers, principals and superintendents have to deal with government intrusion and regulations and changes every few years,” he said. “What teachers want and need is less paperwork and more freedom to teach and have control of their classrooms. What parents want is far less federal control of curriculum. Local control is espoused by politicians, but they have done little to change the status quo.”
Adams added he thinks accepting federal funding to adopt Common Core educational standards “erodes states’ rights.”
Huffman said he did not support the Common Core State Standards, and “the federal government should not be involved in K-12 education.” He said he also doesn’t think a one-size-fits-all approach to education is a good plan for school districts.
He said he would like to see some flexibility in required testing, exempting schools doing well from testing all the time. He said he also wants to look at testing as an appropriate measure for determining student success. Huffman said schools in well-off areas tend to have more parental involvement in children’s lives, so those students tend to do better academically.
“There’s also a population of students, for a variety of reasons unrelated to school, that will never do well on a test, or at least not at that time. That doesn’t mean the school isn’t doing well, or that the teachers or administrators aren’t doing well. We know the number one indicator of how well a student is going to do is how involved are the parents in their education. So the concept of testing as a true measure of how well schools are doing is, in my mind, questionable.”
The presidential primary is March 15.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.