GREENVILLE — Six Republican candidates for seats in the 80th and 84th district of the Ohio House of Representatives addressed the economy, the second amendment, the opioid crisis, and other issues at an event hosted by the Darke County League of Women Voters Monday evening.
Ohio’s 80th District comprises Miami County and the southern portion of Darke County, while the 84th is comprised of the remainder of Darke, portions of Auglaize, and the entirety of Mercer County.
The Opioid Crisis
“We’re losing 14 youngsters a day to opioids,” candidate George Lovett, of Tipp City, said during his introductory remarks. “It happened to my niece: she was prescribed painkillers by a doctor, and a few years later she was dead from an overdose.”
Lovett was quick to establish he is not anti-immigrant, while at the same time acknowledging where many of the drugs are coming from.
“We all come from immigrants one way or another,” Lovett said. “But the drugs are coming from Mexico, and it’s not anti-immigration to say we need to stop that.”
Susan Manchester, of Auglaize County, believed the effects of the opioid crisis were inseparable from the state of Ohio’s economy.
“I’ve talked to Ohio employers, and one thing I keep hearing is that they can’t find workers who can pass a drug test,” Manchester said.
Of the six candidates, Lovett, Manchester, and Jena Powell, of Greenville, listed dealing with the opioid crisis as one of their top three priorities upon taking office.
The Second Amendment
The candidates were fairly uniform in their stance on Second Amendment issues, all saying they would not vote for any restrictions on firearm ownership beyond those that are already in place. Manchester and attorney Travis Faber, of Celina, both stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of gun violence, including putting funding into treatment for mental illness.
“Any child who’s going to take a gun into school is a child that’s in a lot of pain,” Manchester said.
Lovett, meanwhile, suggested looking to groups with a better record on gun violence in order to figure out what they may be doing right.
“Look at Israel,” Lovett said. “Much higher percentage of gun ownership, but they don’t have the problems with violence we do. Look at the Post Office – we’ve all heard the phrase, ‘going postal.’ But when was the last time you actually heard about something like that happening? What are they doing?”
Of the six candidates, Faber, Manchester, and Aaron Heilers, of Shelby County, listed protecting Second Amendment rights as being one of their top three priorities if they were elected.
Of the six candidates, five listed economic issues as one of their top three priorities upon taking office. Several stressed the importance of smaller government and lower taxes, with Faber and Powell in particular focusing on the role of government regulation.
“We need to get government out of the way,” Faber said. “Ohio has a stack of regulations on businesses that’s seven feet high: that’s twice as many regulations as all the states that surround us.”
“It’s very hard to run a company in the environment we’re in,” Powell, who co-owns a business in downtown Greenville with her brother, agreed. “Government doesn’t create jobs, and it never will.”
County Commissioner John O’Brien, of Miami County, stressed his record, saying his county has reduced utility usage and has the lowest sales tax in the area. “During my three terms, we balanced budgets during good times and bad,” O’Brien said.
Lovett and O’Brien listed education as one of their top three priorities, with O’Brien stressing the importance of “not telling teachers what to teach.” Lovett, meanwhile, spoke about workforce development.
“Not all youngsters can go to college,” Lovett said. “And we need to work harder to identify those kids and connect them with positions in the workforce.”
Heilers expressed similar sentiments. “We need to start catching kids at the junior high level and getting them into a career path,” he said.
Most of the candidates expressed concerns about President Donald Trump’s recent trade tariffs, which have sparked international controversy and, according to some, may damage relations between the U.S. and China.
“We export most of our agricultural products,” Manchester said. “It’s important that we don’t do anything to make that more expensive than it already is.” Faber agreed, saying Ohio needs Congressmen willing to “lean” on President Trump when it comes to trade.
“When you start making it harder to sell your goods to other countries, those other countries will take retaliatory measures,” Lovett said, saying this sort of practice had helped lead to wars in decades past. “This is a dangerous course of action.”
Republican House candidate J.D. Winteregg declined to appear at Monday’s event, saying the League of Women Voters were “too left-wing” to sponsor a Republican debate and calling on other candidates to follow suit. Darke County Commissioner candidate John Kennedy also withdrew from the forum, prompting a sharp reply from incumbent commissioner Mike Stegall.
“We don’t know where Mr. Kennedy stands, because he’s not here,” Stegall said. “But I think you’d do well to vote for any of these folks, and I like all of them.”
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