Saturday, October 30, 2004

Wanted: 2-party system in Ohio


Ohio has enjoyed - if that's the proper term - one-party rule for more than a decade, with the Republicans controlling both houses of the General Assembly and all statewide offices, including governor. The results do not speak well for that party - undisciplined spending and uncontrolled growth of government, massive budget shortfalls, shameful neglect of education on all levels, and poor planning for the transition to a post-industrial economy.

We also witnessed Republicans squabbling among themselves, particularly in the House, to Ohioans' detriment. House Speaker Larry Householder has mangled the process with a disgraceful pay-to-play scandal.

And we have been warning about these problems for more than a decade. Now, it's time to shake things up in Columbus. We advocate that in races where Democrats are running credible candidates, especially those who stand for fiscal restraint and a realistically limited role for state government, voters should strongly consider choosing them, even if it means losing seniority for their district.

A divided government in which both political parties wield real power could serve all Ohioans' interests better. Even if Democrats don't capture a majority, a stronger presence could force Republicans to unify, act more responsibly and actually listen to their Democratic colleagues' ideas.

Here are our recommendations in area races.

• Senate, 8th District: Republican Patricia Clancy has not lived up to her promise in the House. Despite her seniority and position as majority floor leader, she has done little to bring the Southwest Ohio delegation together on issues to benefit the region. In her bid to move up to the Senate, she's opposed by Democrat Jeannette Harrison, a real estate agent and precinct executive who advocates tuition assistance for students and tax breaks for small businesses. We recommend voters give Harrison a chance.

• Senate, 14th District: Republican Tom Niehaus has been a thoughtful, responsive member of the House, and he earned his Senate bid in a razor-close, nasty primary against fellow Rep. Jean Schmidt. He argues for tax reform and stable school funding, and will represent the district well. Democrat Paul Schwietering doesn't match Niehaus' sophistication and knowledge on key issues such as the state budget. Niehaus is our choice.

• House, 28th District: Unlike most in our area, this district has seen some close races in the past. This year's is another rematch between former Forest Park Mayor Wayne Coates, a Democrat, and Republican incumbent Jim Raussen, who lost to Coates in 2000 but defeated him in 2002. We like Raussen's ideas on tax modernization, but we also think Coates is a conscientious, experienced leader whose moderate-conservative stances fit well with the district. We think he deserves a return trip to Columbus, and we hope he continues advocating a process of comprehensive, long-term planning for state government, a concept we've long endorsed.

• House, 29th District: Former Colerain Township trustee Joe Wolterman, a Democrat, is a credible alternative to Lou Blessing, who is term-limited in the Senate and is trying to come over to the House seat being vacated by Clancy. An experienced hand, Blessing knows the issues and the process inside out, but we have problems with some of the ideas he's pushing, particularly on gambling. It's time for another seasoned voice here, and we think Wolterman could provide it.

• House, 30th District: Incumbent Republican Bill Seitz is smart and effective, if often abrasive. We've disagreed sharply with him on several items, such as his support of the badly written state Issue 1 and his anti-city stance on issues such as the Cincinnati Convention Center. But he is influential and respected, a budget hawk who's willing and able to work with opposing lawmakers and craft reasonable compromises. He merits re-election. We doubt that Democrat Ann Thompson could match his effectiveness for his district.

• House, 31st District: Democrat Steve Driehaus is one of the brightest, best-prepared and hardest-working legislators in Columbus. He has raised uncomfortable questions about the majority GOP's policies and has offered creative solutions. He gets our enthusiastic support. Driehaus' opponent, Republican Terry Weber, offers few new ideas by comparison.

• House, 32nd District: Democrat Catherine Barrett is unopposed.

• House, 33rd District: Democrat Tyrone Yates, the incumbent, is a thoughtful, classy legislator with a fine record of service to his district. His insightful ideas on tax reform ought to be part of the debate in the next Legislature. Challenger Tom Jones of Avondale has served our community well as a neighborhood activist, but there's no real reason to spurn Yates.

• House, 34th District: Democrat Glen Miller, a longtime political science/history teacher and professional job recruiter, has incumbent Rep. Tom Brinkman pegged as being an inflexible, obstructionist lawmaker who has failed to represent the district adequately. Brinkman does have a well-earned reputation in Columbus as a stubborn "no" vote, but he argues he's worked closely with local governments and groups, getting things done for the district and its constituents that may not get headlines. That's true, and we applaud Brinkman's conscientious service and deeply held principles. But the next General Assembly will desperately need lawmakers willing to consider complex, difficult issues and forge reasonable solutions. We endorse Miller.

• House, 35th District: Republican Michelle Schneider, a former Madeira mayor, is an active legislator who has showed good understanding of issues such as reform of state pension systems, and she reflects her district's concerns well. She should return to Columbus. Challenger Brian Miller has run a very low-visibility campaign.

• House, 88th District: In the race to fill Niehaus' House seat, former judge Danny Bubp's focus on a very conservative social agenda detracts from more practical concerns such as balancing the state budget and fixing school funding. We endorse Democrat Cy Richardson, a retired high school principal and former township trustee who now serves on the state Board of Education.

Just where are these
districts, anyway?
Not sure which state legislative district you live in? Or, are you curious about which districts cover what areas? For maps and descriptions of Ohio legislative districts, go online to the Ohio secretary of state's Web site at serform.sos.state.oh.us/sos/elections/ and click on "District Maps."

On Sunday's Editorial Page, we'll publish a complete list of all candidates endorsed by the Enquirer Editorial Board, as well as the Enquirer's position on selected ballot issues.

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