By JOY BROWN
A fundamentalist preacher and a constitutionalist who abhors federal government intrusion are challenging state Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, in the May 6 Republican primary.
It is Hite’s first contested race since he was appointed to the 1st Senate District seat in January 2011. He is facing foes who assert he’s not conservative enough on abortion, homosexuality, the federal Common Core education standards, and renewable energy mandates.
Hite is citing his voting record and endorsements to combat challengers Corey Shankleton from Kunkle, and Milo Schaffner from Van Wert.
Shankleton, 35, is the senior pastor of Emerging Streams Worship Center, which he described as “evangelical non-denominational.” One of its groups, Bound 4 Life Ohio, characterizes its abortion clinic picketing as “sieges.”
At a recent GOP forum in Findlay, Shankleton was accompanied by Faith2Action, a group protesting what they perceive to be Hite’s lackadaisical attitude toward the stalled “heartbeat” bill, which would ban abortions in Ohio once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
“Conservative values” and morality are lacking in state government, Shankleton asserts, as are “liberty and common sense.” He said he is running “to stand up for true conservative values, both social and fiscal at this time,” and for family values.
He has criticized Hite’s vote on a bill to prevent job and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
More needs to be done to battle abortion, Shankleton said.
“While I agree with the regulatory use of the budget our current Senate has used in order to regulate abortion, regulation is only a temporary fix,” Shankleton said. “We need to use legislation to challenge Roe vs. Wade, to end it.”
Shankleton is not a one-issue candidate. He said the U.S. Constitution endows states with more powerful rights than the federal government, but that “recently, states’ rights have been treated as a commodity, trading rights for subsidy.”
“While there are things, such as interstate commerce and defense, that the federal government should fund, there are other things they should not,” he said.
Shankleton said Ohio “is facing a $600 million bill to implement” Common Core educational standards that he says are “untested, intrusive, less-than-par standards.”
He also criticized Ohio’s Medicaid expansion.
“If elected, I would seek to restore constitutional standards by saying no to federal dollars that fund aspects that they are to have input into. According to my opponent, we can expand government and still cut taxes. I disagree,” Shankleton said.
“Ohio should not be funding an expansion of Medicaid. No Ohio dollars should be going to groups like Planned Parenthood or other such agencies. We need to develop a good energy policy, pass strong voter ID laws, and remove as many hindrances to agriculture and business as possible. The free market system is still the most viable system in the world,” he said.
Prior to becoming a pastor, Shankleton was a Toledo restaurant owner, and had owned Toledo Visitor/Talk of the Town, a monthly arts and entertainment publication.
Shankleton has served on the Monroe County Republican Executive Committee and the 16th District Republican board. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Ida school board.
Schaffner, 66, is also a conservative Christian, an Evangelical United Brethren. He is against Common Core, renewable energy requirements, and other mandates that regulate free enterprise.
He served two terms on Lincolnview school board, the last five years as president. He was most recently re-elected to a fourth term as a Hoaglin Township trustee.
He worked at Continental Can Corp., taught at Vantage Vocational School, founded Schaffner Tool and Die in 1985, and is now a grain farmer.
“I have thought about running since Mr. (Steve) Buehrer resigned” from the Senate seat, Schaffner said. “I have been involved for over 20 years as a public servant, and feel it is time I put those years of experience to use at a higher level to better serve our community and state.”
Schaffner complimented the Ohio Senate for eliminating the Commercial Activities Tax, for “promoting our agricultural products,” and for balancing the state budget.
He said state government has “just now started to understand the energy problem,” but isn’t addressing it correctly with renewable energy mandates. He said Senate Bill 221, by requiring Ohio-produced “green energy” purchases, violates the interstate commerce clause.
Schaffner quoted Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, who said the state’s policy will raise electric rates and drive companies out of Ohio. Business owners say the mandates will cost them much more to operate, Schaffner said.
“Jobs will leave Ohio and standard of living will be greatly affected,” Schaffner said. “I believe we should look to invest in other renewables such as hydro, nuclear, and co-generation, just to name a few.”
“Dependable and affordable energy” offerings that would keep costs down for residents and businesses would be at the top of his agenda if elected, Schaffner said.
Schaffner said he would also work to repeal Common Core. He thinks benchmarks should be set by local school boards, not the federal government or even states. Higher education institutions, when considering admissions, could still rely on scores from established tests such as the SAT, he said.
The state should restore funding to local governments, he said. “I feel that the state may need to consider some ways they could use less, and return some of the savings to local government funding,” he said.
“I am a Ronald Reagan Republican who believes, as he did, that government needs to be smaller to be better,” Schaffner said. “Reagan said the most feared words are, ‘I’m here to help and I am from the government.'”
Schaffner’s website: http://www.votemilo.com
Hite, 59, thinks Ohio’s Republican-controlled state government has helped the state in recent years, particularly by balancing the budget and creating a more friendly economic atmosphere.
“In general, we have a better job climate here in Ohio, with lower taxes, which has attracted businesses,” he said. “I’m really proud of that because we have created 230,000 jobs. We balanced an $8 billion deficit without using federal money, and we lowered taxes. I think this is something that we probably don’t brag about, but it shows, because Marathon is doing its $85 million expansion, International Paper (in Kenton) is throwing in a $50 million expansion, up in Archbold Sauder (Woodworking) is doing a $13 million (equipment) expansion. Those are a lot of jobs and good-paying jobs,” he said.
Hite said he is proud of two recent pieces of legislation that he helped develop.
Senate Bill 150, which he co-sponsored, intends to improve water quality by reducing farm nutrients, particularly phosphorous, that make it into waterways and lakes. “Hopefully we can start decreasing the algal bloom problem in the state. It’s a start,” he said.
Hite is also promoting Senate Bill 274, called Tess’s Law, which he is sponsoring. It would annually designate March 9 as Meningitis Awareness Day. Hite said his 5-year-old niece, Tess, died in 1999 from bacterial meningitis, “and our family has really struggled with the date March 9 every year. This would turn a really bad day in my family into something that might be more productive for others.”
“People need to know there are (meningitis) inoculations available,” Hite said. “A lot of people don’t know that. It’s kind of like polio when I was a little kid. It’s a very scary disease.”
Another endeavor that Hite is proud of is his quest to reduce or eliminate fees for the statewide Multi-Agency Radio Communication System, which can cost thousands. He said the upcoming biennial budget will eliminate such fees for volunteer fire departments.
“It’s taken seven years to get to this point,” Hite said. “Those that dispatch are, many times, sheriff’s departments and they should get a break, too, so I’m going to try to get an amendment for that, but I don’t know if I’ll succeed on that one.”
Hite has promoted wind energy endeavors, particularly in the southern part of the Senate district, and he said those are starting to pay off. Van Wert local governments and schools recently received more than $2 million, and a check for $666,000 went to Wayne Trace Local Schools.
To wind energy naysayers, Hite said, “Those projects already exist. I feel it is my duty to hold these projects’ feet to the fire and make sure those payments continue because by contract that’s the first of 20 such payments. I think that’s good news.”
Hite insists Ohio has not adopted Common Core standards, but has instead used them to develop its own. He said the state standards are an answer to an Ohio Board of Regents study that showed 40 percent of Ohio’s high school graduates, upon entering college in fall 2012, had to take remedial math and language arts courses.
“There’s a national anti-Common Core spirit and I agree with that,” Hite said. “I don’t want the federal government telling us anything. So we in Ohio are allowing the local school boards to make the decisions with our standards and they must develop their own curriculum.”
The Ohio Department of Education website, however, says the state school board did adopt Common Core standards in 2010.
As for the heartbeat bill, Hite said he’d support it if it ever came to a vote. But he said there are “still concerns with the language and constitutionality of it,” as evidenced by other states that have tried and failed to get similar measures enacted.
“While the debate lingered on in the Senate, plenty of us came up with pro-life legislation that has been extremely effective … and ended up closing about half the abortion clinics in the state. In fact, in many ways we’re a model for other states,” he said.
Hite, a former high school history teacher and football coach, said he is running for re-election because he’s “been fortunate enough to see Ohio get headed in the right direction, in a better direction, but there’s plenty of work to be done yet. I believe it takes experienced people that have seen this ship get righted to continue that process.”
He said the best way to decide whether to vote for him or not is to study his record. “I don’t have a problem standing on my record,” he said.