By DENISE GRANT
Both Republican candidates for the 83rd District seat in the Ohio House said Monday they are uncomfortable with the tone of the race, after ad campaigns launched by opposing super PACs have negatively portrayed them both.
Candidates Cheryl Buckland of Findlay, and Jon Cross of Kenton participated in a candidate forum Monday at the University of Findlay. The forum was hosted by the American Association of University Women, The Courier, UFTV and WFIN radio.
Along with derogatory radio ads, last week the Conservative Alliance PAC sent a mailing claiming that Cross is “not one of us.” The mailer said Cross is a “San Francisco-style liberal trying to fool Ohio conservatives,” and showed an old Volkswagen van with “peace and love” painted on the side.
A PAC identifying itself as “Growth & Opportunity Pac Inc.” fired back with a mailer that portrayed Buckland as a “political insider” and a “swamp creature,” and claimed she never supported “Trump Republicans.”
A super PAC is a type of independent political action committee that may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals, but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates.
Both candidates said Monday they have no control over the super PACs.
“I don’t think voters of the 83rd District are used to a campaign like this,” Buckland said. “State representative races tend to be low-key and for the most part civil. Candidates don’t have control over outside groups who have a vested interest in having the right candidates in Columbus, Ohio.
“With that said, I’ve tried to stay aboveboard on my Facebook posts and other communications that my personal campaign has sent,” Buckland said. “I think most people in the United States of America would prefer that we didn’t have money spent on ads. Frankly, I was as surprised as anyone to see the accusations that were apparently founded on truth.”
Cross said: “For the last 10 days, I have asked my opponent to denounce this kind of trash politics. It’s not working. I have been knocking on doors for the last week, and voters are tired of this. They are tired of the negative antics. They are tired of the trash politics, and I want to go to Columbus and it’s time to take the trash out,” he said.
“We have enough swamp in Washington, D.C.; we don’t need it here in the 83rd District,” Cross said.
While both candidates continued to vie for conservative votes on Monday, two questions asked by forum moderators underscored the varied backgrounds of the candidates.
Buckland’s background as a retired nurse was evident when the candidates were asked about possible solutions to overdose deaths and opioid addiction in Ohio.
Buckland, 64, who is a Republican State Central Committee member, said, “As the candidate who has had a considerable amount of experience dealing with the opiate crisis in the past year, I think it requires a paradigm shift, and a different way to look at the crisis today. It’s a public health issue. It requires it being addressed as a medical issue and I think our public health departments deserve a much larger role.
“Opiate addiction is not a choice,” Buckland said. “Unfortunately, many people come through the door with a legally acquired prescription, supposedly for pain that can’t be managed any other way.
“Prevention is big. We know that 25-year-olds, if they stay away from addictive substances, probably will never start them. But more importantly, we need to take a look at all the agencies today that are spending money on the opiate crisis, and how we can combine those silos and consolidate our monetary efforts, because our numbers are getting worse, they are not getting better,” she said.
Buckland said there are very few people in Ohio’s General Assembly with a health care background.
“We need people with that experience and that expertise to have the conversation about drug addiction and what we can do differently in the course of the next eight years that we’ve not done the past eight, because we, as the State of Ohio, should be shocked and very upset and concerned about the numbers as they continue to rise in the number of opiate deaths,” Buckland said.
Cross, 39, said he was in fifth grade when he participated in first lady Nancy Reagan’s D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.
“I think what we need to do is put good money into good opportunities and double down on our drug efforts,” he said.
“Our two boys … could go to middle school and be offered drugs at the middle school. Will they say no? How do we stop them from getting hooked on to drugs? How do we stop drug abuse and drug use?” Cross said.
“I also believe that government is not in the business of solving all these problems. I want to look to our faith leaders, our youth leaders, our civic organizations to look at different ways we can help work on drug prevention efforts,” he said.
Another question, about job development, fell into Cross’ wheelhouse. Cross is the president, chief executive officer and economic development director of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, Kenton.
“I think the state has done a great job” in job development, Cross said. “The first of what they’ve done is that they have privatized economic development in the State of Ohio. JobsOhio has kind of been taken out of the department of development and privatized, and they are doing an excellent job helping local economic development professionals like myself and Tim Mayle here in Hancock County and others across Ohio to retain, attract and recruit new jobs and new businesses.
“It gives them the ability to create incentive programs and do a lot of things that government really can’t do,” he said.
Workforce improvements, quality-of-life issues, and a better tax structure would attract more business to the state, he said.
Buckland said: “You can’t talk about workforce development without talking about the opiate crisis. When you have people who are addicted to drugs and they can’t pass the drug test, jobs go unfilled.
“I think number two, we made a real mistake in high school education by eliminating shop and home economics, and those skilled trades that so many students would like to gravitate to, rather than college,” Buckland said.
“Obviously I have a college education and I’m pro-college, but recognizing that’s not for everybody. We should applaud people who want to be plumbers, and also electricians, and also woodworkers, and people who want to stay in the agricultural community. There’s a real concern on the part of agriculture.
“It’s very difficult to find agriculture teachers, and what kind of wages, and what kind of environment and communities are we providing for kids to come back and run the family farm?” Buckland said.
It remains uncertain whether the winner of the Republican primary for the 83rd House District seat on May 8 will face a Democratic opponent in the November general election.
Mary Harshfield, of Findlay, is a Democratic write-in candidate in the May 8 primary election. Harshfield must receive at least 50 write-in votes in the primary for her name to appear on the November ballot.