By DENISE GRANT
Both Republican candidates for the 83rd District seat in the Ohio House have had to work a little harder to make their voices heard over the clamor created by dueling political action committees, which entered the campaign in early April.
Candidates Cheryl Buckland of Findlay, and Jon Cross of Kenton have both denounced the tactics employed by the super PACs, and have said they have no control over them.
A super PAC is a type of independent political action committee that may raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, and individuals, but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates.
Along with derogatory radio ads, the Conservative Alliance PAC sent a mailing to voters 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.”
Besides the PAC ads, the Republican candidates are competing with campaign yard signs and advertisements.
Cross has raised, and spent, far more money than Buckland. Campaign finance reports filed this week showed Buckland’s campaign has spent $19,558 so far, while the Cross campaign has spent $139,031.
The 83rd District includes Hancock, Hardin and a portion of Logan counties. With state Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, running for state treasurer, there is no incumbent in the race.
Cross, 39, is the president, chief executive officer and economic development director of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, Kenton. Buckland, 64, is a retired nurse and a Republican State Central Committee member.
It remains uncertain whether the winner of the Republican primary on May 8 will face a Democratic opponent in the November general election.
Mary Harshfield of Findlay is a write-in candidate in the Democratic primary. Harshfield must receive at least 50 write-in votes in the primary for her name to appear on the November ballot.
Buckland says Columbus needs a nurse.
“It would be an honor to continue Rep. Robert Sprague’s initiatives with the opiate crisis. I am passionate about disease prevention and addressing health care costs,” Buckland said. “As a farm girl at heart and former small business owner, I support business success and believe that smaller government is best for the 83rd District.”
Buckland said Ohioans need “mature men and women in Columbus who are not swayed by money or power, who have already been successful in their own lives and understand their role is to serve the constituents of their district.”
For Buckland, the opiate crisis, workforce development, flood mitigation in Hancock County, and good governance top her list of priorities.
Buckland said the opiate crisis and workforce development are intertwined issues.
Looking at addiction as a public health crisis “through the lens” of a nurse can offer a perspective to help decrease the number of deaths in the district and the state, she said.
“I am the only candidate bringing real life insight to address a Medicaid budget that consumes nearly 50 percent of our tax dollars annually,” Buckland said.
As for flood mitigation, Buckland said the interests of business and agriculture must be balanced.
On the issue of farmers contributing to Lake Erie’s water problems, “I am well versed in conservation methods underway in the district, recognizing that farmers contribute to the problems of clean water, but are not solely responsible,” Buckland said. “Industry practices also share in the responsibility of finding clean-water solutions.”
As for leadership in Columbus, Buckland said she wants to be “an advocate for fellow lawmakers.”
“Regardless of personal, emotional or religious feelings about issues, we need lawmakers who listen. Listen to understand, not to judge. Listen to learn. Listen to represent their constituents and always work toward non-judgmental decisions which align with our constitution,” Buckland said.
Cross said he is a “passionate business leader and economic development professional.”
“I want to provide a strong pro-business voice at the Statehouse to champion all industries, from our farmers and small business owners to major employers to keep Hancock County open for business,” Cross said.
He also described himself as a principled conservative candidate.
“I will always protect our rights and freedoms in support of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am 100 percent pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-business, pro-law enforcement, pro-family and pro-Trump,” Cross said.
Cross listed the drug epidemic, workforce development and improving infrastructure as three “critical areas.”
To have safer communities, Cross said, “We must secure our schools, integrate proven drug prevention at all ages, and pass tougher laws to deter criminal activity. We need to restore authority to local law enforcement and the judicial system, not criminals and drug dealers.”
Cross said government cannot combat the drug epidemic alone, and appeals should be made to local civic, youth and faith leaders and organizations to help encourage drug-free and healthy lifestyles.
“In order to advance a stronger workforce, we need to promote vocational trades just as much as university degrees,” Cross said. “By 2025, reports indicate we will lose 30 to 50 percent of our skilled workforce across various industries due to pending retirements.”
In his position as economic development director, Cross said he has already led efforts to increase student career exploration, internship programs, and business and educational partnerships to promote vocational and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) educational opportunities.
“I will partner with our local school districts to help reduce over-testing and support proper funding to ensure a 21st century education for 21st century jobs,” Cross said. “In addition, it’s time that we develop workforce incentives for Ohio businesses who are hiring, training and retaining students who graduate, live, work and remain in Ohio.”
Cross said he will also fight to return tax dollars to counties, cities, villages and townships.
“Our communities need the ability to fix our aging infrastructure,” Cross said.
Local government must also find solutions to housing needs, establish transportation corridors and revitalize downtowns, he said.
Cross also is interested in simplifying Ohio’s complicated tax structure.
“According to the Tax Foundation (2018), Ohioans face the fourth-highest individual income tax rate in the nation. Only New York, New Jersey and California are worse,” Cross said. “Businesses also face the fourth-highest tax rate. We need to make sure our community is a place where businesses want to operate and employ Ohioans, so our families can thrive.”