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County trounces Issue 2 in battle to preserve collective bargaining

It was 59 minutes and counting before the polls closed and Nicholas Maines had the confidence of a man who believes his cause is just.

For the past two months the dank, musty-smelling former bar across the street from the courthouse was the county’s headquarters of We Are Ohio, the grassroots battle dedicated to a single mission. To kill Gov. John Kasich’s attempt to drastically reduce collective bargaining.

“We are expecting a good night,” Maines said just before he headed to Portsmouth where a victory bash was planned. “I think we have done a really good job to get the word out.”

By 10 p.m. his prediction proved true with Lawrence County overwhelmingly defeating the measure by a 3 to 1 margin, higher than the statewide 2 to 1 margin that killed the issue.

The Republican Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 into law on March 31 and the ink wasn’t dry before public employees statewide went into high gear, pulling in a record number of signatures needed to let the voters decide the fate of firemen, police, teachers and other public servants.

At 7:30 p.m. Maines was confident SB5, or Issue 2 as it appeared on the ballot, would be defeated.

“I do believe the momentum is on our side,” he had said on Friday before his office started a weekend campaign blitz. “(Kasich) took way too much in a power grab.”

The response he and other volunteers at the headquarters got as they canvassed the county did nothing to diminish his enthusiasm.

Maines was drawn to the fight because he calls himself a local boy who wanted to help his hometown.

“They weren’t attacking nameless people,” he said. “I have never seen people as excited in an off-year election.”

When the final results came in, Maines was jubiliant at a post election party at a Portsmouth restaurant trying hard to be heard over a background of cheering.

SB5 restricted public employee compensation and the collective bargaining rights of those approximately 360,000 employees. It stopped unions from negotiating wages, instituting automatic raises and calling strikes.

Less than a month after the bill was signed those opposed to it started a massive statewide petition drive to bring the issue to a referendum vote. Just under a quarter-million names were needed. The campaign brought in close to 1.3 million names.

In Lawrence County, the vote was 12,842 to reject the law to 4,386 to approve the law.

“That shows the broad base of support we did have in Lawrence County,” Maines said. “It was defeated by 75 percent. There were Republicans, Democrats and Independents in our coalition that believed John Kasich went too far with his reforms.”