GOP ticket offers choices in local House race, others

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 4, 2012


Looks like the Republicans could have all the fun this Super Tuesday. With only a handful of contested races on their primary’s ballot, the Democrats have slim pickings. Quantity-wise, that is.

But on the other side of the ideological fence Republicans can choose anything from their nominee for the presidential race to who this county’s coroner will be for the next four years.

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One of those races most watched this spring is the race for former representative John Carey’s seat in the Statehouse. Carey resigned at the beginning of the year. For the Democrats there is only one contender, Luke Scott, a college student and Wellston Council member.

But on the GOP ballot there are three men who want the new 93rd District seat, a region historically known as a Republican stronghold. Quite possibly, whoever wins that primary could keep the job for the next eight years.

However, with Ohio’s open primary, Democrats could even ask for a Republican ballot and vote that ticket, even though they typically vote for the other party.

“When you register to vote, there is no party affiliation on the voter registration,” Matt McClellan, spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State, said.

The only possible snag to this would be if a poll worker recognizes the voter as someone with a longtime tie to a particular party.

“If poll workers have firsthand knowledge that a voter is affiliated with a certain party, they can challenge that,” McClellan said. “If a party chairman walks in and asks for a primary ballot for the other party, that individual fills out a form aligning himself with the party he asked the ballot for.”

To be able to vote, all an Ohioan has to do is register with his or her name, address, date of birth and Social Security number or valid Ohio driver’s license number and do it 30 days before the election. This is unlike in neighboring Kentucky where a voter must declare a party preference at the time of registration and can’t change that affiliation on election day.

However, should an Ohio Democrat request a Republican ballot, that follower of the party of Jefferson, Jackson and FDR, will be known for the next year as a member of the Grand Old Party. Whether he or she likes it or not.

“Your affiliation is based on the last time you voted,” McClellan said. “If you voted as a Republican in the recent primary, you would be viewed as a Republican.”

Board of election officials expect Tuesday’s primary to attract a low turnout, even though this is a presidential year. As of Friday fewer than 1,900 absentee ballots had been cast. And some county election observers wonder with only one contested county race in Lawrence, the turnout here could be lower than in the other three that make up the 93rd, where commission, prosecutor and sheriff races are on the ballot.

Four years ago, when both parties were fighting for the presidency, Lawrence County had the second lowest voter turnout among the four counties that will be served by the 93rd District elected representative.

Then, only 62.36 percent of Lawrence County’s 45,067 registered voters turned out. The only lower voter participation came from Gallia County with only 57.8 percent of the 23,648 voters going to the polls.

In Jackson County 63.08 percent of its 22,996 voters came out and in Vinton County that figure was 65.33 of the 9,021 voters.

Three Republicans want Carey’s spot and come from three of the four counties. Lawrence County has Bill Dingus, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and Lawrence Economic Development Corp. Jackson has businessman and two-term county commissioner Jim Riepenhoff and Gallia has financial adviser and president of the Gallipolis school board Ryan Smith.

All three men put jobs, or the lack thereof, as the No. 1 issue the voters want solved.

“I am the only one who has any experience in job creation,” Dingus said. “They may say they do, but I am the only one with job creation. I think the first thing is a real solid strategy for job creation, a good marketing plan and trying to grow jobs. One of the big things I would love to accomplish is the restoration of the railroad that needs to connect that whole region, get the railroad extended from Oak Hill to the Norfolk Southern (line) and the river. That would open up the rural area.

“If you have the railroad running out of 93 through Washington Township, you really would be able for any manufacturing facility … to put product on CSX or Norfolk Southern. It would be a great advantage, a unique advantage for them, a way to get the best rate you get when you have competition.”

Dingus also sees the repeal of the Affordable Health Care plan, colloquially knows as Obamacare, as a major concern of the voters in this area.

“(They think) there is too much government,” he said. “They want to return to ‘We the People.’”

Dingus came to the LEDC from Ohio University Southern, where he was the dean and responsible for the growth of the college.

“We were educating people, yet we didn’t have jobs for them,” Dingus said. “That is why I came here to the LEDC. It was a mission. I was changing lives through education, but changing family lives by helping create jobs.”

Riepenhoff wants to work with Gov. John Kasich’s Jobs Ohio program to find companies who could relocate to southern Ohio and get training programs started for potential employees.

“I want to work on tax credit for businesses who employ new employees and give them another incentive,” Riepenhoff said. “When you are in the economic times we are in, it is harder. … People basically have pride and when they are unemployed that bothers them.”

Riepenhoff looks to the growing Marcellus Shale Coalition that reaches into Ohio with its continued drilling of natural gas wells as a potential job market.

“We need to get ahead of that when it gets into our area and have well-trained people for it,” he said.

The commissioner also sees the abuse of prescription and illegal drugs as a major issue.

“We really need to examine how we can work with the attorney general and how we can get a stop to this,” he said.

Smith also looks to Jobs Ohio as a way to get people in southern Ohio back to work and sees the Marcellus coalition as a possible source of jobs.

“I would meet with community leaders on what they would like to see,” Smith said. “It is a national issue. We are challenged to have good quality jobs and have a good workforce being trained for those jobs.”

And like Riepenhoff, Smith sees the drug use in southern Ohio as a big problem.

“One of the things I would like to do is that in Ohio you can buy tobacco and alcohol and show an ID,” Smith said. “If you get a prescription for Vicodin (or other drugs) show an ID. It would cut down on fraudulent prescriptions.”