Candidates make pitch for November

Published 11:43 am Saturday, September 29, 2018

Forum takes place at Burlington Elementary

BURLINGTON — Those seeking local and regional offices made their case in person to voters at the Meet the Candidates forum at Burlington Elementary on Thursday.

The event, hosted by the Concerned Citizens of Burlington, has taken place for years and a session is hosted for both the primary and general election.

The first race was for the two seats on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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4th Circuit Court  of Appeals

Of the four candidates on the ballot, the only one in attendance was incumbent Marie Hoover, the presiding judge of the court.

Hoover, a Democrat and Waverly High graduate, was first elected in 2012.

She explained her duties in the position, which include acting as a liaison to the Ohio Supreme Court and reviewing lower court rulings.

She said she is committed to building public confidence in the justice system and seeks to be as accessible as possible to her constituents.

She said the court is in a “state of flux,” with one member moving on and her seat up for election.

“It’s important that I know how the appellate system works,” she said. “If I remained on the court, it would help.”

Republican Jason Smith, who will face Hoover, sent a representative to read a statement on his behalf.

Smith’s statement said that he “did not like what was going on at the national level” and that he “feels individual rights are being stripped away.” Smith, an Ironton High graduate, said he feels Lawrence County is “being left out of the conversation”” and hopes to change that.

Circleville attorney Mike Hess sent a prepared statement outlining his experience, including an 18-year legal career, which includes acting as a criminal investigator and village attorney.

Hess will face Democrat Valerie Gerlach, a Portsmouth attorney.


Lawrence County Common Pleas Court

Democrat Donald Capper, who currently serves as Lawrence County Municipal Judge, said he has run for office six times since taking the position in 1990 and has only been opposed once.

“It’s time for me to move up to the next level,” he said of his campaign for the seat being vacated by the retiring Charles Cooper. “I have the experience and the knowledge and I believe I am the best candidate.”

On the issue of drugs, Capper pointed out that he was the first judge in the area to send people to treatment, rather than to jail.

“I got criticism for that,” he said. “But people with addiction issues, if you send them to jail – guess what? They’re going to come out with addiction issues.”

Capper also noted that his Republican opponent, Christen Finley, was not present for the event and said this has been the case at similar forums in the campaign.

Finley was represented by Natalie Addams, who read a letter on her behalf, stating she had a prior obligation.

Finley’s text said she had been a student at Burlington, “one of many firsts in her life,” and said the county now had the opportunity to elect its first female judge.

Finley said she wanted to “apply the law, as written, fairly an impartially” and said she wanted to tackle the addiction issue and overcrowding at the county jail.


Lawrence County Commission

Republican incumbent Freddie Hayes Jr. pointed out that it was his ninth visit to the Burlington forum.

He said he has served on the commission for the past seven years as “a way to give back to the community.”

“I don’t do it for the pay, I do it for the people,” he said. “I work very hard at this and this is my main job.”

Hayes said he is proud to be part of the current commission, which he called a “great team” and cited his working relationship with Democrat DeAnna

Holiday, with whom he traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent the county at the White House.

Describing himself as “very conservative” and a businessman, Hayes pointed to the $1 million in funds he worked to secure to build a new senior center at the Lawrence County fairgrounds, as well as securing the current temporary location for the Sybene-Chesapeake Senior Center, as examples of promises kept from his run.

Facing him is Democrat Robert McCollister, a former coach and teacher from Rock Hill Schools.

He said his run for commission is the culmination of a life of public service and mentoring young people.

“I believe the young people of this county are every bit as smart and talented as anyone in the country,” he said, and pledged to work to strengthen education.

McCollister said he wants to “build an economy that lifts all boats” and hopes that the county can invest in the renewable energy business, which he said will be a major economic force in coming years.

“I want us to catch that wave,” he said of making an early commitment, “and not get washed over by it.”


Lawrence County Auditor

Democrat Jason Tolliver said he is qualified for the position he is seeking, citing his record as a businessman.

“I’ve worked with multiple unions in three surrounding states and kept multi-million dollar budgets,” he said, stating it had given him an education in finance.

He described himself as a problem solver in the industry.

“If you want someone to work for seniors, keep property taxes low and fight on issues like the jail, I’d appreciate your vote,” he said.

Republican incumbent Jason Stephens said the purpose of the auditor’s office is “to give people information to make decisions.”

Stephens said, during his time in office, he has worked to make records available and inform the public.

He pointed to improvements in the office’s website, which includes aerial photos and tax maps.

“It’s a great tool, which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he said.

He pledged to continue his efforts.

“I will work to keep finding ways to make government more effective,” he said.


State rep. —93rd District

Incumbent Republican Ryan Smith, who currently serves as speaker of the Ohio House, was not present, due to a meeting, but sent an aide in his place.

The aide touted Smith’s efforts to bring broadband to rural Ohio and said that Smith’s leadership position would ensure Lawrence County has a say in the state capitol.

“Your voice is heard,” he said.

Facing Smith is Samantha Thomas-Bush, an attorney from Proctorville.

“I have a different vision from what is taking place now,” she said of her reason for running.

She said she wants to focus on job creation through small businesses.

“They are the lifeblood of our community,” she said. “We also need to keep living wage jobs and bring back union jobs.”

She said she wants to concentrate on the addiction epidemic.

“We need to address it on a state level,” she said of prevention efforts. “We need to get information into the schools and talk to kids. That’s the missing gap here. We need to connect those dots.”

She said she also wants to fight efforts to privatize education.

“This takes away funds from public schools,” she said. “It takes away classes that enrich children, things like STEM classes and it takes away teaching jobs.”


State Senate – 17th district

Democrat Scott Dailey, a union pipefitter from Portsmouth, outlined his vision for office, which he said centers on wellness, education, career and retirement issues.

On wellness, he said that for every 10 people without health care in Ohio, four work a full-time job.

“They struggle paycheck to paycheck and are one medical problem away from bankruptcy,” Dailey said.

He said he wants to prepare Ohioans for the job field.

“Quit saying we don’t have workers,” he said.

“We have plenty of workers, but they need the right education.”

Dailey also called for a raise in the minimum wage, which he said has not gone up proportionate to inflation.

He said he would work with those in the legislature who are seeking to raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour over the next two years and schedule additional increases after that.

He said he would also seek to preserve pensions and Social Security.

“I care and you matter,” he said in requesting support.

Incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Petersen said his reason for serving in the legislature goes back to “a defining moment.”

While in office as a Fayette county commissioner, he said he was approached by Honda and that his county was one of three possible sites for a new plant.

He said he was told that while Ohio had the “best site,” the company opted to go to Indiana, due to less taxes and regulations.

“I then decided to run and focus on bringing back jobs to Ohio,” he said.

Petersen said the state has made progress over his time in office and said 540,000 jobs have been created, taxes have been lowered and spending has been increased for things like schools and care for the elderly.

Petersen said he had a record of working with the other party and that his bills have had bipartisan sponsorship from Democrats.

He said he hopes to continue on the job and work more on job growth, workforce development, curbing the drug epidemic and education reform.


State rep. —90th district

While not on the ballot in the Burlington area, the forum had a late arrival from Democrat Adrienne Buckler, a Scioto County attorney, who is running for the legislative district that covers part of Ironton. She said she was in the area  doing a broadcast interview.

“I hope you don’t mind me crashing your party,” Buckler said.

She said she wanted to make a difference.

“I’m 28 and it’s not taken me 50 years to realize I want to make a change in my country,” she said.

Buckler will face Republican Brian Baldridge, an Adams County Commissioner, farmer and firefighter, for the seat being vacated by Republican Terry Johnson.

As 90th district candidates had not actually been sent invitations to the event, Johnson was not present.