Keller, Howard battle for Ohio 53rd District

Rebecca Howard (left), a Democrat from Reily Twp., is challenging Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, for the 53rd Ohio House seat.

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Rebecca Howard (left), a Democrat from Reily Twp., is challenging Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, for the 53rd Ohio House seat.

Rebecca Howard hopes to be one of the first three Democrats to win a Statehouse seat in Butler County since districts were divided in the 1960s.

The Ohio Democratic Party and local county parties have recruited to challenge every Republican-held Statehouse seat in the hope that many will ride the so-called “blue wave” to victory in November.

“Our strategy is to just talk with people, listen to people and let them know I am interested in what everybody has to say,” said Howard, 60. “I’m not just looking for people who agree with me … that’s not getting the tenor of the entire district. Being willing to have those difficult conversations, those challenging conversations.”

Candidates have different priorities for 52nd House district

But Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, said she has earned a return trip to Columbus representing the 53rd Ohio House District.

“I’ve done what I promised I would do,” said Keller, 59. “I’ve passed conservative legislation. I’m meeting with constituents almost daily, and I’m just really accessible to the people. I just enjoy being a legislator, and I have stayed in the district and worked hard for the district.”

Keller is seeking her first re-election in November to the House seat that covers northern and western portions of Butler County from Oxford and Okeana to Middletown and Monroe.

Howard, of Reily Twp., grew up in Hamilton and is a part-time education faculty member at Miami University.

“I’m focusing more on campaigning for the voters of the 53rd, and that means we’re just finding ways to reach out to voters to engage with voters about their concerns,” Howard said.

For Keller, campaigning is a way to meet more constituents, and reconnect with the people she’s known for years.

“I love to talk to people, and I was born and raised here, so I know so many people here already,” she said.

Among the accomplishments Keller is touting, is the more than $20 million she pushed for the district from the 2018 capital budget, most of which went to Miami University in Oxford.

Keller has introduced five pieces of legislation and has co-sponsored 86 other pieces of legislation in her first full term. If re-elected, Keller intends to re-introduce her bill that would ban sanctuary cities in Ohio.

INITIAL REPORT: Butler County representative announces legislation on sanctuary cities

“That bill has had overwhelming support by everyone who matters, which are the voters, but not by the one person who matters, which is the governor,” said Keller. “He’s leaving Dec. 31 and I’ll reintroduce it under a new governor, whoever that will be, so we will push forward with that.”

Ohio House Bill 179, which was introduced in April 21017, hasn’t received a hearing in the House’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.

She said she also plans to work on addressing opioid and heroin addiction, prison reform and to re-introduce her version of the stand your ground bill.

Despite being the underdog — no Democrat has beat a Republican for any of Butler County’s Statehouse seats since the districts were drawn in the 1960s — Howard believes the so-called “blue wave” will hit Ohio, and shift the traditionally solid red Butler County to become a little purple.

“The largest single category (of registered voters) are unaffiliated, independent voters,” she said. “Historically, many of them have tended to drift more Republican than Democrat but the sense I’m getting in conversations with people is that a lot of those independent voters is that they are drifting left. And I think that does echo some of the concerns that we’re seeing played out on a national level about the direction of the Republican Party.”

On the campaign trail, Howard said voters say their top concerns are surrounding three areas, which intersect each other: economics, health care and education. Those are the issues she’ll champion in Columbus as she said those “are pretty much the three topics that I’ve kind of identified early one as probably the most concerning.”

“Those three topics really intersect,” she said. “When you start talking about any one of those (issues), you eventually wind up talking about another one of those.”


• The district includes all of the villages of College Corner, Jacksonburg, Millville, New Miami, Seven Mile and Somerville; the cities of Monroe, Oxford and Trenton; the townships of Lemon, Madison, Milford, Morgan, Oxford, Reily and Wayne; and parts of Hanover Twp. and Middletown

• 88.5 percent of the public has at least a high school degree and 23 percent are college graduates.

• The median house hold income is $54,370 and the median home value is $147,100

• 16.3 percent of the population is below the poverty level

Source: The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association’s Ohio Elections Guide and Ohio Secretary of State

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