Two candidates vying on Nov. 4 for the Statehouse both emphasized the need to bring jobs to Springfield and their desires to change school funding in Ohio.
Democrat Darrell Jackson and Republican Kyle Koehler, both of Springfield, are running to replace incumbent Ross McGregor in the 79th Ohio House District. The Springfield Republican has served the maximum four terms in office.
The district consists of Springfield and the southwestern half of Clark County. The winner will serve from 2015 through 2017 and will make an annual salary of about $60,500.
The candidates also discussed their views on gay marriage, non-resident taxation and red light cameras, among others.
Here’s a look at both candidates.
Jackson, 53, is a retired Clark County Sheriff’s deputy with more than 26 years of service. He’s married with two children and was unopposed in the primary.
He’s running for state representative because the General Assembly has turned its back on Ohio’s middle class, he said. The rich are getting richer, Jackson said, while doing nothing for the poor.
“I want to fight in that chamber to restore the success of these individuals,” Jackson said.
After negotiating labor contracts for many years with the Clark County Deputies Association, Jackson believes his experience can bring together both sides of the aisle at the Statehouse.
“I try to solve the problems, listen to all the concerns and come up with something everybody can live with,” Jackson said.
Upon entering office, Jackson’s first goal would be changing the funding model for Ohio’s public school system. It’s been the No. 1 concern of residents he’s spoken with during the campaign.
“I would sit down with everybody at the General Assembly, Republicans and Democrats, and say ‘We need to focus on this’,” Jackson said. “We can’t let public education collapse.”
The best way to bring jobs to Springfield and Clark County, Jackson said, is to first have the infrastructure in place, such as roads, a safe community and a trained workforce.
“You have to have all of that in place, then go look for jobs,” Jackson said. “Jobs are not going to come here. You have to go out and recruit jobs to come in here.”
Local government funds previously cut by the state should be restored immediately to pay for basic services such as roads, police and fire, Jackson said. Gov. John Kasich has built up Ohio’s rainy day fund on the backs of local taxpayers, he said.
The city’s income tax issue for street repairs on the Nov. 4 ballot is a great example, Jackson said.
“If we didn’t cut that local government revenue, we’d probably be able to fund road maintenance without asking local people to chip in more for that,” he said.
On the topic of gay marriage, Jackson said government shouldn’t be involved in people’s personal lives.
“This is an issue that’s going to be decided by the courts,” Jackson said. “I don’t think we should discriminate against anybody.”
Municipalities like Springfield should have the ability to tax people who work in the city, Jackson said, but don’t live there.
“You’re using those services,” Jackson said. “If you had a heart attack right now, you’d want the Springfield medics to be able to respond to that immediately … You have to invest in the community you work in, too, because you rely on those services.”
He would also support keeping red light cameras running in municipalities such as Springfield.
“I believe they cut down on accidents,” Jackson said. “I think it’s a good thing.”
The heroin epidemic also needs to be addressed, Jackson said. He would support both enhancing sex education programs in school and keeping concealed carry laws as they currently stand.
Jackson knows the issues and is energetic in making sure all people are represented, Clark County Democratic Party Chairman Dale Henry said. Jackson’s experience working in law enforcement will help with his transition to the Statehouse.
“We think that the time is right for him to be state representative,” Henry said.
Koehler, 53, is the vice president of his family-owned business K.K. Tool in Springfield. He’s married with five children. He beat both Argeri Lagos and Rick Chimento in a heated primary earlier this year to win the Republican nomination.
With neither candidate having been previously elected to a public office, he believes business and life experience is what makes him qualified for the seat. He has a background in manufacturing, technology and agriculture.
“We need somebody at the Statehouse that understands all that and has experience in each one of those,” Koehler said. “I have the business and life experience to represent the people.”
If elected, his first goal is to lower taxes on businesses. Speedway, for example, recently received tax incentives to create new jobs in Springfield, Koehler said, which proves lowering taxes will bring more businesses to the district. The new jobs would also revive the local tax base.
“I don’t think the city commissioners would be asking for a quarter-percent increase in income tax because we’d have so much more tax revenue coming in, it would be able to fix the streets,” Koehler said. “Bringing profitable businesses to the area is the most important thing we can do.”
He’d like to see taxes lowered across the state, including personal income taxes. The commercial activity tax in Ohio also needs to be reduced, he said.
“I’d rather have a million new people paying a small tax, rather than less people paying an increased amount of taxes,” Koehler said.
The most important issue facing Clark County is jobs, Koehler said. He also believes more workforce training is needed to fill those jobs as they come back to Springfield. Nonprofit organizations can help bring people back into the workforce and off government assistance, he said.
Another goal of his is to move the educational system’s funding method away from a property taxes. He doesn’t have a specific fix for the problem, but believes that would be a good start.
“We need to move away from it and I’ll be happy to to lead the charge,” Koehler said.
Koehler is also against the re-definition of marriage, as well as increasing sexual education in school, which he believes increases teen pregnancies. He also believes concealed carry laws are fine as they currently stand.
On the topic of non-resident taxation, Koehler believes people who work in a municipality, but live elsewhere should have the opportunity to vote on the issue.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make it equitable,” Koehler said. “In a sense, I benefit from it, I pay it, but I have no say in it.”
While he sees both positives and negatives with red light cameras regarding safety, he believes the fines should be reduced to cover the costs of the cameras.
“If it’s about revenue generation, then I think it’s wrong,” Koehler said.
Koehler was an easy choice after being narrowly defeated for a county commission seat in 2012 by incumbent David Hartley, Clark County Republican Party chairwoman Lynda Smith said. Koehler’s business experience makes him an excellent choice, she said.
“He’s been creating jobs in this community for years,” Smith said.