Phil Plummer faces challenger Leronda Jackson for Ohio House District 40 seat

Ohio Rep. Phil Plummer and Leronda Jackson are competing for the 40th Ohio House district seat this election.

District 40 includes Northeast Dayton, and much of Northern Montgomery County

Incumbent Republican state Rep. Phil Plummer, a former Montgomery County Sheriff, faces Democrat Leronda Jackson, an insurance agency owner, in the race for the 40th Ohio House district seat.

The district covers Northeast Dayton, as well as Butler Twp., Englewood, Huber Heights, Phillipsburg, Union, Vandalia, Verona, Wayne Twp. and portions of Clayton, Clay Twp., Harrison Twp. and Riverside.

A member of the Ohio House will make a base salary of $67,493 in 2021. The term is two years and members can serve four consecutive two-year terms. Plummer has served one term in the Ohio House.

A Montgomery County court issued a judgment against Jackson in 2013 for more than $1,400 for unpaid personal income taxes. Jackson said the bill was immediately paid when she learned of it in 2013.

Plummer said he is concerned about his opponent dealing with a statewide budget when she has problems with her personal finances.

Jackson said in an emailed statement, “unlike my opponent, I pay all of my financial obligations without taking dirty, dark money."

Plummer’s campaign had more than $80,000 on hand in June, according to a campaign finance report. Friends of Larry Householder gave Plummer’s campaign $10,000 during the 2018 primary. First Energy gave his campaign $2,500 in 2019.

The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice has charged former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four other men in a racketeering scheme that allegedly involved $60 million in bribes to elect Householder and pro-Householder lawmakers, make him speaker, pass House Bill 6 and defend the bailout bill from a referendum.

Plummer said all his finance records are in accordance with state laws and he is still considering whether he will donate the money he received from Friends of Householder and First Energy. He said he supports repealing HB6.

Jackson’s campaign had about $19,000 on hand in July according to a finance report filed with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

During interviews with the Dayton Daily News, both candidates touted police reform as a major issue. Plummer introduced a House bill in June on police reform.

Jackson said she doubts Plummer will pull off his plan because of his history as Montgomery County Sheriff. At least 15 lawsuits alleging the mistreatment of jail inmates have been filed against Montgomery County in recent years. Legal fees and settlements have cost the county more than $11 million.

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“My opponent is not a credible source on police reform,” Jackson said. “It is my belief he didn’t do it then and he won’t do it now.”

In response, Plummer said his 30 years of experience in law enforcement make him an expert in the profession.

“My bill has support from both chiefs of police associations and labor unions so if you get both sides of the coin agreeing on something, you’ve done something right," he said.

Here are answers Plummer and Jackson provided in response to questions from the Dayton Daily News:

Q: Where do you stand on the basic elements of the governor’s Strong Ohio gun reform package?

Plummer: Certain pieces I like and certain pieces I do not like. I actually introduced a gun bill, House Bill 354. And what I wanted to do is fix the current background check system. Everybody who gets a new gun goes through a background check and there’s some holes in that system, so I feel the background checking system needs improved. And also I want to focus more on people with mental illnesses. You need proper treatment for them, and until they’re stabilized, (prevent) them from owning a gun. That goes hand in hand with the background check system. So a lot of that whether treated or adjudicated for mental health isn’t making it into the background system so there’s my two components I’m for. I am opposed to any kind of (red flag law). I think we should enforce the current laws on the books that we have now, and they are sufficient.

Jackson: The package is good. I am happy that the governor does see the need for us to have some safe, responsible gun ownership laws. I was just kind of hoping that this will move forward.

Q: Should Ohio require background checks for all gun purchases, including private party sales?

Plummer: Yes, I’m not opposed to that.

Jackson: Yes. I just think Ohio should. We’re talking about life and death in a lot of instances, and there would be the possibility of us, perhaps, preventing a very bad situation from happening if the background check had been done. And why would a background check hurt anyone?

Q: Should Ohio pass a red flag law that allows families and police to seek a court order to remove firearms from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others?

Plummer: No, I’m opposed to red flag laws.

Jackson: Yes, absolutely. I just believe that people who have a history of mental illness, especially when it’s recorded and somebody somewhere knows, so perhaps a school or perhaps law enforcement knew or the courts knew or maybe the family knows that they have a family member that is just not well. There has to be, again, a way to prevent very bad circumstances from happening. So when we look at who should own a gun and we talk about who’s responsible enough to own a gun, I think that there has to be those red flag laws in place.

Q: Do you support or oppose the state authority to issue public health orders to shut down businesses, schools and other activities during a pandemic?

Plummer: I oppose any bureaucrat that has the authority to do that. That includes the health department. So elected officials, local control, I support. But any other bureaucracy I’m opposed to because there’s no recourse for the voting public when you’re dealing with bureaucrats.

Jackson: I support the state having the authority to shut down a business, school, any place where people can be harmed, possibly get a deadly illness or even die. I know that people need to make money, and I know that people want to be entertained and have an enjoyable time. But we’re talking about a pandemic that we really don’t know that much about and we don’t have our arms around it. So why risk, other people’s safety? So I support following what the CDC says, and I support listening to medicine and science.

Q: Do you wear a mask in public spaces when you cannot maintain six feet of social distancing? Why or why not?

Plummer: I do. Because I’m looking out for everybody else’s health. I think it’d be a concern for other people.

Jackson: Yes. I wear the mask because I feel that I’m strong and I feel that I have a great immune system, but I would feel terrible if I was a carrier of this disease and I gave it to someone else and they weren’t as strong. So when the governor asked us to wear the mask to help others, that was no problem for me. That was easy. And I also wear it for myself; I don’t want to be sick either. I’ve worn a mask before when I’ve had flu or virus symptoms. I don’t understand why the mask has become such a source of contention.

Q: Do you support or oppose removing the ‘catch-all’ language in Ohio’s child immunization laws that allow parents to opt not to have their kids vaccinated for reasons of conscience?

Plummer: I believe in parental choice. (So I would oppose removing the catch-all language.)

Jackson: I support a parent being able to make that decision. However, I also feel that there has to be an accountability on that parent if that child does become ill or if that child wants to participate in a particular event, school activity or something where other children are put at risk and that child didn’t have the immunization ... I’m an immunization person. I believe that prevention is always better than dealing with something afterward, regardless of what we’re talking about. So I hate to take the authority away from a parent, but at the same time, what’s the accountability or the responsibility of that parent for someone else’s innocent child who did have the vaccination?

Q: Ohio and other states saw sustained demonstrations this summer against racial injustice and police brutality. Protesters called for a slate of reforms. What do you think are the most important changes we should make?

Plummer: I currently have House Bill 703 that I’ve introduced and the primary goals of that is to standardize police training. I want a state license oversight board. The intent of that is just like doctors, lawyers, they have a state license … So if you have egregious conduct, the state can remove your license. That’s (lacking in) law enforcement so we would implement that. We want a statewide disciplinary database for egregious disciplinary situations that will prevent department hopping from certain officers going from department to department. We also want outside independent investigations for police involved-shootings. And we want outside independent prosecutions for police-involved shootings. So that’s a very strong bill. It’s got a lot of bipartisan support. The unions are supporting it. So when I get that bill passed, that’ll be the reform we need.

Jackson: There are many. I believe that reform starts before you hire an individual … So why did you hire this person in the first place? Did you do psychological testing? Did you investigate their social media pages? Did you do a thorough investigation of their former employer? … But then even after that, I believe that continual training has to take place quarterly or semi-annually that discusses implicit bias, what those biases are, how to recognize them and how to deescalate a situation. Being a Black female, of course, I watch the news, I watch the cases and it appears as though you see an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of Black people who are mishandled. They’re handled very aggressively, there’s excessive force. And you see officers able to talk down a person who’s not of color and I don’t know how you train for that. So to me, that person should have never been hired … I respect law enforcement and I understand their role is to enforce the law ... But at the end of the day, if you are able to deescalate a situation with a white person or a perpetrator, then you should be able to do the same thing when the perpetrator is Black. So, I believe reform starts before you hire and I think that we need to have a standardized hiring procedure.

Q: Do you support or oppose repeal of HB6?

Plummer: I support the repeal of House Bill 6 and I’m on the new energy committee working on that as we speak.

Jackson: I support the repeal of House Bill 6.

Q: State lawmakers craft laws that impact open meetings and access to public records. In your public service experience, how have you worked to increase transparency?

Plummer: We’ve always followed the law. I understand the importance of public records, especially with the media, so I’ve always followed the law to support the public records law.

Jackson: I’m an owner of an insurance agency and so all of my transactions, everything is done through the Department of Insurance. It is all transparent … That is one of the things that I’m finding out from voters is that they really don’t know what goes on at the Statehouse. And although it’s online for anyone to find, I personally don’t believe they should have to go find it. I believe that the state representative should provide that information to their constituents.

Q: Given the pandemic and economic crisis, state tax revenues are tumbling and the upcoming budget is expected to be challenging. Would you vote to increase income, sales and/or business taxes to avoid drastic cuts to state programs? Why or why not?

Plummer: No, I would not support any tax increase at this time. The revenues are still coming in pretty strongly. The stimulus money is helping out.

Jackson: I would vote to increase sales tax. I don’t believe in taxing people even more who are already struggling and already strapped. But not only increasing a sales tax — let’s look at budgets. When you look at education and the budget being cut, but I have not seen any budget being cut regarding corrections, and our prisons. So I was raised where if you want to see what someone loves, look in their checkbook and you’ll see what they love and value. We could have cut some prison spending and jail spending before cutting education. I’m not a fan of cutting education. That is, for most people, education provides our children with their future. So you send a strong message when you don’t want to educate your children. And I think that Ohio is going to pay for that and pay dearly. I would increase sales tax before anything.

Q: A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June makes employment discrimination against LGBTQ workers illegal but it doesn’t cover housing or places of public accommodation. For more than a decade, some Ohio lawmakers have tried to pass a bill that would make discrimination in housing, employment and places of public accommodation illegal on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce now backs this bill. Do you support or oppose the bill?

Plummer: I am against any type of discrimination so wherever that lumps me into that bucket.

Jackson: I will support a bill that prohibits discrimination for LGBTQ (people). I just think that discrimination is wrong. We know it’s wrong. Most people they’ll look the other way before they’ll deal with it, but I absolutely believe all discrimination should be banned.

Q: What other policy reforms are high on your agenda?

Plummer: I’m working on some pension issues. So there’s been some bad investment with public pensions so we’re trying to correct the pensions for our retirees. That’s an issue. I’m working on a lot of issues dealing with mental health. And I’ve got a parity bill, the federal government says insurance companies will pay for XYZ when it comes to mental health treatment so I’m making Ohio follow the federal government’s guidelines on that. So I’m really working hard on mental health treatment, bringing more mental health treatment to our community, and still working hard on the substance use issue.

Jackson: I have a real issue with people not having a livable wage. If someone works 40 hours a week, they’re a full-time employee, they should be able to pay rent, buy groceries and take care of themselves or their family. I’m not saying that if they don’t bring the skills for a certain job that they should just be paid anyway, regardless. But I am saying Ohio is going to have to raise the minimum wage. That is going to be the only way people can make it ... I’m a small business owner. I pay a livable wage. I’m fighting for small business owners. If a business owner just literally cannot pay, let’s say $15 an hour, then perhaps the state should offer them some type of an incentive or help them out on the back end, but that employees has to be able to live.

Phil Plummer

Age: 56

Hometown: Lives in Butler Twp., from Dayton

Political Party: Republican

Political Experience: Montgomery County aheriff, 2008-2018, Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman, 2013-present, state representative for Ohio House District 40, 2019-present

Education: Associate’s in criminal justice from University of Toledo and Bachelor’s in business management from University of Phoenix.

Leronda Jackson

Age: 55

Hometown: Lives in Englewood, from Middletown

Political Party: Democrat

Political Experience: None

Education: Associate’s degree in applied science from Sinclair Community College

Current employment: owner and principal agent at LFL Insurance Agency

Election 2020

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