Abortion rights was the issue that most clearly delineated the difference between Democratic and Republican candidates during Monday’s debate among four of five candidates vying for the Ohio House 42nd district in southern Montgomery County.
The debate was sponsored by the Dayton Daily News, WHIO Radio and TV and the Dayton Area League of Women Voters.
State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, Miamisburg Vice Mayor Sarah M. Clark and Marcus Rech, all Miamisburg Republicans, said they opposed abortion.
Antani said he has had a 100 percent “pro-life” voting record, and Clark said she would as well if she is elected.
“I believe that the life of the unborn is just as precious as those of us who are already born and walking around,” Clark said.
Rech also said he is “pro-life” and supports further restrictions on abortion, including the Heartbeat Bill, but also said that there may be cases involving the life of the mother when a “tragic decision” must be made.
The Republican-dominated state legislature has considered or approved multiple new restrictions on abortion rights, and the state has used regulations to shut down clinics which perform abortions.
Zach Dickerson, a Democrat from Miamisburg, told the audience of about 100 people at Miamisburg High School that “everybody in this room is pro-life. There’s nobody that’s pro-abortion.”
But Dickerson said the right to decide on abortion, which is legal in the United States, is between a woman and her doctor.
“I’m a small government Democrat and I do not want the government coming between you and your doctor,” Dickerson said. “I really honestly believe that a woman should have the right to make her own health decisions.”
The 42nd District state House race is shaping up as one of the ones to watch on May 8. Candidates are running TV and radio ads and residents of the district are being flooded with mailers.
The district includes Moraine, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Germantown and part of Centerville, and Washington, Miami and German townships.
Minimum wage, taxes
At the debate, the candidates also disagreed on the subject of minimum wage, but those differences crossed party lines.
Both Antani and Clark said they oppose having a minimum wage, while Rech and Dickerson support it.
Federal law sets minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, an amount that hasn’t changed since 2009. But in Ohio the minimum wage is higher — $8.30 per hour — because voters approved a 2006 Constitutional amendment that requires it increase with inflation.
Antani and Clark argue that businesses should be allowed people to pay what the market will bear.
“By having a government-mandated minimum wage in some industries you are actually depressing the wages because you are allowing that employer to pay that employee that minimum wage instead of what industry, what the market, would then allow, which would be a larger wage,” Antani said.
Dickerson disagreed, saying that “a minimum wage does not mean that somebody can’t pay you more. It sets the floor, not the ceiling.”
“I think a $15 minimum wage is a good thing so that you don’t have to live in poverty,” Dickerson said.
Rech also supports keeping a minimum wage in place.
“We need some sort of standard of living for people,” Rech said. “There are too many pushes for cheap labor.”
On the subject of taxes, Antani touted $1 billion in tax cuts by the state legislature over the more than 3 years he has been in the Statehouse and said the state surplus made that possible. But Clark said some of that surplus came at the expense of local communities, who had to cut services after local government funds were cut by the state.
“Who doesn’t like tax cuts? (But) we went a little overboard,” Dickerson said, advocating for a review of tax cuts to see if they have helped or hurt the state..
He also said the state wasted huge amounts of money that should have gone to public schools by giving it to Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), the online charter school that closed earlier this year amid allegations that its accounting of enrollment allowed it to improperly obtain $60 million in state funding Ohio is now trying to claw back.
Guns in schools also came up, with all three Republicans saying school districts should get to decide whether teachers are armed, while Dickerson said arming teachers is a dangerous path and could lead to accidents. Earlier this year Antani was criticized for advocating that 18-year-olds be allowed to carry long guns to school. He has since refused to comment further on that but Rech bought it up during the debate saying, “I do not believe that students should be armed in any capacity.”
A second Democrat on the May 8 ballot, Autumn Kern of Miamisburg, did not attend the debate.
COVERING ALL SIDES
We reached out to the candidates in the local area who are on the May 8 ballot. Learn more about them and the issues in our interactive voters guide at vote.daytondailynews.com