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Ohio voters may change way Congress lines are drawn

Published: Tuesday, December 26, 2017 @ 8:51 AM
Updated: Tuesday, December 26, 2017 @ 11:04 AM


            Voters cast their ballots at the Edgewood Middle School polling place, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Voters cast their ballots at the Edgewood Middle School polling place, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Political operatives for generations have redrawn legislative and congressional districts to benefit the party in power.

But that could change in a big way in 2018, and Ohio will be in the forefront as reformers attempt to reduce the influence of partisanship in the drawing of political districts.

A lot is at stake, including — some say — the polarization that defines American politics.

Supporters say districts with a diverse political mix are more fair, reduce partisanship and give voters greater choice.

“It really is a combination of factors: the building sense out there that there is an urgent problem to solve and a good track record of Ohio’s last effort at reform,” said Christopher Devine, assistant professor of political science at the University of Dayton.

A lot is happening on the redistricting front, including a potentially consequential ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

RELATED: Ohio may change the way congressional lines are drawn Justices are expected to rule in June on a Wisconsin case that may for the first time result in the court prohibiting partisan-based gerrymandering, which is the practice of drawing districts to favor a certain political party or candidate.

“That decision could change the landscape in Ohio and every other state in the country,” said Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University.

Redistricting reform efforts are widespread. Reform legislation was introduced in 28 states this year and citizen-led initiatives were proposed in at least eight states, according to data collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Brennan Center for Justice.

Ohio voters in 2015 showed a big interest in reforming the current system when 71 percent approved changes in the way state legislative districts are drawn.

That constitutional amendment set up an expanded redistricting commission that gave the minority party more power, and included rules discouraging partisanship and requiring compact, competitive districts and a transparent redistricting process.

RELATED: Supreme Court takes on case that could change congressional elections Devine called that vote “a really strong wind for reform” that is fueling efforts now to reform how congressional districts are drawn in Ohio.

The flurry of activity comes as the constitutionally mandated 2020 Census looms. If new systems aren’t put in place by then, the Congressional redistricting reforms will have to wait another decade until after the 2030 Census.

Divided court

The Supreme Court long ago ruled that it is unconstitutional to racially gerrymander districts, a prohibition reinforced in a ruling this year on North Carolina’s redistricting map. But, Smith said, justices have never settled on a way to determine when partisan gerrymandering goes too far.

The justices appeared divided during arguments in the Wisconsin case, known as Gill v. Whitford, with Justice Anthony Kennedy likely to take on the familiar role of tie breaker, said Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.

Foley said Kennedy “is on the public record saying he’s very troubled by partisan gerrymandering and he sees it as an affront to democracy.”

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin were accused of seriously skewing the state’s legislative districts in favor of Republicans when the maps were redrawn in 2011. Wisconsin Republican lawmakers said the map was not intentionally partisan, but instead reflected the fact that many Democrats lived in urban areas and Republicans were more evenly spread out across the state, according to a case description by the Brennan Center, a non-partisan public policy institute at the New York University School of Law.

A panel of three federal judges disagreed, finding the Republican maps were unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, violating the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in October and is expected early next year to hear arguments in a separate case from Maryland — Benisek v. Lamone. In that case, Republicans allege that congressional district maps drawn by Democrats were designed to punish voters who supported Republican candidates.

Foley said the court is at “a major fork in the road.”

RELATED: Concerns raised over 2020 census accuracy, funding “One direction is the court basically abandoning any role to try to police excessive partisanship in these maps. The other fork in the road would take the federal judiciary down the path of being something of a police officer on this issue,” he said.

Even if the high court rules against partisan gerrymandering, Foley does not anticipate the justices would put courts in charge of redistricting.

“They’re going to give states latitude, but they’ll say there’s a boundary of how much partisanship you can inject, and when you go too far we’re going to put a brake and a limit on it,’” Foley said. “If a state legislature acts with too much partisan greed, so to speak, in drawing lines then the federal courts will intervene and say, ‘No, no, no, that’s too greedy.’”

Computers change game

Partisan gerrymandering and calls for reform are not new, but powerful computers and the availability of massive datasets have dramatically changed how precisely a district can be drawn to protect a certain party or an incumbent.

Partisan map drawers can now carefully place voters of one party or another into a district, and know exactly what their voting patterns are.

Those decisions stay in place too, because legislative and congressional district lines are redrawn only every 10 years.

The new boundaries are supposed to reflect population shifts after the decennial census. Although differing rules govern how Ohio draws state and congressional district boundaries, essentially the party that controls state government has controlled the redrawing of the districts.

Ohio’s drop in population cost it two congressional seats in the 2011 redistricting, and the state may lose another seat after 2020, according to estimates. Ohio now has 16 House members — 12 Republicans and four Democrats.

RELATED: Issue 1 would change how legislative lines are drawn Federal law requires that districts be as equal in population as possible, that its parts be contiguous and that the district lines not dilute minority voting strength. But there is no law against packing a district with members of a single political party or dividing up a certain party’s members to dilute their power.

And that’s what has happened — in Ohio and many other states. Prior to Issue 1, the 2015 constitutional amendment that was approved overwhelming by voters, Ohio had no rules requiring transparency or language about banning partisanship. The initiative called for a bipartisan commission to be involved the redrawing of district boundaries, but it only pertains to legislative seats and not members of Congress.

A coalition of groups is currently gathering signatures to put a congressional redistricting proposal on the November 2018 ballot.

Republican wave

The Republican wave that occurred in 2010 — the first mid-term after Barack Obama won the presidency — helped the GOP control political-map drawing in state after state, including Ohio.

A 2017 study Brennan Center of election results since then found that the decade’s congressional maps “are consistently biased in favor of Republicans,” according to the center’s Extreme Maps report. The group studied the 26 states that have six or more congressional districts — accounting for 85 percent of Congressional districts. It found that because of partisan bias in redistricting, Republicans currently have a net benefit of 16 to 17 seats in the current Congress.

Those 16 to 17 seats can be the difference between bills passing or failing. If Democrats had 16 more House seats, for example, the tax reform package that President Donald Trump signed on Friday would not have passed.

“Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania consistently have the most extreme levels of partisan bias,” the report says. “Florida, Ohio, Texas and Virginia have less severe partisan bias but jointly account for most of the remaining net extra Republican seats in the examined states.”

There was no high level of bias in states with maps drawn by commissions, courts or states without one party control, the Brennan Center found.

“There is strong evidence that the bias in this decade’s congressional maps is not accidental,” the report said. “With the exception of Texas, all of the most biased maps are in battleground states.”

Ohio’s congressional districts sprawl across multiple counties — dividing cities and counties alike. Summit County, home to Akron, is divided into four congressional districts, but not a single one of the representatives lives in that county.

Ohio’s districts are are also known for their sometimes odd shapes. Congressional district nine, held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur. D-Toledo, is narrow and long, earning the nickname “snake by the lake.” District 4, which sprawls over 14 counties and is held by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, is called the “duck district” and its tiny tail curls into Mercer County, a rural county represented by two other congressmen besides Jordan.

The districts were drawn by Republican state legislators entirely in secret with little opportunity for public input. Still, Republicans defend the maps, saying voters can decide every two years who to elect. They also say the state is becoming more red, noting that President Donald Trump won the state by more than eight percentage points and Republicans like Rob Portman, John Kasich and others have won their recent statewide elections in landslides.

Ballot issue

The congressional amendment that a citizen’s group hopes to put on the ballot next fall would mostly mirror the 2015 voter-approved reform of state legislative redistricting. Fair Districts =Fair Elections, a coalition of good-government groups that includes Common Cause of Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio, has gathered 178,000 of the 305,591 needed to put on the November ballot, said Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio.

“You need those good rules embedded in the Ohio Constitution,” said Turcer.

Two prominent Republicans — Kasich and Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is running for lieutenant governor — have long advocated for reforming the redistricting process.

“Ideas and merits should be what wins elections, not gerrymandering,” Kaisch said in his 2016 State of the State address. “When pure politics is what drives these kinds of decisions, the result is polarization and division. I think we’ve had enough of that. Gerrymandering needs to be on the dust bin of history.”

RELATED: Kasich backs redistricting reform State Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, a member of a four-man bipartisan working group set up by Republican legislative leaders said he anticipates the group’s version of redistricting reform will be ready to present to the legislature in early January. The goal is to place the proposed new system on the May 8 primary ballot, he said.

While the proposal will include “shades of Issue 1,” according to Huffman, he and Senate President Larry Obhof agree that “the General Assembly has to have some substantial control,” Huffman said.

Neither Huffman nor fellow working group member Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, would detail what the group’s proposal may look like. But Sykes said he supports the Fair Districts = Fair Elections proposal, which calls for a bipartisan approach to district map-drawing.

RELATED: Issue 1 would change how legislative lines are drawn Cedarville’s Smith said it’s doubtful the legislature’s Republican majority will approve something that “significantly takes partisanship out of the process.”

“The Republicans are in such control I have a hard time seeing them give up that kind of power,” he said.

Smith also questions whether changing the redistricting process will curtail polarization and the partisanship that is so endemic in American politics.

“I think if we were able to just magically wave a wand and get rid of partisan gerrymandering you would see some changes,” Smith said. “But you’re not going to wish away the culture war. You are not going to remove tribalization.”

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Proposed citizen initiative for state constitutional amendment reforming congressional redistricting

  • Would remove the state legislature’s power to directly draw districts.
  • New Ohio Redistricting Commission would consist of governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and one person each appointed by the Ohio House and Senate majority and minority leaders. No member of Congress could serve on it.
  • Map approval requires majority vote, including at least two members of minority party.
  • Outlaws drawing a map to favor or disfavor one party or candidate.
  • Districts must be nearly equal in population.
  • Map should minimize splitting of counties, municipalities and townships.
  • Districts must be compact and geographically contiguous.
  • Requires representational fairness, using a ten-year tally of Ohio voters partisan preferences.
  • Follows state and federal laws protecting minority representation.
  • The commission must release its proposed plan to the public, hold at least three public hearing and seek public input.

Source: Fair Districts = Fair Elections

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South Dayton suburban state House race one to watch on Election Day

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 6:53 PM

Ohio House candidates Niraj Antani, Sarah Clark, Marcus Rech and Zach Dickerson.
Ohio House candidates Niraj Antani, Sarah Clark, Marcus Rech and Zach Dickerson.

If you can measure the popularity of a job by the number of people seeking it, the race for the Ohio House 42 district in southern Montgomery County is the region’s winner.

Five people — three Republicans and two Democrats — are on the May 8 ballot for a seat in a district that has long been a Republican stronghold. About 62 percent of the district is Republican, according to the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association’s 2016 Election Guide.

VOTERS GUIDE: Compare the Democratic candidates on the issues

VOTERS GUIDE: Compare the Republican candidates on the issues

Here is a look at the candidates:

Democrats

Two candidates, Zach Dickerson and Autumn J. Kern, both of Miamisburg, are running for the Democratic nomination. Kern did not respond to any requests for comment or complete a Dayton Daily News Voter Guide.

Dickerson describes himself as a moderate Democrat who wants to focus on “kitchen table” issues such as fixing potholes, improving schools, funding first responders, battling the drug crisis and bringing good jobs and investment to the district.

Zach Dickerson of Miamisburg(Staff Writer)

He supports establishing a new microloan program for small businesses, restoring the local government fund and improving school funding so districts do not have to go on the ballot for property taxes so often. He’s not sure where he would find the money for those measures but said a review is needed to determine whether state tax cuts have been effective in stimulating the economy.

RELATED: Democratic leader says state tax cuts lead to higher local taxes

He supports the state’s expansion of Medicaid, which provides heath insurance to 685,000 Ohioans who were previously ineligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act. He said that expansion is crucial not only for helping people get preventative care but also in getting treatment for drug addiction.

He said he wants to work on bipartisan legislation to help the district.

“I feel like I will be an advocate for civility,” Dickerson said. “I want a functioning government run by reasonable people. I don’t think we have that right now.”

On other issues, Dickerson said he supports Republican proposed limits on pay day loans and reducing hours for cosmetology licenses. But he said Republican efforts to cut access to safe, legal abortions are wrong-headed and sometimes do not pass constitutional muster.

He did say he would support “reasonable restrictions” such as banning late-term abortions, according to his Voter Guide answers.

Dickerson grew up hunting and said there needs to be a balance between Second Amendment rights and protecting the public. He said assault-style weapons should be banned and he supports “red-flag” legislation that would keep people from having weapons if they pose a threat to themselves or others.

Republicans:

Three candidates are seeking the Republican nomination: State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg; Miamisburg Vice Mayor Sarah M. Clark and political newcomer Marcus Rech.

Niraj Antani

Antani is seeking re-election to the seat he has held since 2014.

He said he has been a strong voice for conservative values in the Statehouse and has voted to cut taxes, for stronger abortion restrictions and for capping college tuition increases.

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg(Staff Writer)

“As I’m in office longer I have more ability to deliver on legislation,” Antani said.

RELATED: Antani, anti-abortion group urge court to act against Kettering clinic

Antani wants to eliminate the state income tax and says he would oppose raising taxes. At the same time he advocates providing more support to community colleges for workforce development, increasing funding for law enforcement and restoring funding to local governments so they can fix roads and bridges instead of relying on the state to do it.

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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

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He also wants to have a drug dog inspecting every Fed Ex and U.S. mail piece in the state in an effort to stop the mailing of drugs. Antani said he doesn’t know what that would cost but it “would be very expensive.”

Doing without the state’s income tax revenue — which totaled $8 billion in 2017 — would be a tall order. Although he didn’t have a firm plan for reducing state revenues by that amount while still increasing funding for measures he supports, Antani said lawmakers would have to set priorities. He also advocated using $1 billion of the state’s rainy day fund for law enforcement to help fight the opioid epidemic.

Antani said he wants to reduce the number of people on Medicaid by providing work training and job coaches for able-bodied, childless adults.

Antani would eliminate the state-mandated minimum wage, which is currently governed by a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2006 that requires that it rise with inflation.

“The market should dictate wages,” Antani said.

He wants to freeze any changes in kindergarten through 12 education for five years and study best practices during the period, he said.

Antani is a strong supporter of restricting abortion rights and of loosening restrictions on guns. He said will support any anti-abortion legislation, including requiring that schools teach the controversial concept that a fetus feels pain at 18-20 weeks, something many scientists say is not true based on the neurological development of a fetus, according to Factcheck.org.

Earlier this year he advocated that 18-year-olds be allowed to carry long guns to high school, a position that was criticized by fellow Republicans as well as Democrats. He said he is no longer commenting on the subject.

RELATED: Ohio lawmaker: ‘Did a poor job of communicating’ position on students bearing firearms

Sarah M. Clark

The Miamisburg councilwoman said her opposition to Antani’s representation of the district is what put her in the race. She said she has more real world experience than he does and believes she would do a better job in the Statehouse.

Clark said she supports the Second Amendment but Antani’s idea that students could bring guns to school is wrong-headed and dangerous.

Sarah M. Clark, Miamisburg Vice Mayor(Staff Writer)

“I think it certainly highlighted his immaturity and inexperience,” Clark said, arguing that highly-trained armed security guards are a better option.

Clark wants to eliminate the Medicaid expansion, which she said costs taxpayers too much and hurts the people who are on Medicaid because she says they can’t find doctors who will take Medicaid.

RELATED: Kasich vs. lawmakers in Medicaid fight: ‘If you break it, you own it’

She said health care wouldn’t be so expensive if the state passed a health care cost transparency plan that would make pricing more competitive.

She does credit Medicaid with covering drug treatment for addiction. She said too many legislators focus on punishing addicts but she wants to instead have the state get people 18 months of treatment and imprison all drug dealers who sell opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Clark said she wants to get rid of government regulations that have hurt job creation, though she couldn’t name one that she would put on the chopping block. 

She also wants to cut taxes if possible and said tax breaks have enabled Miamisburg to attract companies to the city.

RELATED: Three-term councilwoman elected new vice mayor of Miamisburg

Clark opposes “abortion in all circumstances,” according to her Voter Guide answers. She said abortion opponents should extend their “pro-life” view to making sure people are “supported and cared for” after they are born as well. She said she’d like to see churches and other community groups take over more of the job of helping people with addiction, health care and foster care.

Marcus Rech

Rech said he is running because he believes Antani is too divisive. He also said he opposes Antani’s idea of teenagers bringing guns to school.

“You can’t have 18 year olds walking around with loaded long rifles in schools,” Rech said. “It was a big blow to Second Amendment supporters. It made us look stupid.”

Rech said a better plan for school safety would be more use of metal detectors, hiring more security and training school staff as backups.

RELATED: Who is running?: 18 local state House and Senate on ballot this year

Rech wants to repeal the expansion of Medicaid health insurance and said people who lose their insurance should negotiate their own prices with doctors under the Direct Primary Care model. He supports more transparency in health care pricing as well.

“I just want people to have choices,” Rech said.

Marcus Rech of Miamisburg(Staff Writer)

He believes government subsidies for medical care are what has driven up prices.

A big theme for Rech is that Americans need to be the ones getting jobs. He said schools should upgrade the core curriculum and the state needs to give teachers more freedom. He also said there needs to be more vocational training because not everyone is cut out for college.

“I’d like to see a cheaper version of education,” Rech said. “I’d like to see it more streamlined.”

He opposes the use of special visas and green cards to hire non-Americans by universities, contractors and government.

“I think we should talk to these companies and if we need to maybe we can do some taxation to discourage it,” said Rech.

Ohio House of Representatives 42nd District

Term: 2 years

Pay: $60,584 annually

District: Moraine, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Germantown and part of Centerville, and Washington, Miami and German townships.

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More information on the candidates

Zach Dickerson

Age: 38

Address: Miamisburg

Education: Law degree from University of Denver and bachelor of fine arts from Texas State University

Employment: Market research manager at Lexis-Nexis

Political experience: None

Political party: Democrat

Autumn J. Kern

Address: Miamisburg

Political party: Democrat

Kern did not respond to requests for further information

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Niraj Antani

Age: 27

Address: Miamisburg

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio State University

Employment: State representative

Political experience: State representative since 2014

Political party: Republican

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Sarah M. Clark

Age: 35

Address: Miamisburg

Education: Bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Trevveca Nazarene University

Employment: Business manager at Midwest Dental and Miamisburg vice mayor

Political experience: Mimaisburg council member since 2010

Political party: Republican

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Marcus Rech

Age: 28

Address: Miamisburg

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management from Thomas Edison State University

Employment: R &R Painting and Flooring

Political experience: None

Political party: Republican

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Abortion, guns, taxes focus in local state House debate

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 4:37 PM
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 4:37 PM

Candidates for the Ohio House District 42 seat.
Candidates for the Ohio House District 42 seat.

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.

RELATED: Ohio Supreme Court rules against abortion clinics; What’s local impact?

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.”

RELATED: May Election: South suburban statehouse race one to watch

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.

RELATED: Minimum wage earners in Ohio get a 2018 pay raise

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.

RELATED: ECOT, Ohio’s largest online charter school, officially closes

Gun safety

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

Other stories by Lynn Hulsey

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Guns, minimum wage top issues in Democratic governor primary

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:05 AM
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:12 AM

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), testifies during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. The Financial Stability Oversight Council's effort to enhance its transparency is
Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), testifies during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. The Financial Stability Oversight Council's effort to enhance its transparency is "important," Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commissioner Mary Jo White said at the hearing. Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Richard Cordray(Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Four years ago, Ohio Democrats pushed hard for a gubernatorial candidate who looked good on paper and found one: Ed FitzGerald.

The campaign was soon run aground by scandal — including news reports that he had been questioned by police after they found him in a parked car in the early morning hours with a woman who was not his wife — and the Democrats lost a landslide election to Republican Gov. John Kasich.

This time around voters have half a dozen Democrats on the May 8 primary ballot and the Ohio Democratic Party is officially neutral.

VOTERS GUIDE: Compare the Democratic candidates on the issues

Only four of the six appear to be serious contenders, and most observers see it as a two-person race between Richard Cordray, who has been on the statewide ballot five times; and Dennis Kucinich, a former Congressman turned FoxNews commentator.

VOTERS GUIDE: Compare the Republican candidates on the issues

In many ways Cordray and Kucinich are polar opposites. Cordray is known for his professorial style while Kucinich has a reputation for fiery rhetoric.

The sleeper candidate could be state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, an attorney and a former boxing champ who is currently sponsoring gun control bills in the Ohio Senate. But Schiavoni is barely known outside his Youngstown area district, and he’s running out of time to boost his name recognition before the May primary.

Also running is former Ohio Supreme Court justice Bill O’Neill, who is still trying to live down his November 2017 Facebook post when he boasted of sleeping with 50 beautiful women and brushed off the seriousness of the #MeToo movement. He has admitted he made a mistake.

The other two candidates on the ballot — Paul Ray of Alliance and Larry Ealy of Dayton — don’t appear to be actively campaigning.

The field doesn’t include a single woman. The three women who originally filed to run — Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton and former Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich — all dropped out and are supporting Cordray. Sutton is Cordray’s running mate.

Although no single issue has dominated the campaign so far, Cordray and Kucinich appear furthest apart on the issue of guns, with Kucinich calling for far stricter limits on gunownership and touting his F rating from the National Rifle Association.

Early voting in the primary is already underway. To ensure that voters have the background they need on each of the candidates, we profiled the Republican candidates last Sunday and are doing the Democrats today. The winner in November will replace Gov. John Kasich, who is term-limited.

Related: O’Neill’s boasts bring calls for his resignation

Richard Cordray

Cordray, 58, is a familiar name to Ohioans, having won his first election — for a seat in the Ohio House — in 1990. He won statewide elections for Ohio treasurer and Ohio attorney general before losing to Mike DeWine in the 2010 AG’s race. Cordray was then selected to head the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a post he left nine months early so he could run for governor.

Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray answers a question during The Journal-News and WLWT-TV sponsored Ohio Democratic Party sanctioned debate for governor candidates hosted by Miami University Regionals Tuesday, April 10 at Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University Middletown. Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill, Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni and former congressman Dennis Kucinich were also in attendance. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS(Nick Graham)

“(My running mate) Betty Sutton and I are focused on the kitchen table issues that affect families and are top of mind for them: how they’re struggling to secure their futures, access to affordable health care, better education and training, getting access to more and better jobs, and we have a track record that shows we can make a difference on those issues,” Cordray said. “We can get things done.”

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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

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Cordray says he doesn’t see a need for tax increases but wants to re-prioritize where the state spends money — less for failing charter schools and more for local government to deal with issues such as the opioid crisis, he said.To combat the crisis, Cordray supports education and prevention, a drug take-back strategy, efforts to get illicit drugs off the streets and adding treatment and recovery programs.

Cordray said he wants to continue Kasich’s reforms, such as clamping down on over-prescribing of painkillers, and continuing Medicaid expansion, which extended health care coverage to 725,000 low-income Ohioans, many of whom suffer from mental health and addiction issues.

“Medicaid expansion is going to be key,” he said. “If we don’t keep Medicaid expansion, we’re going to have an even worse problem.”

He pledged to enforce the 10-year-old federal mental health parity law, which requires insurance plans to cover mental and drug abuse issues on par with physical ailments.

Related: State’s record enforcing insurance mandate is questioned

Cordray opposes efforts to make Ohio a right-to-work state where union contracts cannot mandate membership as a condition of employment and he supports boosting the state minimum wage to $15 an hour over time — a move that he says may require a statewide ballot vote.

When it comes to gun control, Cordray favors universal background checks and banning high-capacity magazines and bump stocks but he stops short of calling for an assault weapons ban or measures to remove guns from those who appear at risk of harming themselves or others.

“You know that I have always respected people’s 2nd Amendment rights and I’ve defended those rights in court,” he said. As attorney general, Cordray defended a state law that blocks local governments from adopting gun restrictions.

Cordray said he supports cracking down on abusive payday lending practices. “They’re high everywhere but it’s almost 600 percent (APR) in Ohio. Nobody can think that’s a responsible way to lend money to people or that it’s going to help them succeed in their lives,” he said.

Related: Payday lending bill comes to life as House speaker faces probe

Dennis Kucinich

Kucinich, 71, is the oldest candidate in the field, having started his political career in 1970 on the Cleveland City Council, and bills himself as the most progressive.

“I’m the real Democrat in this race. I’m a true-blue Democrat,” he said. “I think people want a governor who drives real change, positive change and not just be into incrementalism. Our campaign has been dynamic, energetic, passionate, forward looking, visionary — showing Ohioans what kind of state they could have. They could have education for all and health care for all and jobs for all and safe communities and where women’s rights are protected in an uncompromising way.”

Former congressman Dennis Kucinich answers a question during The Journal-News and WLWT-TV sponsored Ohio Democratic Party sanctioned debate for governor candidates hosted by Miami University Regionals Tuesday, April 10 at Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University Middletown. Former Ohio attorney General Richard Cordray, Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill were also in attendance. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS(Nick Graham)

Kucinich pledges to veto bills the erode access to abortion, oppose right-to-work efforts and block executions on his watch. He also promises to issue executive orders in his first week on the job to mandate a $15 an hour minimum wage for all state employees and state contractors and to use the bully pulpit to push for it statewide.

When it comes to tax policies, Kucinich said he wants to eliminate the new provision that allows Limited Liability Companies, or LLCs, to pay no state income taxes on the first $250,000 in earnings. He said he supports a bond issue to raise money for infrastructure projects, such as rebuilding roads and bridges.

He’s made gun control a big part of his campaign, and favors banning assault weapons, bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and expanding background checks, school safety measures and safe storage of guns from children.

Related: Where do candidates for Ohio governor stand on gun issues?

When asked about Medicaid expansion, Kucinich said he favors a state-level single-payer health care plan that would cover all Ohioans, and he wants to legalize marijuana and treat drug addiction as a medical crisis, not a criminal crisis.

Kucinich agreed with Cordray that payday lending reforms are needed but he criticized his opponent for leaving his federal job early, where he had the chance to protect consumers in all 50 states.

“He walked off his post at a time when he was needed the most,” he said.

Kucinich’s opponents criticize his willingness to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has used chemical weapons against his own people. Kucinich has met with Assad multiple times.

“I defend peace, I don’t defend people. I stand for peace,” Kucinich said of his meetings with Assad.

Bill O’Neill

O’Neill, 70, resigned from the Ohio Supreme Court in January — up until then he was one of just two Democrats holding statewide elected office in Ohio. (Sen. Sherrod Brown is the other one). His platform has one main theme: legalize marijuana and use the pot tax money to re-open state mental health hospitals to serve people with drug addiction.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill answers a question during The Journal-News and WLWT-TV sponsored Ohio Democratic Party sanctioned debate for governor candidates hosted by Miami University Regionals Tuesday, April 10 at Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University Middletown. Former Ohio attorney General Richard Cordray, Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni and former congressman Dennis Kucinich were also in attendance. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS(Nick Graham)

When it comes to gun control, O’Neill supports banning bump stocks and high-capacity magazines and instituting a “red-flag” law that would allow families to petition the court to remove guns from loved ones who appear to be at risk of self-harm or hurting others. He favors increasing the purchase age for assault weapons to 21 and requiring that they be registered with local police on an annual basis.

O’Neill opposes abortion, capital punishment and right-to-work. He favors increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour through legislation. And while he supports reforming payday lending practices, he maintains that the services are needed in Ohio.

When it comes to education, O’Neill said the school funding system has been illegal for 20 years because it relies too heavily on property taxes and results in inequities. He wants to outlaw for-profit charter schools and mandate a 40-percent cost reduction for students attending public colleges and universities over the next four years.

O’Neill points to administrative bloat and expensive athletic programs areas where universities could cut costs.

“I’m experienced. I’m a retired Army officer with a Bronze Star. I’m a registered nurse and I’m a former Supreme Court justice who brings focus to the race,” O’Neill said. “We need to do something real about the heroin crisis. We need to do something real about the for-profit prisons, like put them out of business. And we need to legalize marijuana to create jobs and save lives.”

Joe Schiavoni

At age 38, Schiavoni is decades younger than the other candidates, and the only Democrat in the field currently holding elected office.

Former Ohio Senator Joe Schiavoni answers a question during The Journal-News and WLWT-TV sponsored Ohio Democratic Party sanctioned debate for governor candidates hosted by Miami University Regionals Tuesday, April 10 at Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University Middletown. Former Ohio attorney General Richard Cordray, congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill were also in attendance. NICK GRAHAM/JOURNAL-NEWS(Nick Graham)

He opposes right to work and favors increasing the minimum wage over a decade to $15 an hour, starting with a bump next year to $12 an hour. He supports abortion rights and believes the death penalty should be used in more limited circumstances. And he favors full legalization of marijuana if it passes a statewide vote and tax revenues from it are earmarked for a specific, worthy purpose, he said.

Although he has a B-plus NRA rating, Schiavoni is sponsoring a “red-flag” bill in the Ohio Senate to allow families and police to remove guns from people who appear to be a danger to themselves or others. And he says he is for banning bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.

Schiavoni supports expanded Medicaid, and has long pushed to earmark 10-percent of the state’s rainy day fund for local governments struggling to deal with the opiate crisis. He said local authorities could use the money for education programs, first responders, foster care services, job retraining programs and recovery programs.

He supports efforts to crack down on payday lending. “We’ve reached a level where it’s a scam,” Schiavoni said. “It’s a rip off and it’s hurting our most vulnerable people.”

When it comes to education and job creation, Schiavoni is calling for universal pre-kindergarten for 3-year-olds, changing the school funding formula so Ohio is less reliant on property taxes, clamping down on for-profit charter schools and tying college loan forgiveness to home purchases as a way to get Ohio’s brightest and best young people to stay in the state.

No fan of massive tax cuts pushed by the GOP over the past 15 years, Schiavoni said the recent tax break given to LLCs needs to be rolled back. And Ohio needs to increase its severance tax on oil and gas extracted from the ground and boost the state gas tax by up to 5-cents per gallon to help fund infrastructure improvements, he argued. He pledged to push for renewable energy and clean water projects.

“I think we’re giving people something they’ve been clamoring for for years — somebody who is real, who is authentic, somebody who is willing to work,” Schiavoni said. “People are sick of both parties. All they want is somebody real, somebody who is going to deliver on their promises. That’s the stuff that I’ve been talking about.”

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MORE ABOUT THE CANDIDATES

Richard Cordray

Age: 58

Hometown: Grove City

Family: Married, two children.

Education: Michigan State University, B.A.; University of Oxford, M.A.; University of Chicago, J.D

Experience: Former director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Ohio attorney general, Ohio treasurer.

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Dennis Kucinich

Age: 71

Hometown: Cleveland

Family: Married, one grown child.

Education: Case Western Reserve University, bachelor’s and master’s degrees

Experience: Former Cleveland mayor, member of Congress and FoxNews contributor.

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Bill O’Neill

Age: 70

Hometown: Chagrin Falls

Family: Widowed, four grown children.

Education: Ohio University, bachelor’s degree; Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, JD; Huron School of Nursing, RN.

Experience: U.S. Army veteran, pediatric emergency room nurse, civil rights attorney and former Ohio Supreme Court justice.

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Joe Schiavoni

Age: 38

Hometown: Boardman

Family: Married, two children.

Education: Ohio University, bachelor’s degree; Capital University, JD.

Experience: Attorney for injured workers; state senator and former Senate Minority Leader.

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Key Issues: Where do they stand?

Abortion: Cordray, Kucinich and Schiavoni favor abortion rights. O’Neill opposes abortion.

Death penalty: Cordray supports, Kucinich and O’Neill oppose; Schiavoni says its use should be more limited.

Guns: Schiavoni favors allowing removal of guns through court order from those who seem a danger to themselves and others and he wants to ban bump stocks, close background check loopholes and limit high-capacity magazines. He also says he would sign an assault weapons ban. Cordray wants to increase school safety, institute universal background checks and ban bumpstocks and high-capacity magazines. Kucinich favors a swath of gun controls, including ban on assault-style weapons. O’Neill wants to require registration of assault weapons.

Marijuana: Schiavoni and Cordray say Ohio should move to full legalization only through a statewide vote. Kucinich and O’Neill support full legalization.

Minimum wage increase: All four favor increasing it to $15 an hour.

Right-to-work: All four oppose it.

Medicaid expansion: Schiavoni, Cordray and O’Neill favor keeping it in place. Kucinich favors a state-level single payer health care program.

Taxes: Cordray calls for a halt on further tax cuts and pledges to re-prioritize state spending; Kucinich and Schiavoni favors eliminating the small business tax cut and increasing severance taxes. Schiavoni also favors increasing the state gas tax by up to 5 cents per gallon for road improvements. O’Neill wants to tax marijuana but doesn’t favor other hikes.

Wright-Patterson AFB: All four candidates say they’ll work to project jobs and programs at the base.

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What is State Issue 1 on the May ballot?

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 4:35 PM
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 4:35 PM

What is State Issue 1?

On May 8, Ohio voters will decide on major changes to how Ohio draws district lines for members of Congress.

VOTERS GUIDE: What’s on your ballot May 8?

The issue, put on the ballot by the General Assembly by a bi-partisan vote of 83-10 in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate, is supposed to create a fairer process.

After every census, Ohio lawmakers change the state’s congressional lines based on population shifts. Currently Ohio has 16 members of Congress. However, despite being a swing state in presidential elections, the state’s congressional delegation is lopsided toward Republicans. Currently 12 of the seats are held by Republicans and four by Democrats.

The kicker is that most of the districts are also not considered competitive either way.

State Issue 1 is somewhat confusing. The proposal sets up a three-step process:

* The General Assembly may approve a 10-year map if it three-fifths majority in both the House and Senate agree, along with at least half of the members of the minority and majority parties. It would require the governor’s signature.

* If the Legislature fails to adopt a map, the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission would be take over. It may pass a 10-year map if it has at least four votes, including two from the minority party.

* If the commission fails to act, the responsibility returns to the Legislature, which can pass a 10-year map with three-fifths majority vote, including one-third of the minority party members. It would require the governor’s signature.

If the three steps don’t result in a 10-year map, the majority party controlling the Legislature may adopt a four-year map, providing it follows guardrails to protect against unduly favoring a political party or incumbents and against splitting up counties into multiple congressional districts.

RELATED: Guns, minimum wage top issues in Democratic governor primary

The proposed constitutional amendment won support from Fair Districts = Fair Elections, a coalition of some 30 groups seeking redistricting reform.

What’s the current system?

Currently, the political party that controls the General Assembly is in charge of drawing the congressional district maps every 10 years.

Related: Republican fight for governor turns personal

Minority party approval is not required. The result is maps with odd-shaped districts that are drawn to maximize the majority-party’s chances of winning the most congressional districts.

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

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