Evan Goodenow and Brad Dicken, The Chronicle-Telegram
LORAIN — A spirited debate between state Rep. Terry Boose, R-Norwalk, and Democratic challenger Matt Lark was followed by a subdued one between state Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria and Republican challenger Rae Lynn Brady at Wednesday’s annual Coalition for Hispanic Issues and Progress candidates forum.
Boose, who took office in 2009, said more than 100,000 jobs have been created in Ohio in the last year despite a “crisis,” which he attributed to government overspending and mismanagement. Boose said he was a conservative, but doesn’t always vote with Republicans. He portrayed himself as a deficit hawk who helped reduce Ohio’s approximately $6 billion shortfall.
“Lower government spending and lower taxes,” he said. “That’s a trend I’d like to continue.”
Lark, a Norwalk High School science teacher since 1991, accused Boose of misleading voters on job creation, saying many full-time jobs with benefits and decent wages had been replaced with minimum wage, part-time jobs. Lark said Boose lacks vision and challenged him to give specifics about jobs, which Boose didn’t do.
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Lark said if elected he would capitalize on Ohio’s agriculture, roads and railroads to create well-paying food processing jobs.
“Folks, we need to can, box, make frozen foods, you name it,” he said. “That’s how you create jobs. Real jobs, career-oriented jobs. Ones that you can feed your families on.”
Boose criticized Lark for confusing Issue 2, the proposal to have a state-appointed commission redraw congressional and state districts rather than politicians, with proposed voter ID laws.
“I didn’t even see a vision in answering a question much less a broader vision,” said Boose, who favors the status quo on redistricting and supports ID laws, the opposite of Lark’s stance.
Both men differed on education, with Boose saying Ohio spends too much money on administrators rather than students. “You can’t just throw money at a problem,” said Boose, adding that he favors allowing parents to send their children to schools outside their neighborhoods.
Lark said the focus on improving state test scores had hurt students’ critical thinking skills.
“You talk to any teacher and they’re going to tell you it’s a joke and it’s ruining our state,” he said. “They don’t learn the basics because they don’t get the repetition.”
While Boose and Lark ripped one another and walked around the stage, Lundy and Brady each sat at the table with the moderator and never attacked one another. Both stressed bipartisanship despite expressing different political philosophies.
Regarding education, Lundy said $500 million is going to publicly funded, privately run charter schools annually, hurting traditional public schools. He said $500 million in state revenue from fracking — high pressure drilling for natural gas involving water and chemicals — should go to schools which he said is done in Texas.
Like Boose, Brady said Ohio school administrators were overpaid at the expense of students. Brady opposes Issue 2 and supports ID laws the opposite of Lundy’s views. Lundy, who said he’d “continue to stand up for the middle class” touted supporting stricter oversight of payday lenders and big banks and fighting privatization of the Ohio Turnpike.
Brady, the co-owner of Twist -n- Shake in Elyria, blamed government overregulation for high unemployment. She said she would draw on her experience as a businesswoman if elected.
“I’ve got children working for me that are working to help put food on the table for their families,” she said. “That’s just uncalled for.”
Among the other debates and issues discussed at the forum at the St. Joseph Community Center:
The two Republicans challenging Democratic county commissioners Ted Kalo and Lori Kokoski accused the incumbents of not being good stewards of taxpayer money.
Amherst City Councilman Phil Van Treuren, Kalo’s opponent, said when Kalo was first elected in 2005, Kalo hired his campaign manager, Dennis Shawver, to serve as the county’s maintenance director. Van Treuren also complained about renovations the commissioners made to their offices.
Kalo countered that he’s been a leader in bringing jobs to the county and controlling costs. He said the county should raise the 6.25 percent sales tax — something voters have rejected three times in recent years — to provide better services in the county.
“I work very hard at what I do,” Kalo said.
Van Treuren, however, charged that voters have lost faith in the commissioners and that’s why voters rejected sales tax increases.
“They don’t trust the county commissioners to take more money away from them,” he said.
Columbia Township Trustee Mike Musto, who is opposing Kokoski, said the county needs to focus on something besides raising taxes. He criticized the commissioners for spending money to send Lorain County Transit buses to Cleveland rather than expanding services in Lorain County.
“Lorain County is broke,” Musto said. “My opponent still favors tax increases.”
Kokoski responded that she’s worked hard to save the taxpayers money. Both she and Kalo noted they had voted earlier in the day to approve a deal that will see the county spend $425,000 to pay off the county’s $675,000 share of a $1.35 million state loan made to South Shore Community Development Corp., which owns St. Joe’s. They argued that saves the taxpayers money whether the center remains open or not.
Kokoski, the only woman running for commissioner, also said it would be a “huge step backward” not to have a female commissioner because she’d be more sensitive to gender issues.
Sheriff Phil Stammitti, a Democrat who took office in 2001, touted his experience and technological advances in the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office. He said he’d been creative in providing coverage despite budget cuts.
Republican challenger A.J. Torres, a 26-year member of the Ohio Highway Patrol, said his experience in the field would give him better perspective than Stammitti.
Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer asked city voters to approve Issue 13, a permanent 0.5 percent income tax hike that would raise an additional $5.3 million annually and cost a taxpayer earning $50,000 per year an additional $250 annually. Besides eliminating an approximately $2 million deficit, about $1.6 million would pay borrowing costs for a 20-year road improvement project with another $1 million spent on annual road improvements and maintenance. “We must invest in ourselves before others will invest in us,” he said. Issue 13 opponent Joyce Early said the increase was too much for taxpayers in the impoverished city. Early said the improvements could be paid for by raising taxes on people who work in Lorain, but don’t live there. “It’s an untapped resource,” she said.
Lorain Schools Superintendent Tom Tucker asked voters to approve Issue 39, a seven-year, 4.8 mill property tax levy that would raise about $3.12 million annually for the nearly broke school district. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $147 annually. Tucker said the district — which hasn’t had a new levy since 1992 and laid off 182 workers in June — would use some of the money to restore full-day kindergarten. “Everybody can find a reason why not to vote for the levy, we need you to find a reason to vote for the levy,” Tucker said. “It’s for the children.”