Four Republicans will face off Tuesday for a chance to become the party’s nominee to fill the vacant seat in Ohio’s House of Representatives 74th District.
Joe Russell and Brendan Shea of London, Chris Wallace of Plain City and Bill Dean of Xenia are all in the running to become the Republican nominee ahead of the general election in November. All are first-time candidates who have worked on campaigns in the past.
The winner will face Democratic candidate Barb Niemayer to fill the seat left by Bob Hackett, who was recently appointed to fill the vacant seat in Ohio’s 10th Senate District after Chris Widener stepped down. Hackett had served in the 74th District since 2009 and couldn’t run again because he’s term-limited.
The district covers eastern Clark County, central and eastern Greene County and all of Madison County.
Here’s a look at all four candidates.
Dean, 66, is a retired plumber with 10 children whose son-in-law, state Rep. Ron Hood, R-Asheville, has been trying to get him to run for office for years.
“I kept saying, ‘No, I’m not politician’,” Dean said. “I’m retired from plumbing now. I have the time. We need people that would go to Columbus and get things passed, like Right-to-Work and the Heartbeat Bill.”
As a small business owner, Dean said he’s created jobs throughout his career. He said taxes and regulations must be reduced to make Ohio more business friendly, including Right-to-Work legislation.
“There are all these rules and bureaucracy people have to wade through,” Dean said. “In a business, you have to jump through all these hoops. If I was trying to start a business now, it would be a lot harder than it was when I started my business 26 years ago.”
Dean is against gun control and believes in the Second Amendment. The law-abiding gun owner is the one who is being affected by regulations, he said.
“We need to change that so that people can be free,” Dean said. “The founding fathers gave us the Second Amendment actually to protect themselves for self-protection. It’s our responsibility to protect our family and property.”
The most important issue facing the district is the size of the government, Dean said.
“It’s too big and it’s too corrupt,” he said.
Russell, 33, is the policy and advocacy director of the Ohio Association for County Boards of Developmental Disabilities. He was motivated to run after reading a study from the Ohio Department of Health that there’s been a 750-percent increase in the number of babies being born with disabilities due to drugs and alcohol.
“I know that new set of babies is going to cost the state roughly $100 million over a lifetime to provide services,” Russell said. “It really started to weigh on my mind. I knew I’d be better able to affect change in this area if I was a state legislator, rather than just working to help people with disabilities.”
While the unemployment rate is low, Russell said, many people are underemployed and the median income is down. Russell wants to make it easier for people to do business by cutting red tape and bureaucracy, he said. He also wants to reform the tax system and create a better environment for workforce development.
“We can do a better job in creating a pathway to employment from high school and not wait until after high school to ask someone what they want to do with their life,” Russell said.
As an NRA member, Russell isn’t in favor of gun control, he said. The gun regulations proposed by democrats punish law-abiding gun owners, Russell said.
“We can find solutions to some of these problems without limiting their rights,” Russell said.
The most important issue facing the district is the heroin epidemic, he said. Drug prevention and rehabilitation would be his top priority in office.
“Every single place I go, every person I talk to, whether they’re a business owner or an elected official, says it’s a problem,” Russell said. “It’s growing so substantially that our police officers aren’t able to do their job because it’s overwhelming our system.”
Shea, 27, decided to run for office because he’s frustrated by the status quo in government. After he became a father about 2½ years ago, he began examining issues such as the common core in education and Medicaid expansion in health care.
“My private sector experience and experience from outside (government) is an asset,” Shea said. “It’s part of what’s driving me to run.”
As a financial adviser, Shea works with small businesses and said one of the biggest impediments to them is the commercial activities tax, which has been eliminated in other states. If removed here, it would help small businesses create jobs, he said.
“It would really free up our small businesses,” Shea said.
Shea is strongly opposed to gun control. The Second Amendment is a foundational right, he said.
“Without it, there is really no check on a tyrannical government,” Shea said. “It’s about safety and that will be a focus of mine.”
The most important issue facing the district is a loss of local control, particularly when it come to health care, education and the economy. He wants to rollback the expansion of Medicaid, preserving it for the people who truly need it, Shea said.
“Many people around the district just feel like they’re losing their voice,” Shea said. “Decisions in education and health care are being made at higher and higher levels, all the way up to the federal government.”
Wallace, 28, is a lawyer running for office because he wants to give back to the community. He gauged interest over the summer and said the support was positive.
“I thought if my head was in the right place and I was doing it for the right reasons, I would be a good representative for this area of the state, represent their values and get things done,” Wallace said.
Ohio has momentum bringing jobs back to the state, Wallace said. He wants to continue to build on that by creating a tax and business environment that’s conducive to job growth, he said. Workforce development is also important, he said.
“I would continue to lower taxes and I would continue to make sure we have common sense regulations in place,” Wallace said. “I want to make it easy to own and operate a business in Ohio.”
Wallace also opposes gun control and said it’s a constitutional right.
“If I’m lucky enough to be elected, I’ll work to protect Second Amendment rights,” he said.
The most important issue facing the district is bringing jobs back to the middle class.
“There are a lot of people hurting and out-of-work or working two or three jobs to make ends meet,” Wallace said. “Right now, we’re squeezing out our middle class. If we don’t bring good-paying jobs back to this part of the state, we won’t have a middle class.”