Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Decision 2018

State rep hopefuls answer questions at local forum

By Sydney Albert

CELINA - Two candidates seeking the 84th District Ohio House of Representatives seat spoke at the Celina Eagles Lodge on Tuesday morning, giving local business leaders a better idea of their visions for the area and Ohio.

Celina-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce members were invited to attend a Meet the Candidates session with Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, and Joseph Monbeck, D-Celina. Candidates began the session by introducing themselves before answering questions from the audience.

Manchester grew up on her family farm in Waynesfield. While studying at The Ohio State University, she served as an intern for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, in Washington, D.C. She said the internship sparked a love of public service and gave her perspective on how real Ohioans are affected by decisions made in the capital.

She also has experience working with nonprofit agencies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and has done missionary work in Venezuela, where she said she saw the effects of socialism and too much government involvement in the free market.

Manchester told the audience she believes the government works best when it trusts people and communities to look out for each other and create opportunities. Her goal is to get the government out of the way so people can do what they do best. She described herself as pro-life and fiscally conservative.

Monbeck said he decided to run because the election for the 84th district often goes uncontested, and he wanted to give people a choice. Monbeck grew up in Celina, the middle son of a single mother who worked several different jobs trying to raise her three boys. He told the crowd he started doing several odd jobs at the age of 12. His two brothers are in the military, and he feels public service is in his blood.

Restoring funding to local governments is a priority for Monbeck. Over the years, he said, the state has funneled money out of local government funds to balance the budget, taking resources away from local representatives and police forces. As a result, Monbeck said many local governments have had to cut services, raise taxes or unincorporate, adding he would fight to bring those funds back to the area.

Monbeck said during the Republicans' "one-party rule" in Columbus, Ohioans have seen their education system slip from fifth in the nation to 22nd and have seen special interests and lobbyists rather than legislators take control.

What is your plan for the Rainy Day Fund?

Monbeck again cited the need to restore funding for local governments.

"There is over $2.7 billion sitting in Columbus right now. Almost over $1.5 million belongs back here in Mercer County," he said.

Restoring funds to prerecession austerity measures and ensuring local governments and police have the necessary resources is a priority. With more money being taken away, local governments haven't been able to effectively address issues such as the opioid crisis, Monbeck continued.

He said while maintaining a healthy balance in the Rainy Day Fund due to the uncertainty of economics was also important, that money also should handle other priorities.

Manchester said former Gov. Ted Strickland left office with 89 cents in the Rainy Day Fund, which meant Gov. John Kasich needed to take strict measures to rebuild the fund. Although the fund now has a healthy balance, Manchester said state officials need to set goals for the money and examine where they're investing its resources. She, too, would like to see some change to local government funding.

"I do believe that we needed to get our Rainy Day Fund restored because, as I said, we didn't even have enough to buy a McDonald's hamburger before. However, we have seen a lot of adjustments made by local governments, and I think it's important that we restore those funds so that local communities can take care of themselves," she said.

Would you support 100 percent voting by mail/Election Day being a holiday/changes to voting procedure?

Manchester said voting is easier than it's ever been with options such as absentee voting and the advent of online voter registration. She said she's all for making voting as accessible as possible and believes the next step would be making voter registration more accessible.

"I'm all for doing whatever we can to ensure that everyone knows exactly how they can access the polls," she said.

Monbeck said he likes the idea of having a federal holiday for election days, but state representatives would have no control over that. Ohioans are lucky, he said, and he feels that voting here is easy compared with that in other states. He would oppose any laws that made voting more difficult.

"That being said, we could always make it easier for people to vote. Why would we not want people to vote, is my question," he said.

How do you feel about unions and Right to Work legislation?

Monbeck said he opposes Right to Work legislation and believes that unions can garner better pay and work conditions for workers, leaving families better off.

"We see that there are higher wages, higher pay, higher benefits because of those union jobs in the area. So I, along with millions of other Americans that oppose Senate Bill 5, will continue to fight Right to Work legislation," he said.

Manchester said she supports Right to Work legislation, and while unions were important at one time, they no longer operate as originally intended. While working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Manchester said she met a woman who had been forced to join a union and then had money taken from her paychecks to pay union fees.

"I don't believe that, for her, that $25 was best spent toward union dues. I think she really could have used it better at home," she said.

Manchester believes that while unions can exist, people deserve to have a choice of whether they will enter into a union and not have membership be required.

What are your feelings on the current administration and where it's leading the U.S.?

Manchester said she feels the economy is in great shape with unemployment at the lowest level in decades, and the administration has made great progress on issues such as tax reform. While international trade issues are still unsettled, uncertainty surrounds how it will affect markets. She feels free-market policies will lead the nation in the right direction.

Additionally, she said the state Republican leadership has been doing a good job economically.

Monbeck believes the administration has helped promote the rise in divisiveness in politics, and the American people are being pitted against one another. Many are done with the fighting, and Monbeck said he is willing to work across the aisle on issues.

He also said that sometimes the government needs to step in to handle economic issues, giving the example of the auto industry's bailout.

What is your vision for Mercer County/the 84th district and what is your take on the issues facing Grand Lake?

As regional leaders, particularly when it comes to maintaining low unemployment rates, Monbeck said it is crucial they communicate what they're doing to the rest of the state to help spread the success.

Monbeck said the community is on the right path with the lake and needs to follow the science and support the entities working to improve water quality. As someone who grew up in Celina, he said he is familiar with the economic benefits the lake has provided in the past and the boost in tax dollars and business revenue it brings in.

Manchester said the district has some of the most supportive communities in the state, and those communities can accomplish much more without government control.

While on the campaign trail, two topics she has heard about most often from people are workforce development and the opioid epidemic. Manchester believes that reforming government assistance programs could help more Americans work toward self-sufficiency and help employers find more workers.

Manchester also said protecting the lake was critical, and developments such as the Agriculture and Water Quality Education Center at Wright State University-Lake Campus were signs the community was headed in the right direction.

She doesn't want to pick winners and losers and said the agricultural community has picked up a lot of blame in the process to clean up the lake. She is proud of the sacrifices farmers have made to help, though.

Why do you feel you're the most qualified?

With a background in business, agriculture, the nonprofit sector and in government, Manchester said her experience has given her a full-spectrum view. During her time with Jordan, she saw how Ohioans had been affected by federal legislation, what they cared about and how to handle things.

Monbeck said his work ethic qualified him for the job. Bipartisanship is important to him, and just because an idea is presented by Republicans does not mean he will oppose it. He also said he knows constituents don't want one-party rule but a government that will work together.

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