By Michael D. Pittman, Staff Writer
WEST CHESTER TWP. —
The candidates running for the 52nd Ohio House District say each of their priorities if elected are the linchpin to addressing societal issues.
Focus on these top priorities — business and job development for Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and education for Democrat Kathy Wyenandt, of Liberty Twp. — will also address other issues facing the district and state, including the opioid crisis, both candidates said.
The 52nd Ohio House District includes all or parts of Fairfield Twp., Liberty Twp., West Chester Twp., Hamilton and Sharonville.
Lang was appointed to the seat in September 2017 following the resignation of former Republican lawmaker Margy Conditt. He started the business-first caucus, and wants to bring the “West Chester model” for attracting and growing businesses to the state level.
The “West Chester model” helped grow the number of daytime workers over the past 15 years in the township from 20,000 employees to more than 60,000, he said.
“All we did was create an atmosphere where businesses could come here and make more money,” Lang said. “The credit goes to the developers, the business people, the retailers, the offices. They were the ones that invested their time, talent and treasurer.”
Lang said the business-first philosophy of he and his fellow trustees helped turn West Chester to the No. 2 provider of jobs in Southwest Ohio, second only to downtown Cincinnati.
“As businesses have flourished, everybody flourishes,” he said.
And businesses flourish when local zoning rules are simple, he said.
“We want (developments) to be our developers’ vision, not our vision,” Lang said.
However, Wyenandt, who was involved in the 2013 Lakota school levy campaign, said the cornerstone for success in the 52nd District is the education system — and first, lawmakers need to fix how schools are funded.
“We need a dedicated pot of funding for education at the state level,” she said. “Right now, it’s coming from the general revenue fund. I think we need to look at new revenue streams.”
That does not mean new taxes, said Wyenandt, who describes herself as fiscally conservative.
“We’ve got to take a comprehensive look at our budget at where we’re spending things, where we’re spending dollars and where we can allocate things more appropriately. I would like to reduce the number of levies overall.”
That’s done by taking a look at House Bill 920, which was passed in 1976, and provides the formula of how schools are funded through property taxes.
House Bill 920 needs to be readdressed because the formula “assumes (school tax) revenue grows with inflation, which it does not — but their costs increase,” Wyenandt said.
Bottom line, the way schools are funded today “leads to inequity all across the state.”
“People want to support education, they know the value of strong schools but a lot of people live on fixed incomes,” she said.
The 52nd Ohio House District race is also shaping up to be one of the most expensive Statehouse races in Ohio.
Collectively, Lang and Wyenandt have raised nearly $270,000, though Lang is carrying a nearly $2-to-$1 fundraising advantage.
But out-raising Wyenandt won’t be enough to win the Statehouse seat, said Lang, who noted Wyenandt’s $30,000 personal commitment to her campaign and $20,000 from other family members.
“She is a very serious candidate,” Lang said. “I’ve talked to people whose door she’s knocked on, and she makes a great presence, a great impression. She’s going to be serious.”
Wyenandt said she knew it would take a lot of money to be competitive in the heavily Republican district. But she said it’s not just about money. It’s about engaging Democrats, Republicans, third party voters and independents.
“We have a lot of cross-over support,” she said. “It’s important for me to get to meet as many folks as possible … and you get to know their values and their ideals, then it’s easier to vote for the person.”