By Michael D. Pittman, Staff Writer
The candidates for Ohio’s 4th Senate District seat all agree that corruption needs to be weeded out of politics.
The agreement came on a question about public integrity in light of the FBI investigation of former House speaker Larry Householder, who remains a member of the General Assembly. The investigation is of more than $60 million of alleged bribes funneled through a nonprofit that led to the passage of House Bill 6, which provided a bailout to FirstEnergy Solutions, now known as Energy Harbor. The bill also waters down decades-old renewable energy standards.ExploreShould Middletown students be in school buildings? Officials ask parents
Democrat Kathy Wyenandt, of Liberty Twp., Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and certified write-in candidate Kent Keller, a Republican from Middletown, are competing for a four-year term starting in January representing the 4th Ohio Senate District, which incorporates most of Butler County and pays $60,584 a year. The winner will succeed Ohio Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., who is term-limited.
The three debated in Tuesday’s online forum hosted by Miami University’s Menard Family Center for Democracy, the League of Women Voters of Oxford and the Journal-News.
Wyenandt said the alleged bribery scheme that led to House Bill 6′s passage was a result of “25 years of one-party rule has led to corruption and unaccountability, and career politicians who are not working for us.”
“Our government has to be solely accountable to the governed,” she said, adding that “crony capitalism” is probably “the single greatest threat to free-market capitalism.”
Lang called for all 501(c)4 organizations, or super PACs, to disclose their funding. A 501(c)4, investigators say, hid the Householder donations and is at the heart of the investigation.
“We as elected officials have to disclose every penny we get and how we spend it, and I think the same should be for all political causes,” Lang said.
Keller said he “cannot express how disappointed” he was with House Bill 6′s passage, and claims every representative that voted on it “knew it was a bailout from the beginning.”ExploreDeath penalty upheld for man who killed woman on I-75 in Warren County
Keller’s wife, Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, voted against the bill. Lang initially opposed HB6, saying it was a bailout, but said “we worked to make it better” and “there’s a lot of good in House Bill 6.”
“I intend to hold those that took that money and used it in campaigns for their benefit,” said Keller. Lang received a $5,000 campaign donation from FirstEnergy’s political action committee a month after it took effect in 2019. He committed to donating the money to charity.
Keller said some of his first acts if elected would be to support a “Stand Your Ground” bill and efforts to assure religious liberties “are at the forefront” of the state’s priorities.
“People are tired of establishment politics and corruption of the Ohio Statehouse,” he said. “This nation is currently in a crisis.”
Lang is seeking the Senate seat instead of running for re-election in the Ohio House. He said the state “used to be the land of opportunity,” but now it “is in a decline.”
“No other state in America is getting their (butt) kicked as bad as Ohio,” Lang said. “My goal is to restore Ohio’s economic vitality, and instead of being the fifth most left state in the nation, we’re (the fifth) most entered state in the nation within a decade.”
Wyenandt said many people have ignored what’s happened in Columbus, which has seen two of the previous three Ohio Speakers embroiled in FBI investigations.
“For far too long, many of us have ignored what has happened in Columbus, and that is how we’ve ended up with self-serving career politicians who don’t fight for us,” she said.
“We need to stop sending the same enablers of corruption back to Columbus just because they have an R by their name. People here are ready for change,” she said.
Several issues were discussed in Tuesday’s debate, including gun reform, K-12 and higher education, health care, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Visit Journal-News.com or the Journal-News Facebook page to watch the debate.