The race for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District includes an incumbent in Republican Troy Balderson, who is seeking a second full term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Democrat Alaina Shearer, who is seeking to win her first election as a newcomer to the political arena.
Balderson served in both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate prior to being elected to fill the unexpired term of former Congressman Pat Tiberi. In 2018, Balderson was re-elected to represent the district in Congress.
During his time in the state legislature, Balderson said he is most fond of his work in the Finance Committee, which included balancing a state budget that, at the time, included 89 cents in its Rainy Day Fund. In addition to his work in the Finance Committee, Balderson said he enjoyed the relationships built during that time.
“That’s always been something that has been very easy with me,” he said. “I love to communicate with people, I love to reach out to people. Taking that to the state legislature, working across the aisle in a bipartisan manner is important, it is vital. That’s how we get things done, and taking that to the next level with Congress. That’s what I’m doing in Congress, and I will continue to do that in Congress moving forward.”
As a member of Congress, Balderson said he is very proud of the work he did, alongside Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-MN), to get the Paycheck Protection Program extended. The bill was signed by President Donald Trump in July. “That’s something that was absolutely vital to get done,” Balderson said of the extension.
Balderson said his number one objective moving forward is to “make sure we get this economy back.” He said the economy is the biggest topic his constituents want to talk about, specifically how he can help get people back to work.
“There are people that are actually hiring right now, and I think that is important to know,” Balderson said. “Are there people who are out of work that we need to continue working on? Absolutely. This is not done.”
Balderson stated that in December 2019, the U.S. had its lowest unemployment total in 50 years, which he said is a reason for confidence that the nation’s economy will continue to recover.
“We are very fortunate and blessed to live in a 12th Congressional District that has a lot of strength, a lot of leadership, and people who want to get this economy back to where it was before,” he said.
As the federal government continues to go back and forth on a second stimulus package, Balderson said the focus of the package needs to be widdled down to what can be agreed upon now, and go from there.
“We have to get this next (stimulus) package passed,” he said. “We’ve done several things in Congress to separate the massive bill that is out there, to downsize that and focus on the things that we all agree on right now, to get those things done.”
Balderson stated he is not in favor of extending the extra $600 weekly unemployment payments that were included in the CARES Act. He said the payments were important then and needed to be done, but the focus now needs to be on setting a pathway to get people back to work, and working with employers, “we’re going to do this.”
“As I went to businesses and traveled around the district, which we did every day, the number one thing was business owners saying, ‘I can’t get people back to work,’” Balderson said. “They were making more money at home than they were going to work. That’s just not how it’s supposed to be.”
Balderson praised Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for his handling of the pandemic, saying he stands with DeWine and the decisions he’s made.
“When this first came out, he had to make some really tough decisions,” Balderson said. “We were there with him making those decisions, and we will continue to be there with him when we have to make those tough decisions moving forward.”
However, Balderson said he would not support another shutdown in Ohio, something DeWine has not taken off the table.
On the issues of social justice and inequality that have taken center stage in 2020, Balderson said the plan forward starts with education. He cited his work with “Run the Race,” an organization geared towards “helping young people, especially inner-city young people, develop morally and intellectually, acquiring the virtues and attitudes needed for ever-lasting happiness,” according to its website, as a tool for that education.
“To sit there with those kids and understand the lack of guidance that they have right now … I think it is vitally important that we give them every opportunity to move forward,” Balderson said. “Some of those decisions must take place by them also, and they will tell you that. But I think the education gap and continuing to work on that is big to me because it’s all about educations and making sure that these children know what’s out there and what are opportunities they have out there.
“I went to Washington, D.C. for results, not rhetoric,” Balderson went on to say. “That’s how I’m running this campaign. It’s results versus rhetoric; people are tired of the rhetoric. I want people to know that there are 300 members of Congress who are working together to get things done. We want to get things done, and we are getting things done.”
Balderson said he will continue to be present throughout the district, meeting with people and going to businesses. He called himself “relentless,” adding he will continue to move forward as such.
Shearer was born in Delaware and spent her early childhood years in the community. Her father worked as a physician, and her mother owned a store on Sandusky Street called “Essentials.”
“It’s really funny because all of the folks I talk to remember that store, and so many people remember my father very fondly,” Shearer said. “He was an incredibly community-oriented physician. In addition to his family practice, he started a clinic for women on the WIC program, and he also did home (baby) deliveries, so he delivered tons of babies (in Delaware).”
“My mother and father, raising me in a community like Delaware, taught me these core values that I carry with me today and are very much coming to life on this campaign,” Shearer said. “It is my honor to be in a position where I can offer leadership during a time of crisis that my opponent is not, and it’s what we need.”
Shearer said she never had any aspirations of running for Congress, nor was anything of the sort in her life plan. Given the values her parents instilled in her, and that she feels leadership is needed in Washington, D.C. now more than ever, however, the decision to run manifested naturally.
“The values that I learned in Delaware were to love thy neighbor no matter what … You have to always think of others, and that came from my father,” Shearer said. “My mother taught me to always fight for what I believed in, and to fight as hard as I can, and never give up. Right now, that’s why I am running for Congress.”
A former journalist — she owns two Associated Press awards for her radio reporting at WTVN and WNCI — Shearer has spent the past 10 years refining her expertise in digital communications. In 2016, she created a national network for women in the digital and tech industry. Shearer said a career in communications has made her well-equipped to address the volatile atmosphere surrounding media in the United States today.
“What that’s done is it has made me somebody who is so prepared to dive in on the first day, Jan. 1 (2021), and help stop the spread of misinformation on social media,” Shearer said. “The thing that concerns me most, the thing that keeps me up at night, is the hatred that we seeing spreading online, the misinformation, and the simultaneous weakening of our local media … When you combine those two factors, and you have a commander in chief who says everything is fake news, it’s a recipe for division, and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”
First on the docket for Shearer, should she be elected, is to “contain COVID-19,” she said. “We have to contain COVID-19 in order to recover economically, and the way to contain it right now in the absence of a vaccine is by wearing our masks and keeping our distance. We have irrefutable proof that this works, and it’s really important that our leaders in Washington, D.C. illustrate this behavior.”
Regarding the ongoing discussions in Washington on a second stimulus package, Shearer said the country shouldn’t be in a position where it needs another package, “but we are because we didn’t contain it properly the first time.” Asked what she would like to see in a second round of stimulus, Shearer said she is in favor of extending the extra $600 unemployment payments.
“My opponent says there are jobs and people can go find jobs in the manufacturing industry,” Shearer said. “Those jobs are there, but not everyone can work those jobs.”
Regardless of the package, Shearer said she is opposed to another state shutdown, saying the state simply can’t afford to shut down once more.
To address issues of inequality and social justice, Shearer said “one incredible start” would have been the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is aimed to increase accountability in law enforcement, among other things. The bill, which was voted against by Balderson, passed through the House of Representatives (236 to 181) and is currently “stuck in the Senate,” according to Shearer.
Shearer added that banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants are also steps that need to be taken to address issues of police brutality, as is training police officers in de-escalation tactics.
“The thing that George Floyd’s death showed us is that there is a pandemic way worse than COVID-19, and it’s been with our country since the start,” Shearer said. “That’s racism, sexism, ageism. There are real forces working against millions of Americans every day, and we do have to take this on.”
Shearer is a proponent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and hopes to be able to work to restore it, saying her father’s work as a physician taught her that everyone deserves the basic dignity of being able to see a doctor and not be stuck with massive bills afterward.
Shearer acknowledged the ACA is not perfect, but she said that it is “a tremendous step in the right direction” and needs to be perfected.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.