On the eve of early voting in Ohio, the Delaware County League of Women Voters had local candidates participate in a unique “Round Table Forum” at the Delaware Area Career Center’s North Campus on Tuesday.
Nine candidates gave minute-long introductory and summary statements in front of the audience, who were seated at round tables. Between those statements, each candidate spent eight minutes fielding questions from audience and LWV members at nine different tables. Moderator Brandon Feller of the Delaware County United Way would announce when the eight minutes were up, and the candidates would move on to the next table. The process was a bit like speed dating, except that the object was to win over voters.
At the end of the two-hour forum, the candidates said this new format was a unique way to engage — as in a dialogue with their constituents, instead of a debate with their opponents.
Here, in alphabetical order, are brief profiles of those candidates who participated, based on their Round Table comments and campaign literature.
Cory Hoffman is a candidate for state representative in the 67th district against no-show Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander). A Democrat from Delaware, Hoffman said he would apply the values from being in the Naval Reserve to politics. He said his top priority would be “ideas for fixing the education funding challenge.” He said that property taxes are unconstitutional, so he would use the dealers in intangibles tax for the funding, which would lower property taxes without raising sales taxes. Asked about the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), Hoffman said he didn’t oppose charter schools because they work for some students, “but we don’t want to shortchange public school students.” In his closing remarks, he said, “This is some of the most fun I’ve had campaigning. I’ll always be willing to change my mind, and that is in stark contrast to my opponent.”
George Kaitsa, incumbent auditor, is a Republican from Powell and a former Powell councilman. In his 10th year as county auditor, he pointed out his experience and said his position’s most important function was the “stewardship of tax dollars.” He cited that his office was responsible for distributing $531 million in property tax revenues to schools, townships, local communities and county agencies. In terms of real estate transactions, he said, “We’re back up to where we were before the recession.” Kaitsa said he was willing to look at inefficiencies in the reappraisal process, but “I feel like I run a pretty lean office. I feel I’ve done a good job for you.”
Barb Lewis, incumbent county commissioner, is a Republican from Westerville and a former Genoa Township trustee. Asked about the Delaware Area Transit Agency (DATA Bus), Lewis said, “Public transportation in Delaware County definitely can be improved.” Lewis said that pending the results of a Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission study, the commissioners may provide more funding for DATA Bus. She supported expanding the Stepping Up program, but felt State Issue 1 (the Drug and Criminal Justice Policies Initiative) was the worst constitutional amendment she’d ever seen. In closing, she pointed out that the county had many accomplishments in recent years: “We’re very well-managed, and fiscally conservative.”
Joe Manchik, from Reynoldsburg, is the Green Party candidate for the 12th congressional district, currently held by Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville). The seat is also being contested by Democrat Danny O’Connor. He wants to repeal Citizens United and “eliminate corporate personhood.” He also spoke of building a nationwide high-speed rail system over existing infrastructure that could transport passengers and their vehicles across the country. Manchik characterized Democrats and Republicans as being owned by corporations, and to vote Green Party “if you want to see real change. Our platform is for the people, and we don’t take corporate cash.” He also spoke of being a co-sponsor of U.S. House Resolution 676, the Medicare for All Act, if elected.
Danny O’Connor is a Democrat from Columbus running against recent incumbent Balderson as representative to congress in the 12th district. O’Connor, who narrowly lost against Balderson in an August special election, joked that he’s still running, and wanted to know what was keeping people up at night. He discussed the “reality of climate change,” and said he’d seek clean energy solutions. He felt he could work with Republicans on passing a much-needed infrastructure plan. O’Connor said his fiance was a Republican, so he could work in a bipartisan fashion. “We need pragmatism over partisanship” and politicians who are willing to do the right thing, even if it keeps them from being re-elected. “Everything we’re doing is about our future,” O’Connor said.
Indu Rajan, candidate for auditor against Kaitsa, is a Democrat from Dublin with an MBA in finance and is an active volunteer. A county resident since 2008, she said the most important function of the auditor is property assessments. She said she wants to reduce complaints, and handle people’s problems more efficiently than is currently the case, whether in person, online or by phone. “I’m running because people don’t have a choice. We need new blood and skills more than politics. People have lost trust in their officials,” Rahan said. As an auditor, Rajan said she will improve the accuracy of governmental transactions and provide greater access and accessibility to the citizens.
Kathleen Tate, state representative 68th district candidate, is a Democrat from Howard (east of Mount Vernon). Tate said she wasn’t a Democrat on every issue, though, because “I’m feisty.” She describes herself as more of an advocate than a politician, and willing to hear from the public. Her opponent is Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville). Noting the district’s boundaries, Tate said she was against gerrymandering. She said she was in favor of State Issue 1, saying the stigma of conviction follows former addicts forever. She said the only work they can find is to start their own business: “It’s detrimental to their success. I’m for decriminalization with the opioid crisis,” Tate said.
Louise Valentine, running for the Ohio Senate’s 19th district, is a Democrat from Westerville. Valentine is running against Andrew O. Brenner (R-Powell), and the seat is currently held by Kris Jordan. She said she has quit her job to run for the seat and was motivated to run to provide more educational resources for her two children. Valentine wants to fairly and fully fund local public schools and stop sending tax dollars to for-profit charter like ECOT. Health care is another priority: “It’s hard to be at your best if you are ailing in some way. Everybody has a pre-existing condition.” She wants pharmaceutical companies to be accountable on prices for medications and EpiPens.
Aileen Wagner, running for county commissioner against Lewis, is a small business owner from Westerville and a Democrat. She spoke about education: “The funding system isn’t working,” and didn’t feel teachers should carry guns, in case students somehow got their hands on the weapon. She noted that Delaware was the largest county in the state without a homeless shelter and favored affordable housing because high rents would force people to move to Franklin or Marion counties. She said that DATA Bus is underfunded, and JPMorgan Chase uses a Chariot commuter shuttle for some of its employees. She thanked those who attended for their “fantastic questions, where everyone has a voice.”
Also attending were members of the Delaware County District Library and Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, both of which had levies on the ballot. The DCDL is proposing a 15-year renewal of its current 1 mill levy, resulting in no change in property taxes. The DCBDD is on the ballot for a 0.4-mil continuous levy that would cost taxpayers $14 a year (based on a home valuation of $100,000), because in 2020, the board’s two existing levies expire.
Among those not attending were Balderson, who was said to be at a fundraiser Tuesday headlined by Vice President Mike Pence at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
In an email obtained by The Delaware Gazette on Sept. 18, state Rep. Brenner wrote, “It is one thing to attend this event if it were joint-sponsored by the Farm Bureau, but this is solely sponsored by the LWV, which has gone to the far left on all issues. I’m sure my campaign team will recommend that I not attend. I think all Republicans should also decline their invitation.”
Brenner participated in a LWV event in 2014, when he served in the 67th district.
Alice Frazier, president of the Delaware County League of Women Voters, said during the Round Table that the organization never endorses a candidate. “The League holds educational non-partisan events to help the public in Delaware County make informed decisions about elections and voting,” she wrote in an invitation to the candidates for the Oct. 9 forum.
Frazier said the LWV wants to send the new Ohio Secretary of State, regardless of party, postcards urging them “to increase voter turnout and ensure public confidence in the integrity of elections.” Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.