In the 33rd Senate District Democratic primary, Schiavoni

There are five can- didates seeking to represent the 33rd District in the Ohio Senate, three Republicans and two Democrats. All are doubtless sincere, but their qualifications and apparent readiness for the job vary.

In the Democratic primary, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, 30, of Canfield, a lawyer who was appointed by the Senate Democratic caucus in January 2009 to the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, is being challenged by Kathleen Purdy, 57, of Alliance, a teacher in the Plain Local School District.

There are three Republican candidates: Matthew M. Lewis, 35, of Columbiana, a technician who works on cell phone towers and is a law student at the University of Akron; Adam L. Rutushin, 62, of Youngstown, a landlord and retired pharmacist, and Gary Teeter, 50, of Carrollton, owner of a residential construction company.

All attended interviews with Vindicator editors and discussed their views of government and their goals if they were elected. The 33rd District includes all of Mahoning and Carroll, which are linked by an eastern sliver of Stark County. It also includes the eastern townships of Tuscarawas County, adjacent to Carroll.

The three Republican candidates all said their varied experience in business gave them a feel for what the state needs to do to attract and keep businesses. They suggested that taxes and other factors give Ohio a less-than-friendly environment for business.

Points of contention

Rutushin criticized Ohio’s Commercial Activity Tax as bad for business, but couldn’t say whether it was a fair trade for phasing out tangible personal property and corporation franchise taxes, as well as reductions in personal income tax rates that were part of the 2005 CAT tax package.

Lewis and Teeter criticized Schiavoni’s vote to delay implementation of a 4.5 percent income-tax cut in 2009, but couldn’t explain what alternatives the General Assembly had to balance the budget after a court ruling blocked the state’s plan to raise money by legalizing slot machines at race tracks.

The Republican candidates are political novices, and it shows in a general difficulty to address the problems facing the state with some degree of specificity. We found them equally capable of carrying the party’s banner in November, provided the winner, who ever he is, develops a stronger grasp of the issues and puts some meat on the bones of what is now a skeletal platform. We’re not making an endorsement in the Republican primary.

Two-person race

In the Democratic primary, it is not surprising, given her background, that Purdy spends much of her time talking about Ohio’s need to do a better job in education. She comes by her high regard for education honestly, not only because she is a teacher, but because she persevered for 16 years in earning a degree and now holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The key to better education, she says, is better training for teachers and making parents part of the process.

On other issues, however, she faltered. While she espoused offering incentives to attract companies to the area, she couldn’t say what incentives specifically work.

Schiavoni was a surprise pick from among 13 candidates — some with far more recognizable names and political experience — when Ohio Senate Democrats chose him to fill the remainder of Boccieri’s term. He’s now running for a six-year term on his 16 months of experience.

He acknowledges that Ohio faces challenges in balancing its budget and in keeping and attracting new jobs.

He also welcomed a primary opponent, saying that the race gave both candidates additional opportunities to travel the district and meet more people

Learning curve

Schiavoni says he has “learned at least enough to recognize the problems” facing the state and is getting knowledgeable enough to work on the issues and solutions.

He defends delaying the 2009 income tax cut as the only avenue Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly had to fill the hole in the budget caused by loss of the “racinos.” But the state, he says, is going to have to make cuts in the next biennial budget. The challenge will be to make those cuts where they do the least harm.

Schiavoni says he’s doing a minimum of general practice law, devoting full time to the Senate. He had to give up his work on Workers’ Compensation cases, which had been his specialty, because it created a conflict of interest.

In a relatively short time, Schiavoni has shown himself to be a young legislator with obvious potential. As inspiring as Purdy’s own story is, we believe Schiavoni has worked hard over the past year to earn an opportunity to represent his party in seeking a full term.

The Vindicator endorses Joe Schiavoni in the May 4 Democratic primary.

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