State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, a Democrat seeking re-election to the Ohio House’s 59th District, points to his record as the reason to vote for him.
Gerberry, who’s spent 23 years in the House, faces a challenge in this election from Republican Kimberly S. Poma, a Boardman school board member and a former business owner.
“There is a lot of value to the kind of experience [Gerberry has], but with that length of a tenure comes a bit of complacency,” Poma said.
In the past two years, Gerberry led the Democratic effort to get Penn National Gaming Inc. to build a horse racetrack with video slot machines in Austintown.
Also, Gerberry was a key legislator in getting the General Assembly to overturn an Ohio Department of Taxation decision that Youngstown owed $4.75 million in delinquent taxes and penalties for its Covelli Centre, and made the facility tax-exempt for as long as the city owns it.
Youngstown officials say they didn’t have the money and disagreed with the department’s decision as other city-owned facilities in Ohio had tax-exempt status.
“I’m working harder now than when I was in the state Legislature in the past,” Gerberry said. “I’ve spent years building relationships. [Republican leaders] like me, but more so, they respect me.”
If elected, Poma said she would not vote “lockstep” with Republicans in the state House.
For example, Poma said she doesn’t “agree with charter-school funding when” those schools aren’t “effective.”
She also said, “Public schools need more advocates in Columbus,” and while Gerberry has listened to the issue, “there hasn’t been a lot of change that affects school districts. I just don’t know if he’s fought hard enough for school funding.”
Gerberry said the Republican-controlled state government has cut funding to public schools and local governments while increasing funding for charter schools and vouchers — which he opposes.
“I have talked and spoke on the House floor during this session more than any because of the insanity of it all,” he said. “They’ve taken money away from local schools and taken money away from local governments.”
Statewide redistricting changed the makeup of the 59th District. All but four of Austintown’s 40 precincts were taken out of the district. Also, the southern portion of Mahoning County is moving from the current 61st District into the 59th.
In addition to the four precincts in Austintown, which includes Gerberry’s home, the new 59th District includes Beaver, Berlin, Boardman, Canfield, Ellsworth, Goshen, Green, Jackson, Milton, Poland, Smith and Springfield townships; the city of Canfield; and the villages of Beloit, Craig Beach, New Middletown, Poland and Sebring.