By Ed Runyan
Former Warren mayor Michael O’Brien certainly has name recognition in his corner as he dukes it out with Warren businessman Ken MacPherson and Warren educator Eugene Mach II for the Democratic nomination for the 64th District Ohio House seat.
It’s the seat that represents Warren, Howland, Champion and many less-populated communities in Trumbull County. The seat is now held by Tom Letson, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits. All three candidates are from Warren.
O’Brien was mayor from 2005 to 2012, Trumbull County commissioner from 1994 to 2004 and a Warren councilman from 1983 to 1993, a total of 31 years.
Neither of his opponents has ever run for political office.
O’Brien says one of the key issues in the district is going to be increasing educational opportunities for adolescents who want to work in careers that either don’t require college or require less than a four-year degree.
He said Eastern Gateway Community College, with its Warren campus, and the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Champion will continue to grow in importance.
He also feels it’s important for state government to restore some of the funding it took away from local governments. Warren, for instance, gets about $400,000 per year now, compared with $2 million not long ago.
“And keep in mind that there is a $4 billion rainy day fund [in state government]. Well, in Trumbull County and in Warren and in the townships, it’s pouring,” he said.
Ken MacPherson says he wants to use his knowledge as a community leader and information-technology consultant “figuring out complex issues for big companies and solving problems for them,” and it’s time for him to use those skills “and try to make a little bit of a difference.”
He says former Ohio legislator Harry Meshel of Youngstown “is a hero of mine. Here’s a guy who reads the details.” He added that he’d like to “fill his shoes and bring respect back to the area in terms of legislators who go down there with an acume,” meaning the ability to be sharp and clear.
“I’ve been accused of being the anti-government guy. What I like to clarify is I’m the anti-bad-government guy. The fact that there is a lot of examples of it doesn’t make me anti-government.”
In written materials, MacPherson said he “has a proven record of being the first person in every morning, the last person out, and stays up all night reading the intricate details of a given topic.”
He says Medicaid makes up 52 percent of the state’s general-fund budget. “We need to look at why the quality is so low, costs so high and what are the contributing factors and address them,” he said.
MacPherson says he’s “pro-fracking,” regarding hydraulic fracturing by the oil and gas industry but has “grave concerns” about injection of the industry’s brine wastes underground.
He says he will make it a priority to get the former RG Steel mill south of Warren “humming again” with steel production.
Eugene Mach II, who is coordinator for the Upward Bound program at YSU, says education is his reason for running.
“We keep changing our standards and relooking at how we want to run education, and being from an education field myself and dealing with the consequences of all of the legislation, you really get the feeling that our legislators aren’t really in touch with what goes on in a school building,” he said.
He said one way to make school funding constitutional and fair is to put all of the school funding across the state into one pot and redistribute it more fairly instead of the current system, which allows more money to go to the wealthier districts.
One way for a school district to augment resources would be to authorize naming rights, for instance for football stadiums, he said.