Valley’s state legislators must rise to challenges
Despite the surprisingly strong performance in last week’s general election of Republican President-elect Donald Trump in the Mahoning Valley – winning in Trumbull and Columbiana counties and losing by a hair in Mahoning County – the New York businessman’s coattails fell far short of stretching down to impact state legislative races.
Save for the re-election victory of Republican Tim Ginter in Columbiana County, the Valley sent to Columbus a contingent of four staunchly Democrat representatives and one newly elected Democrat state senator. Elsewhere in the state, the election outcome strengthened the already super majority that Republicans wield in the state House, giving it a 66-33 Republican advantage, and in the state Senate, giving it a 24-9 GOP dominance.
Coupled with Republican saturation of the executive branch of government from Gov. John Kasich on down, that means the Valley delegation of Democrat Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan, John Boccieri, Michael O’Brien and Glenn Holmes plus Democrat state Senator-elect Sean O’Brien will face challenges aplenty throughout the 2017-18 session of the Ohio General Assembly.
But given their records and given the tradition of our delegation working as a cohesive unit on behalf of Valley interests, we believe they’ll be up to the challenges of serving the needs of their specific districts as well as those of the Mahoning Valley as a whole.
Lepore-Hagan handily defeated her two opponents to win re-election to represent the Youngstown-centered 58th District. Though we were critical of Lepore-Hagan’s opposition to the Youngstown Plan to reinvent and reinvigorate the ailing city school district, we recognize her work in helping her district win $24 million in state capital improvement funds and in working to provide greater oversight in closings of centers for the developmentally disabled. She also now says that she seeks to assist Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip to improve education in the city. That’s welcome, because strong cooperation and a trusted link to state government will be crucial as the plan moves into high gear over the coming two years.
In the 59th District, Boccieri easily fended off his Republican challenger to win his first elected term. Boccieri, commander of the 757th Airlift Squadron at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, distinguished himself in his first year in office by his quick, decisive and successful quest to ease last winter’s water crisis in Sebring and to draft tougher standards to prevent their recurrence in the state. His ties to the air base will ensure the vital Valley asset has a strong stakeholder advocate in Columbus.
In Trumbull County, Michael O’Brien had little trouble defeating his Republican challenger in the 64th House District for a second term at the Statehouse. He’s also been in the front lines of constituent service in such areas as safe drinking water, septic regulations and capital improvement projects in the Warren area.
Holmes, new to Columbus but a veteran public servant, easily won the 63rd House seat. The McDonald mayor’s intense knowledge of his district and his already strong ties with many state leaders will put him in good stead to serve his constituency well.
In addition to their service to their individual districts, we hope all will work together as one formidable force for issues of concern for the Valley as a whole.
Prime among those is restoration or partial restoration of the Local Government Fund. Cities, villages and townships have suffered long and hard as a result of the halt in state aid under the Kasich administration. Too many of them have had to compensate with added burdens on local taxpayers or by cutting needed and wanted public services.
In addition, the Valley delegation must present a common front to ensure whatever state assistance and resources available can be channeled to ensuring the future of the Valley’s air base. That includes support for specific projects to replace the base’s outdated fleet of aircraft and to create a national military debarkation center there.
Other common initiatives for the delegation to keep active on their radar include restoration of full employment at the General Motors Lordstown plant that last week announced layoffs of 1,245 workers and finding means to stimulate the broader economy of our region from traditional manufacturing to high-tech ventures.
By acting collectively and cooperatively, our delegation can tear down political roadblocks and drive state policy forward toward quality-of-life gains for their districts, the Valley and the entire state.