By David Skolnick
Two freshmen Ohio House members and a veteran legislator appointed to a vacancy last year are running in the general election to continue representing Mahoning and Columbiana counties in the state Legislature.
Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown won a four-person Democratic primary for the 58th Ohio House District seat, held for eight years by her husband, Robert F. Hagan, and ran unopposed in the general election two years ago. He couldn’t run in 2014 because of the state’s term-limits law.
This time, Lepore-Hagan has two general election opponents: Republican Corrine Sanderson, a Youngstown school board member, and Andrea Mahone, an independent candidate who is a former Youngstown school board member and currently chief executive officer of her own employment agency and director of a prison ministry.
Sanderson and Mahone criticized Lepore-Hagan for a lack of accomplishments during her first term in the Ohio House, pointing out that none of the bills she sponsored were signed into law.
In response, Lepore-Hagan said she has successfully worked with the Republican majority to get things done. That includes an amendment that provides oversight over the state’s decision to close centers for the developmentally disabled, a $2 million tax exemption for the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority that originated with a clerical error, and worked with the Mahoning Valley delegation to get about $24 million for the area from the state’s capital budget.
“I care about our working families, our children, women’s issues and the 58th District,” she said. “I want to continue the work I started in my first term. I’m the most qualified person running for this job.”
Sanderson said as a Republican she “can be more effective” in the GOP-run House.
“You have to work with both sides of the aisle, and I’ve shown I can do that with both sides on the school board,” she said.
Like Lepore-Hagan, Sanderson wants to restore local government funds taken by Republicans that has led to the lose of money by counties, cities, villages, townships, libraries and other local government entities.
If elected, Sanderson said she will focus on economic development, improving education and empowering working families.
Mahone acknowledges that as an independent – there are none among the 99 members in the Ohio House – she faces an uphill battle. She had wanted to run as a Democrat, but her father’s prolonged illness made it impossible for her to file for the party primary.
Mahone said she supports equal justice, the right to religious freedom, and opposes abortions.
She said she also wants to “hold charter schools accountable and create equal learning opportunities in all public education.”
The 58th includes all of Youngstown, Struthers, Campbell, Lowellville, Coitsville and most of Austintown.
In the 59th District, state Rep. John Boccieri, a Poland Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Don Manning of New Middletown, a case manager for NHS Human Services in Beaver, Pa.
Boccieri was appointed to the seat Sept. 30, 2015, a little over a month after Democrat Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown resigned. Gerberry was convicted of unlawful compensation of a public official.
Boccieri returned to the Ohio House, where he got his political start more than 15 years ago. He’s also a former state senator and U.S. House member.
This will be the first time Boccieri is running for this seat.
Boccieri also is the commander of the 757th Airlift Squadron at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna and a first officer for United Airlines.
“The No. 1 priority is we’ve got to make our economy stronger,” he said. “We need to retrain workers, tie the local economy to retrain workers to run high-tech equipment. There’s a real need for skilled labor. We need to retrain workers in the jobs that are available. We’ll have a substantial return on investment.”
Boccieri also supports tax cuts for working families, lower college tuition costs, and wants a restoration of the local government fund to communities though he doesn’t expect Republican legislators to do anything about that.
Manning also backs a restoration of the local government fund.
“If the state has that much money in its rainy day fund and isn’t doing anything with it, it’s an example of over-taxation,” he said. “It needs to be returned to the communities.”
Manning wants to eliminate property tax as a funding source for education and replace it with a 3-percent sales tax on goods and services at entertainment venues and other places used by those from out of the state for tourism, such as hotels.
He didn’t have information on how much money his plan would generate.
The 59th District includes all of Beaver, Beloit, Berlin, Boardman, Canfield, Craig Beach, Ellsworth, Goshen, Green, Jackson, Milton, New Middletown, Poland, Sebring, Smith, Springfield and Washingtonville.
In the 5th District, which includes all of Columbiana County, Republican Tim Ginter of Salem is seeking his second term.
Numerous messages left by The Vindicator for Ginter to discuss the race weren’t returned.
Ginter is being challenged by Democrat John Dyce, a retired postal worker who lost a Hanover Township trustee race last year.
“It’s an uphill battle for me in Columbiana County,” Dyce said. “I’m going to fight no matter what level it is to make sure people’s voices are heard.”
Dyce wants to hold charter and online schools accountable, focus on economic development – particularly the long dormant state Route 30 project between Columbiana and Stark counties – and address the heroin epidemic by spending more state money to battle the problem.