Put the ‘redding’ of Valley to good use in Legislature

Residents of Mahoning and Trumbull counties voted for dramatic political change in Tuesday’s general election by sending Republicans to the state House of Representatives and Senate, a feat that has not been accomplished in our region for decades.

As Republicans celebrate and Democrats lick their wounds, we’d rather view the new purple hue to the Mahoning Valley delegation as an opportunity for constructive change that could benefit all residents in our often neglected slice of Ohio. Cooperation and communication will be key to achieving that end.

When looking for reasons for the election of Republican Michael Rulli to the 33rd District Senate seat over longtime Democratic politician John Boccieri, and Republican Don Manning to the 59th District House seat over Democrat Eric Ungaro, most analysts will explain the GOP momentum with one word: Trump.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said Republican President Donald J. Trump “plays a uniquely effective role in Ohio,” and “clearly inspires” people, particularly in areas of Northeast Ohio, including the Mahoning Valley.

Republican candidates for the 33rd District Senate and 59th District State House seats enjoyed a built-in boost entering the race because no incumbent Democrats competed against them.

But regardless of the reasons for the Valley’s newfound split representation in the Statehouse, incumbent Democrats – newly re-elected state Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58th of Youngstown; Glenn Holmes, D-63rd of Girard; and Michael O’Brien, D-64th of Warren, plus incumbent state Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-32nd of Bazetta who was not up for re-election Tuesday – must now join forces with Manning and Rulli in the name of preservation of a solid Mahoning Valley regional bloc in Columbus

Working together

That cooperation could prove mutually beneficial for the legislators themselves and to their constituents, regardless of political persuasions. Rulli and Manning, both political newcomers to state government, can benefit greatly from the years of experience the Democratic delegation wields.

Lepore-Hagan, Holmes and both O’Briens can benefit from the potentially stronger and more direct access to the Republican leadership power base of the Ohio General Assembly that the election of Rulli and Manning brings for the legislative interests and priorities of Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Of course, we are not na Øve enough to believe that our Democratic and Republican lawmakers will march in lockstep on all public-policy issues confronting them. Deep divisions, based on long-standing political-party dogma differences on issues such as abortion, firearms regulation and regulatory reform, likely will surface early and often.

But on issues that transcend hardened partisan doctrine, plenty of leg room exists for our newly diverse delegation to speak with one clear, loud voice. On issues ranging from restoring more Local Government Funds for financially strapped political subdivisions to finding ways to encourage General Motors to keep and strengthen its presence in Lordstown, to ensuring Mahoning and Trumbull counties get their fair share capital-budget projects next year, the opportunities are many for concerted and productive teamwork.

The state legislative delegation need look no farther than the Valley’s federal legislative delegation for a strong working model. As we editorialized about on Thursday, the re-election of Democrat Tim Ryan, Republican Bill Johnson of Marietta and Democrat Sherrod Brown to Congress bodes well for the Valley because of their strong bonds.

We’re hopeful that a similar bipartisan meeting of the minds among the Valley’s Statehouse delegation can be forged to produce positive long-term gains for residents of all political persuasions in our region.

That said, the political realities of Tuesday’s general election cannot be ignored, especially in predominantly Democratic regions like the Valley.

As U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, put it, the public face of the Democratic Party as one of elites out of touch with the heartland of America’s concerns and values has chipped away at its once firm foundation in Greater Youngstown and blue-collar communities like it throughout the Rust Belt.

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