While he says it is not the focus of his campaign, Adams County Commissioner Brian Baldridge says he does not shy away from the fact he is the only candidate among four Republicans and two Democrats running for the 90th District Ohio House seat to ever have held public office.
The various candidates are all running in the May 8 primary to be their party’s standard bearer in this year’s general election. The ultimate winner will replace incumbent Terry Johnson, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits. The 90th District includes all of Scioto and Adams counties as well as part of Lawrence County.
Prior to becoming a county commissioner, Baldridge served six years as a Wayne Township trustee.
“I grew up in a family that was always involved in politics,” Baldridge says, although he jokes that as a youngster he swore he would never get into politics himself. Eventually, Baldridge became a volunteer firefighter for Wayne Township and worked his way up to the chief’s position. He says that got him interested in running for trustee, and he resigned as chief to run for office. Baldridge is still, however, a volunteer firefighter for Wayne Township.
In addition to touting his publicly elected positions, Baldridge also talks about being selected to serve on the Ohio Township Association Board of Directors. Similarly, he was elected by his peers to work with the Ohio County Commissioners Associations Board of Directors. Baldridge acknowledges some other candidates in the race are touting the fact they are political outsiders. But Baldridge says there is a distinct advantage in having a representative with some direct political experience.
“There is a very steep learning curve when representatives arrive in Columbus,” he maintains.
Baldridge says he’s already tackled tight government budgets, helped bring new businesses to the area and dealt with infrastructure related issues.
“I’ve been there, and I’ve done it. We can hit the ground running.”
But he also notes he has never held state office, and, technically, would be a new voice in the state capital.
Baldridge talks a lot about what he says were recent and steep cuts in local government funds coming from Columbus. He adds that the state cannot balance its budget on the backs of local governments. Solving the problem, Baldridge says, may take looking at new forms of revenue for the state.
The Republican candidate talks a little bit about the pending arrival of the so-called Portsmouth Bypass. A state spokesperson recently confirmed work on the $634 million bypass is ahead of schedule and the roadway will open prior to the projected November completion date. Baldridge says the entire area needs to be ready to take economic advantage of the opening of the new freeway. He says infrastructure needs to be in place, ready to attract new businesses that can make use of the sparkling, new roadway.
“I want to hold up that sign in Columbus that says, ‘Southern Ohio is open for business’,” Baldridge says. He emphasizes municipalities and governments in this area must work together, that officials need to take a regional approach to economic improvement.
On another front, Baldridge talks about what he calls the opioid addiction problem afflicting all of southern Ohio. As a firefighter, he adds, he has seen the effects of addiction up close and personal. He estimates the state is spending about $1 billion annually on the problem, but is not necessarily making a lot of headway.
“There are things that are working and there are some things that are not working,” Baldridge says. As he did in a recent candidate forum, Baldridge speaks of a multi-pronged approach involving government at various levels along with educators, community groups and churches.
On his website, Baldridge, 49, says he has been married to wife Lori for 26 years. They make their home in Cherry Fork. They have two grown children, including one daughter Baldridge notes is planning to marry sometime this year.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931