Of course, one Adrienne Buckler, is a Democrat and one, Brian Baldridge, is a Republican. Both are running for the open 90th District seat in the Ohio House. They both tout different types of experience.
But, surprisingly or not surprisingly, they both agree on what are the biggest issues facing the district they hope to represent, which includes all of Scioto and Adams counties, along with a slice of Lawrence County. Those issues are, in no particular order, education, economic development and the opioid crisis.
Here are some of their comments on those issues:
Baldridge, who is midway through a term as an Adams County Commissioner and has also served as a Wayne Township trustee, said he has lots of experience creating jobs, attracting new businesses and finding the money to build the infrastructure needed to grow local economies. Baldridge said it is the job of the government to create an atmosphere that fosters economic development and then “get out of the way of the private sector.”
“I want to hold up that sign in Columbus that says, ‘Southern Ohio is open for business,’” Baldridge said during the Republican primary, during which he bested three challengers. Baldridge emphasized municipalities and governments in this area must work together, that officials need to take a regional approach to economic improvement.
Buckler first talked about how Columbus has sliced funding to local governments, funding she clearly believes needs to be restored to a large extent. She said it is difficult for local communities to grow businesses and foster development when they are essentially hurting for money.
“I think, especially here in southern Ohio, what we forget about are our local businesses, our small businesses. I think those are really the bread-and-butter of our economy… We need to make sure we are representing them and supporting them because that’s where a lot of jobs come from.”
Buckler went on to talk a bit about changing southern Ohio’s image. She said the area needs a positive leader with lots of energy to promote southern Ohio.
“If people believe this is just a rundown area with a big drug problem that everybody wants to leave, how we going to get people to invest here?”
“I think that’s huge,” Buckler said in beginning to talk about this issue. “By that I mean, I think we need to make sure our kids get a good public school, high school level education or vocational education, so that when they get out into the world they can give back to our community in a meaningful way.”
Buckler talked about rearranging Columbus funding to put an emphasis on education, specifically reducing funding to private, for-profit charter schools which she sees as taking money away from public schools.
“We need to give back to our schools, especially our rural schools,” she continued. “Our schools are just getting this lackluster funding… We also need to take care of our teachers. Teachers have been an important part of my life and, I think, they are an important part of every kid’s life.”
For his part, Baldridge also talked about a need for better public school funding from Columbus. He said the number of real estate tax levies on ballots across the state are proof more funding needs to flow from the state capital. But beyond funding, Baldridge is a big proponent of local control of schools. He does not have much faith in state testing and mentioned opposition to what is known as Common Core, essentially, a curriculum set up by the state. Baldridge argued what works in Cleveland clearly is not necessarily going to work in rural southern Ohio.
For her part, Buckler also stated teachers should not have to arrange their curriculums around standardized tests.
Drugs and addiction
A long-time firefighter, Baldridge said he has seen the effects of addiction up close and personal. During the primary, he estimated Ohio is spending about $1 billion annually on the problem but not necessarily making a lot of headway.
“There are things that are working and there are things that are not working,” Baldridge said. Again, during the primary, Baldridge spoke of a multi-pronged approach involving government at various levels along with educators, community groups and churches.
Buckler said the drug issue is one of the most common topics raised as she travels around talking to voters, something, which by the way, she said she has done extensively. “People are really worried about that (the drug problem) because I think everybody knows somebody who has been affected by it in some regard whether it’s family, a friend, coworker, whoever.” Buckler added the state must get involved in any way which proves effective at helping people.
Moving away from specific issues, as he did during the primary, Baldridge somewhat emphasized his experience in public office. In addition to touting his elected positions, Baldridge also talked about being selected to the Ohio Township Association Board of Directors. He also was elected by his peers to work with the Ohio County Commissioners Associations Board of Directors. 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 continued.
Buckler argued she has been an attorney for three years which gives her important, relevant experience even if she has not held office. She said that obviously she is well acquainted with the law. But she stated more importantly to her is the fact she regularly works to solve a myriad of problems in her private, general practice, often having to convince a judge and/or jury of her point of view.
Perhaps just as importantly to her, Buckler emphasized she has, from the beginning of the district primary, been one of, if not the youngest candidate. She said she will turn 28 this week.
“I’m proud of that,” Buckler said. “I’m glad that I already know what I want to do, that I already know I want to serve the people of this area. I don’t think you need to be 50 plus years old to be able to do that.”
On one last front, Baldridge, on his campaign website states he is a member of the NRA and was endorsed by the NRA. For her part, Buckler said she fully supports the Second Amendment. “I think I’m more conservative on that issue than maybe some others,” she said. “I am not out to take anybody’s guns away.”
On his website, Baldridge, 49, said he has been married to wife Lori for 26 years. They make their home in Cherry Fork. They have two grown children.
“I’m running to be our voice,” Buckler said at one point during the primary, adding an assertion her voice would be somewhat unique, being that of a young woman who is not a professional politician.
Buckler runs her law office in Portsmouth and is the daughter of Scioto County Common Pleas Judge Jerry Buckler.
There is no incumbent in the 90th district race. The winner replaces incumbent Terry Johnson, who cannot run for reelection because of term limits.