(Parts 2 to 4 of the debate video are at the bottom of this page.)
By Kevin Kelley
Few policy differences came to light in the Feb. 14 debate between Todd LeVeck and Andrew Meyer. The two Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the District 16 Ohio House seat in the March 6 primary both agreed the one who can beat incumbent Nan Baker should win, and each said he can give the Westlake Republican the better fight.
Since each is seeking elected office for the first time, neither has a track record on the campaign trail. So, in addition to promising to wage a tough campaign, the two took turns attacking Gov. John Kasich, and Baker for supporting him.
At a West Side Democrats forum held at the Church of the Redeemer in Westlake, Meyer repeatedly called Kasich and his agenda “extreme.”
“We’ve got probably the most radical administration in the entire country pushing this radical agenda down our throats,” the Rocky River attorney said.
Calling himself the candidate with new ideas on the economy, Meyer said Republicans had introduced numerous uncoordinated and unproductive tax credits and given money to local schools and well planned tax incentive programs.
LeVeck, a computer programming teacher at Cleveland’s Max Hayes High School, said the repealed collective bargaining law, popularly known as Senate Bill 5, is Baker’s achilles heal.
“Nan Baker will lose this race if she is held accountable for her stance on Senate Bill 5,” the Westlake resident said, calling the law that would have limited collective bargaining rights for state workers “the great overreach that showed just how extreme the Republican Party is.”
Meyer also noted his work against the collective bargaining law, which he called “ridiculous.”
Calling Baker “a blind ideologue – a rubber stamp to the extremism of the Kasich administration,” Meyer said the most significant issue she parted ways with her party was on allowing guns in bars.
“That tells you where she’s at,” Meyer said, adding that he would be an independent voice if elected to the statehouse.
Acknowledging that Baker is a tough candidate to defeat, LeVeck said Democrats need to build on their momentum from the successful repeal of Senate Bill 5 to defeat her.
“The big thing I would ask her is what have you brought to this district?” LeVeck said. “I’m tired of subsidizing the rest of the state,” he added, referring to the sentiment that the Westshore sends more tax dollars to Columbus than it gets in return.
Both criticized Baker’s votes on Republican-sponsored anti-abortion bills. Saying that the GOP likes to divide people on social issues like that, LeVeck called such tactics the Republican Party’s “Hail Mary,” referring to the last-ditch football play metaphor.
“When they’ve got nothing else to do, then they throw up their ‘Hail Mary,’ and they start talking about ‘gays, guns and God.’” LeVeck said. “And they hope that somehow they’re going to divide up. But they’re not going to do it.”
On the issue of school funding, Meyer said tax credits, such as for donations to political campaigns, need to be eliminated to prop up school funding. Saying that nothing will change while Republicans are in control, LeVeck said funding solutions beyond local property taxes need to be examined.
Meyer and LeVeck were against GOP proposals to expand school vouchers. LeVeck said vouchers are not being used to send underserved public school students to parochial schools, as had been advertised, but to subsidize families who already send their children to private schools.
Both opposed privatizing state assets such as the Ohio Turnpike. Meyer said that other states, such as Indiana, have had negative experiences with privatization, calling them failed experiments. “We need vocal leaders to point out what’s happened in other states,” he said. LeVeck said quality services do not necessarily result when awarding contract to the lowest bidder.
Both expressed leeriness about the fracking method of extracting natural gas, a process Baker believes will create thousands of new jobs for Ohioans. LeVeck called fracking “a scary opportunity,” noting both the dangers and benefits from exploiting the state’s natural gas reserves. Calling for a moratorium on fracking until strict environmental standards are in place, Meyer added that he believes the Democratic Party in Ohio has failed recently on environmental issues. Both said corporations that benefit from the state’s natural resources should be appropriately taxed.