Two Lucas Countians will go head-to-head in Tuesday's general election as they vie to represent Ohio's newly-redrawn 47th House District which includes part of Fulton County.
Two-term incumbent Republican Barbara Sears, 51, and Democrat Jeff Bunck, 60, -- both residents of Lucas County's Monclova Township -- are the candidates for a two-year term that begins in January. Sears currently represents the 46th House District, comprised of Lucas County's western portion.
The new 47th House District ranges from Syl-vania Township and Ottawa Hills, around Toledo and Springfield Township and as far south as Providence Township in Lucas County. It also encompasses all but the southeast corner of Fulton County, including the villages of Archbold and Wauseon. (The southeast corner of Fulton County is part of the new 81st District which also includes Henry, Putnam and Williams counties.)
According to Sears, job creation would be of paramount importance if she wins a third term in the Ohio Statehouse.
"My top priority is jobs," said Sears, who is senior vice president of employee benefits at Roemer Insurance in Toledo. "It is critically important that Ohio continues to improve job creation. We need to do this by reducing the roadblocks of unnecessary state regulations, and making certain that workforce development programs are available."
On job creation, Bunck said it is important to create well-paying jobs that "cannot be outsourced," and proposes that "we expand the work already started on wind farms like Timber Road II."
Bunck -- who taught high school government for 25 years -- said he will bring a focus on education to the Statehouse.
"Last year the General Assembly cut $2.9 billion out of public education," Bunck said. "This has led to 3,000 teachers and 2,500 plus non-certified employees being laid off. Most schools had to eliminate programs and increase class sizes, and school boards have had to face the shortfalls by asking voters to tax themselves just to stay even, and this is wrong."
Bunck added that his first goal would be to use some of the state's $1.2 billion projected surplus to fund education, after which he aims to seek an "alternative funding formula that does not impact property owners."
Sears is on a number of House committees, including the finance and appropriations committee and the health and aging committee, and sat on Sylvania City Council for a decade prior to being elected to represent District 46 in 2008.
Sears said her "desire to learn and understand the challenges faced by her district," as well as her experience with fiscal matters, qualify her to represent the district.
"I believe I bring many qualifications to this position," said Sears, who currently serves as assistant majority floor leader. "First is the ability to look at more than a single issue. I have the experience needed to understand the budget issues, and a great deal of knowledge regarding the Medicaid portion of our budget."
Providing access to affordable health care is another issue Sears said will have her attention should she be re-elected Tuesday.
"It is very important that we work toward improved access, which means developing policy that increases provider access in underserved areas of Ohio," Sears said.
Though Bunck has not held an elected office before, he said his experience in conjunction with his "active voice to speak out against injustices, and offer solutions" will make him an effective representative.
"I believe 35 years as a teacher, administrator, athletic director and coach make me highly qualified," said Bunck, who earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Toledo in 1975 and a master of education degree from the same school in 1984. "I have dealt with every day problems in my community."
While Sears said the desire to continue the work she has begun for Ohio and her district motivates her to seek re-election, Bunck's frustration with the status quo inspired his candidacy.
"I became more frustrated by the continued cuts to public education, townships and municipal governments," Bunck said. "When my opponent said she wouldn't mind selling or leasing the Ohio Turnpike, I decided it was time to become involved."
Recent studies have shown that leveraging the turnpike as a state asset -- a path supported by Ohio Gov. John Kasich -- could produce billions of dollars for Ohio.
Others like Bunck, who cited safety as well as economic concerns, are opposed.
Bunck said he fears that truck traffic would divert to nearby two-lane highways, mixing dangerously with passenger cars and school buses. He added that he would vote no on any legislation relinquishing control of the turnpike.
Sears insisted that when it comes to the turnpike, she is keeping an open mind.
"I think it is important to educate myself on the study before closing my mind to options that might improve northern Ohio's transportation funding by using the assets of the turnpike revenue," said Sears, who added that she is "predisposed against any conversation regarding the sale or long-term lease of the turnpike simply because I have concerns about losing control of its management."
Sears said that even if nothing was done with the turnpike, the study is valuable source of information.