CityBeat: Simendinger, Driehaus, Bryant for State Representative

Ohio’s House of Representatives is a magical place where small-town thinking goes to become statewide law.

Ohio’s House of Representatives is a magical place where small-town thinking goes to become statewide law. A Republican majority in recent years has passed legislation putting Ohio on par with the most conservative states in the nation when it comes to abortion restrictions, regressive tax structures and environmental protections. Ohio has made it so difficult for abortion clinics to stay open that Cincinnati is on the verge of becoming the largest metropolitan area in the country without one. Local governments and schools are seeing the least amount of state funding in years, and the fracking industry is running rampant over northern Ohio despite very real health and safety concerns.

The current crop of state reps tried to block Gov. John Kasich from accepting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, an offer so good even the anti-Obamacare Kasich had to take it up.

While many of these ill-advised policies come from representatives of rural areas whose constituents largely believe in such causes, Cincinnati regularly sends its own collection of small government, anti-abortion crusaders north to the statehouse. This year is likely to be more of the same.

After serving eight years in the Ohio House from 2001-08, Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes founder Tom Brinkman is back in the mix, looking to return to Columbus to continue his decades-long fight against the evils of taxation and homosexuality. While representing Cincinnati via Ohio’s 30th District last year, Republican Louis Terhar co-sponsored House Bill 200, which would have added more abortion restrictions in Ohio, then helped pass a budget that defunded Planned Parenthood. Freshman Representative Louis Blessing III, an electrician who won his seat largely because his yard signs looked a lot like those of his term-limited incumbent father Louis Blessing, Jr., hopes to go along for another two-year ride. He believes public education should be treated like a business, with underperforming schools shutting down like a poorly run Arby’s franchise.

CityBeat did find three candidates worthy of backing. Democrat Tammy Simendinger, who is running against Blessing III for Ohio’s 29th, has a background in organizational leadership, public administration and business management. Having spent time overseeing volunteer efforts for the Red Cross, Simendinger founded the Tristate Community Organizations Active in Disasters, a coalition of faith-based nonprofits attempting to aid local disaster survivors. Simendinger is clearly more suited for the seat than Blessing.

Democrat Denise Driehaus is running for a final term representing Ohio’s 31st. Driehaus has been a rare environmental advocate in Columbus, attempting to regulate fracking, and has also been active on a number of other worthy causes, including fighting sex trafficking and speaking out against the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Christie Bryant is an interesting newcomer — the UC law graduate running for Ohio’s 32nd serves on the Avondale Community Council Board of Trustees and is president of the board for the African American Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Cincinnati Planning Commission and a field representative for the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. We believe the West End-born, Walnut Hills grad would be a welcome addition among the too-few progressive voices in Columbus.

Her opponent, Republican attorney A. Brian McIntosh, has some experience working with civic groups and is a moderate with some commendable stances on gay marriage and the state’s Medicaid expansion. But Bryant’s experience and policy ideas seem a much better fit for the district.

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