Now that it's abundantly clear that term limits have had the unintended effect of diminishing a great deal of whatever wisdom, maturity, and experience the Ohio General Assembly may have accumulated, voters would be well-advised to pay closer attention to the people they send to represent their interests in Columbus.
Instead of improving the legislative product, term limits, enacted by Ohio voters in 1992, have created a process in which the ability to raise money to get elected is valued more than experience; special-interest lobbyists are gaining ever more power at influencing state law, and some legislators barely warm their seats in the House or Senate before they're looking for another job.
When the current legislative session opened almost two years ago, Speaker of the House Jo Ann Davidson observed that the 123rd General Assembly was beginning minus 220 years of legislative experience due to term limits and would end by losing another 698 years' worth.
Now it's time to choose the individuals who will attempt to fill that enormous void. Here are The Blade's endorsements for legislative seats in Toledo and northwest Ohio.
In House District 50, the race is a three-way contest that is a rematch of two years ago. We believe that Jeanine Perry deserves a second term as state representative to serve East Toledo, Point Place, Washington Township, and part of West Toledo.
Ms. Perry, a former Toledo city councilwoman, has remained locally focused as a member of the Democratic minority in the legislature. As such, she was active on behalf of legislation to discourage trains from blocking rail crossings, an increasing concern in her district and much of northwest Ohio.
In House District 51, Lynn Olman has been a productive lawmaker with significant seniority, and we believe the Maumee Republican should get another term. The district encompasses the northwest corner of Toledo, Sylvania, Ottawa Hills, Holland, Whitehouse, Waterville, and Maumee, and the townships in western Lucas County.
Mr. Olman's accomplishments include a new law that gives larger townships more power in regulating growth - a response to the situation in Sylvania Township. We have been impressed with his continuing interest in the Other Ohio issue and his hard work on this region's behalf in Columbus.
It's also worth noting that he has a fine opponent in Sylvania City Councilman John Billis, who has been working hard and is certainly electable. This race is what contested races should be about.
House District 52, which includes most of South and West Toledo and Ottawa Hills, probably has the most-watched legislative race - literally - because television commercials started early for the appointed incumbent. We believe that the challenger, Teresa Fedor, is the preferable choice there.
Ms. Fedor, a veteran fourth-grade teacher at Burroughs Elementary School, seems to have a better understanding of the issues related to school funding that will be paramount in the next session of the General Assembly. In addition, she is not a career politician. Like her opponent, appointed legislator James Mettler, she says she would not support a tax increase for education, and we hold her to that.
In House District 53, the incumbent Democrat, Chris Redfern, is our choice to continue representing this sprawling district, which covers the city of Oregon, Jerusalem Township, Ottawa County, and western Erie County, including the city of Sandusky.
Mr. Redfern worked hard with majority Republicans to secure the old Lonz Winery on Middle Bass Island as an added feature of the Lake Erie Islands State Park. Personable, smart, and energetic, he demonstrates the potential for leadership in the legislative arena.
In what amounts to a job-swap growing out of term limits, incumbents in the state Senate district that covers suburban Lucas County, all of Wood and Ottawa counties, and part of Erie County, and the House district that includes just Wood County will be attempting to exchange offices. With some misgivings about the process, but not the personnel, we endorse Robert Latta, the Senate incumbent, for election in House District 4. State Rep. Randy Gardner, of Bowling Green, who now represents Wood County, is unopposed in Senate District 2.
For Mr. Latta, the move from Senate to House will allow him to concentrate on state affairs as they pertain to Wood County, where he was county commissioner from 1990 to 1996. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he shepherded a rewrite of juvenile sentencing law through the chamber. He also pledges not to give up on another long-term goal, a constitutional amendment that would require legislative vacancies to be filed by special election instead of partisan appointment.
In House District 89, which includes all of Sandusky County and western Seneca County, we endorse Rex Damschroder, of Fremont.
Mr. Damschroder, who has represented his district since 1995, was successful earlier this year with a bill to allow county sheriffs to designate certain railroad crossings that trains would be forbidden to block, or face stringent fines. To the legislature's discredit, a weaker Senate bill that failed to address Mr. Damschroder's safety issues was finally enacted. He also took the lead in pushing legislation to reduce Ohio's blood-alcohol standard for drunken driving from 0.10 to 0.08, but Congress later mandated the new standard nationwide.