Redrawn districts and term limits are changing the face of the Ohio General Assembly in this fall's election. Here are The Blade's recommendations in contested legislative races in the Toledo area:
Senate District 2: The decision by Republican incumbent Mark Wagoner of Ottawa Hills not to seek re-election this year has created an open seat in this district, which includes west Lucas County, Wood, Ottawa, and Erie counties, and most of Fulton County. State Rep. RANDY GARDNER (R., Bowling Green) is the better candidate to fill the seat.
Despite term limits, Mr. Gardner has remained in the General Assembly since 1985 by shifting between legislative houses. A former teacher, he has made education a useful priority.
Mr. Gardner calls himself a fiscal conservative, but doesn't ignore the environment: He helped create a state fund that supports programs aimed at reducing runoff that causes Lake Erie algae.
The biggest blot on Representative Gardner's current term is his sponsorship of destructive new legislation that enables member communities to withdraw unilaterally from the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority. That measure has undermined TARTA's mission and weakened public transportation in northwest Ohio: Perrysburg has seceded from TARTA, and Sylvania and Spencer townships may follow in November.
Mr. Gardner's Democratic opponent, Jeff Bretz, is an engineer and North Baltimore village councilman. He is sincere and enthusiastic, but lacks Mr. Gardner's experience and Columbus contacts. It's a close call, but RANDY GARDNER has earned election.
House District 3: Mr. Gardner's effort to move to the Senate has led to an open seat in this Wood County district. Democrat KELLY WICKS of Bowling Green is the preferred choice to replace him.
Mr. Wicks owns a Bowling Green coffee shop that is also is a bookstore and entertainment venue. A former president of the Downtown Business Association, he helped create and operate Bowling Green's farmers' market. He argues plausibly that state investments in education, infrastructure, and renewable energy are critical to Wood County's future.
His Republican opponent, four-term Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown, previously served as business manager of the county sanitary engineer's office, ran the late U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor's Bowling Green office for eight years, and was a member of the county board of elections.
District voters would be well-represented by either candidate (Libertarian Nathan Eberly of Bowling Green also is on the ballot), but KELLY WICKS is the preferred choice.
House District 46: Incumbent Democrat MATT SZOLLOSI has earned a new term from this revamped city-suburban district, which includes South Toledo, Maumee, Oregon, and Jerusalem and Springfield townships.
Mr. Szollosi helped lead the failed fight to protect the budget of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, which acts as a watchdog for Ohio utility customers. He opposed $2 billion in state budget cuts that have devastated local school districts' funding.
Mr. Szollosi voted against eliminating the Ohio estate tax. He fought to protect Ohio elections by opposing voter-suppression measures, including a failed voter-identification bill, and supporting expanded early voting.
But he is not afraid to cross the legislative aisle. He voted to remove breed-specific language from Ohio vicious-dog regulations. He supported a Republican initiative to fight prescription drug abuse. And he backed GOP bills to bring Teach for America to Ohio schools and to regulate the state's oil and gas boom.
The district's Republican challenger, Dave Kissinger, is regional vice president of a health-care consulting service. He has extensive experience in patient care, nursing management, and information technology. That background would be useful in Columbus, but MATT SZOLLOSI merits re-election.
House District 47: In a battle of candidates from Monclova Township, incumbent Republican Barbara Sears seeks a new term, but Democratic challenger JEFF BUNCK would better serve the interests of district voters.
The newly redrawn district stretches from Ottawa Hills and Sylvania Township, around Toledo and Springfield Township as far south as Providence Township, and west to Fulton and Amboy townships, including the village of Metamora in Fulton County.
Ms. Sears supports leasing the Ohio Turnpike to a private company, despite fears that tolls will increase and maintenance will be neglected, driving more semi tractor-trailers onto local roads. She opposes the Affordable Care Act, even though she says she likes parts of it.
She is OK with slot machines at horse racing tracks, which will mean the closure of Toledo Raceway Park. She voted for a bill that would have allowed huge volumes of water to be diverted from Lake Erie without adequate regulation.
Mr. Bunck, a retired history and government teacher at Anthony Wayne High School, says he would bring back some of the state's projected budget surplus to local communities to support schools and put more police officers on the street.
He opposes leasing the turnpike, wants more transparency from JobsOhio, and opposed the water-diversion bill. He supports higher taxes on fracking, with the revenue put back in local communities. JEFF BUNCK deserves election from this diverse district.