An independent, pragmatic, and generally moderate Republican, 47th District state Rep. BARBARA SEARS of Monclova Township has compiled an impressive legislative record since she took office in 2008. She has earned renomination in the May 6 primary.
Ms. Sears has developed special expertise in issues of health care and health insurance. Well respected by her colleagues, she serves as majority floor leader, the third highest-ranking member of the Ohio House of Representatives.
Nevertheless, Ms. Sears faces a spirited Republican primary challenge from Scott Allegrini of Sylvania. The 40-year-old Walmart manager and political activist accuses the incumbent of abandoning the principles of limited government.
Mr. Allegrini is the founder of Children of Liberty, a conservative political education and advocacy group. His candidacy is backed by the local Tea Party faction.
The primary winner in this district will not face a Democratic opponent in the general election this fall. State representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $60,584 a year, with some legislative leaders earning additional stipends.
A former supporter of Ms. Sears, Mr. Allegrini entered the race chiefly because he objects to her advocacy of the expansion of Ohio’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act. He says the expansion will increase dependence on government and saddle Ohio with long-term health care costs.
Ms. Sears, 52, may be best known for her support of Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion plan, a smart and courageous move by both Republicans. Using federal dollars — 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter — expanding Medicaid eligibility will provide insurance to 275,000 more low-income Ohioans who desperately need it.
The expansion extends coverage to working-poor and mentally ill Ohioans, along with military veterans and addicts. It also creates numerous health-care jobs.
Ms. Sears, a former Sylvania City Council president, has successfully sponsored other important measures in the General Assembly. Her needle-exchange legislation will save lives and prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, and nudge many intravenous drug users into treatment. Another of her bills that recently passed the House permits the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council to use teleconferencing and interactive video conferencing for meetings.
Ms. Sears is senior vice president of employee benefits for Roemer Insurance, and is well versed on the important issues that face Ohio. Mr. Allegrini has not held elected office.
Despite that lack of experience, the challenger has the intelligence, drive, and integrity to grow into the job of state representative. Even so, aside from his principled but misguided objection to Medicaid expansion and a general opposition to government spending, he offers few specifics or new ideas at a time when Ohio urgently needs them.
Although he is personable, his ability to negotiate and compromise on contentious issues is questionable. Ohio doesn’t need more ideologues and partisan bickering in the legislature.
Mr. Allegrini does not make a compelling case for unseating a capable incumbent with a record of getting things done. Rep. BARBARA SEARS is the better choice in the 47th District GOP primary.