State Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) and his Republican challenger, Mike Goulding, a Toledo lawyer vying to become the next representative of the 47th Ohio House District, agree that northwest Ohio needs better job recovery and a better public education system, but they differ on how they will implement change in the district.
So far, the candidates have staked their campaigns on experience and how they will be able to influence key players in the corridors of power.
"I'm a Republican. I'll be in a position to have an effect for the citizens of my district in a way my opponent has not been able to do. People will actually return my calls," said Mr. Goulding, because the Ohio House, Senate, and governorship are all controlled by the Republican Party.
Mr. Ujvagi could not disagree more. "As a freshman Republican, Mike Goulding is going to have to stand in line, but I've had many years of experience working across the aisle, and I know how to bring people together," said the one-term state representative, who was an at-large Toledo City Council member for many years and council president from 1998 to 2002.
Mr. Goulding, who has never sought elected office, admits he faces an uphill battle in a district that stretches to parts of East Toledo, the Old South End, South Toledo, and a portion of Reynolds Road and Airport Highway.
"Toledo is definitely a Democrat town, but the Republican Party is particularly competitive this year," said the 37-year-old partner at the Toledo law firm, Shindler, Neff, Holmes, Schlageter, & Mohler.
A board member of the Neighborhood Health Association, a nonprofit, community-based primary health-care center, Mr. Goulding says he was exposed to the political process during his college years when he was a page for Vern Rife, speaker of the House, in 1989.
"I saw first-hand how government worked and how the law-making process worked," said Mr. Goulding, who admitted to having once been a Democrat. "But when I came back and started following local issues, I started leaning toward the conservative side."
Mr. Goulding is a graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School, Ohio State University, and the University of Toledo College of Law.
In trying to unseat an incumbent long entrenched in Toledo politics, Mr. Goulding contends he is interested in alternative solutions for state and local issues. One of the things he has proposed to do if he gets to Columbus is to introduce a state constitutional amendment that would allow casino gambling in some cities. Mr. Goulding also wants to try a different approach when it comes to public education in Toledo.
"The role of the state legislator is to be a cheerleader for parents, to get them to assume responsibility for their children. I don't think there is a government solution to better parenting. That's why we need to improve the education system at the local level," said Mr. Goulding.
In his last election, Mr. Ujvagi, who came to Toledo when his family immigrated from Budapest, Hungary, in 1956, carried the district with 68 percent of the vote. But he is not taking any votes for granted.
"I have a great chance of winning, but I know that I have to earn every election," said Mr. Ujvagi, whose significant legislative victory in his freshman term was the passing of the Patriot Plan, which provides benefits and protections to Reservists and National Guard members on active duty outside the state. The bill passed unanimously.
Mr. Ujvagi, an active member of the Hungarian Club of Greater Toledo, said he was drawn to politics at an early age because it was all the family talked about when they sat down for dinner.
"I blame my father for getting me into politics. When my family escaped from behind the Iron Curtain, he instilled in us the concept of public service," said Mr. Ujvagi, 55, who graduated from St. Francis de Sales and attended the University of Toledo.
"I invite voters to judge me based on my record in Toledo politics," said Mr. Ujvagi, who has lived in the same Birmingham neighborhood of East Toledo where his family first settled when they arrived in America.
"Neighborhoods are the building blocks for our city," he said.
He said if elected to another term, he'd urge constituents to go to Columbus and tell legislators about some of the issues they face, such as a lack of ample funding for public education.
Contact Karamagi Rujumba at: email@example.com or 419-724-6064.