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Published: Friday, 10/22/2004

District 49 campaign pits newcomer, 3-term veteran

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Don't be dissuaded by his lack of experience, Christopher Myers wants you to know.

He'll make up for it in enthusiasm.

"I want this job as much as she wants to be re-elected, and the residents have the right to see both of us," said the 29-year-old political newcomer.

Mr. Myers, a Republican, is referring to Democrat Jeanine Perry, a longtime public office holder.

He's trying to unseat her from Ohio's 49th House District, which stretches from Jerusalem Township westward through Oregon, Washington Township, and North and West Toledo.

The Web master for the University of Michigan's school of education, Mr. Myers wants to see Ohio's schools better prepare its students for an economy based on technology. Among his proposals: equipping each of the states' estimated 148,000 seventh graders with laptop computers.

For her part, Ms. Perry, 62, says she has spent her three two-year terms serving her constituents in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives building alliances and supporting legislation that address quality-of-life issues.

"A lot of what we do doesn't get a lot of attention or a lot of credit," she said. "But it's stuff that matters."

The two candidates come from very different backgrounds.

Ms. Perry, who grew up in Lockport, Ill., and moved to Toledo as a young adult, began her political career in the late 1980s spearheading the opposition to the construction of a $2.1 million sludge-treatment facility at the Bay View sewage-treatment plant.

Soon after, she was tapped by candidate John McHugh to run his mayoral campaign. She did. He won.

The mayor later named her to fill a vacant seat on council, and in 1994 she became the first district councilman to represent the city's District 6, one of six districts carved for Toledo's new strong mayor form of government.

Four years later, the mother of two - who is married to the Lucas County Sheriff James Telb's chief deputy, Ken Perry - wrested the Columbus seat she now holds from incumbent John Garcia.

If elected next month, this two-year term would be her last under term limits.

Those experiences, coupled with the fact that she's a Democrat in a Republican-controlled House, have taught her to build alliances and work quietly in the background on the types of issues that don't necessarily trigger headlines, she said.

The work of the House's Cancer Caucus, of which she is a member, is a good example, she said. The bipartisan caucus supported legislation that cut taxes on cancer treatment drugs administered in many doctor's offices.

David Dillahunt, executive director of the Ohio/West Virginia Oncology Society, which organized many of the meetings, said Ms. Perry "was always asking questions, and always very supportive."

She also worked toward legislation that eventually raised the fines for railway companies whose trains who block roadways and supported law changes that cracked down on the state's sex offenders.

Mr. Myers argues that Ms. Perry "has had it easy the past few years," noting a lack of high-profile legislation and what he criticized as her absence from the campaign trail.

He also has criticized her absence from a string of meetings having to do with EnviroSafe's plans to expand in Oregon.

State representatives, he said, are a jurisdiction's lobbyist in Columbus, and Ms. Perry was absent at meetings where residents blasted the company's plan to increase the height of its active-waste pit by up to 70 feet.

If the company's plans are approved, it would raise the height of the landfill cell south of York Street - commonly called Cell M - to about 120 feet.

"When you don't hear or see anything from the Oregon's paid lobbyist in Columbus, I think you should be concerned," he said.

Mr. Myers, who grew up near Sandusky, said he will give up his job at the University of Michigan if he is elected to become a full-time legislator.

He sees both the budget deficit and school funding as some of the state's biggest challenges. But so far the discussions have focused too much on dollar amounts the state or schools are receiving rather than how they're spending those funds, he said.

Mr. Myers recently heard an advertisement for consumer debt counseling and he wondered if Columbus lawmakers shouldn't sit down with such counselors.

"The way people get into debt spending is that they think they need everything," he said. In reality, he said, the family checkbook and a state budget is similar. "What [lawmakers] need to do is go back to the basic necessities."

Contact Robin Erb at:

robinerb@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.



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