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Published: 10/31/2004

Ohio House: Incumbents, familiar rivals square off in 2 area districts

In more than one northwest Ohio House district, voters will recognize not only incumbents on Tuesday's ballot but familiar challengers as well.

State Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) is opposed for the second time for the 6th House District seat by Democrat Scott McCarty, a construction worker from Perrysburg Township.

Rep. Mike Gilb (R., Findlay) is being challenged for the third time in the 76th District by Democrat Ken Ludwig, a union millwright from Findlay.

Mr. Ludwig, 51, said his opponent has had six years to take care of business for the state and the district, which encompasses Hancock, Hardin, and a portion of Auglaize counties.

"He's had plenty of time to make the changes he talked about the first time we ran - schools, our jobs, factory farms. All these things have just become bigger problems than they were," said Mr. Ludwig, former chairman of both the Hancock County Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO.

A fiscal conservative, Mr. Gilb said he would continue to push legislation aimed at establishing a flat tax rate for all Ohioans and other tax reform measures. Neighboring states have flat tax rates of between 3.6 percent and 4.1 percent, he said.

"That becomes a critical factor in locating businesses and deciding where corporate headquarters will locate," Mr. Gilb, an attorney, said. "I think it would grow Ohio's income."

In the 6th District, which covers all of Wood County, Mr. McCarty, 44, said he would focus on job creation efforts, revamping school funding, closing tax loopholes for business, and stiffening environmental regulations for large-scale livestock operations.

He said he supports legalizing gambling, "not as a budgetary fix" but as a way to boost tourism and bring more revenue to the state.

Mr. Latta, 48, an attorney, said he is committed to controlling state spending while making sure state dollars are being spent effectively. A former Wood County commissioner and one-term state senator, he opposes legalized gambling in Ohio.

Chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, Mr. Latta said he hopes to get a bill passed before the end of this term that would require all inmates in state prisons and others convicted of certain misdemeanors to submit a DNA sample that would be included in a DNA database similar to a fingerprint database.

In the 81st District, which includes Sandusky County, the western half of Seneca County, and part of southern Ottawa County, freshman Rep. Jeff Wagner (R., Sycamore) is being challenged by Sandusky County Auditor Bill Farrell, a Democrat.

Mr. Farrell, of Fremont, argues that the state needs to change its tax code to promote job creation and make employee health coverage more affordable for small businesses.

Mr. Wagner, a former Seneca County commissioner, says businesses need tort reform to guard against frivolous lawsuits so they can concentrate on job creation.

Mr. Farrell has criticized Mr. Wagner for supporting a three-year, 6-cent increase in Ohio's gas tax; Mr. Wagner says he voted for the measure at the urging of local officials.

In the 75th District, Democrat Ben Nienberg, a newcomer to politics, is challenging Republican incumbent James Hoops for the seat representing Henry, Putnam, Paulding, and Van Wert counties plus Adams Township in Defiance County.

Mr. Nienberg, who owns Nienberg Investments & Insurance LLC in the Putnam County community of Glandorf, decided to run in part because he was unhappy with Mr. Hoops' votes on issues related to oversight of manure handling at large livestock farms.

Mr. Nienberg takes issue with manure lagoons that are commonly used on livestock farms, calling them "out of the stone ages," and wants to require farmers with many animals to treat manure more like municipalities treat sewage.

Mr. Hoops, 45, a full-time legislator from Napoleon, is running for election to his fourth term in the House, where he serves on the education, finance and appropriations, health, and transportation and public safety committees.

He was Henry County auditor from 1985 to 1998 and was president of the Ohio County Auditors' Association in 1992. He resigned from his last term as auditor to take his state representative seat in 1999.

He is a member of Henry County's Farm Bureau and Right to Life organizations and has been president of the Filling Home of Mercy board.

Stephen Buehrer (R., Delta) is unopposed in his bid for re-election in the 74th District, which encompasses all of Fulton, Williams, and Defiance counties with the exception of Adams Township.



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