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Published: Sunday, 10/31/2004

Ohio Senate: Newcomer challenges 2nd District incumbent

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In his bid for a second term in the Ohio Senate, Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) is being challenged by a Bowling Green State University senior from Sylvania.

Democrat Nathan Nickens, 22, said he wants to make education the No. 1 priority in Ohio. He is proposing a radical change in the way local school districts are funded: pooling tax revenues statewide and dividing them equally among school districts so that all are funded to provide the same level of educational services.

"My opponent said the legislature infused $400 million into Ohio's education system" in the last two-year budget, Mr. Nickens said. "What he hasn't done is addressed a system that requires $400 million to be infused into it."

Mr. Gardner, 46, insists he's been a steadfast proponent of education in Ohio and reforms to school financing.

"Education is a higher percentage of the state budget than it was when the DeRolph suit was filed," he said, referring to the 1991 school-funding lawsuit named after the Perry County boy who had to sit on the floor because there weren't enough chairs in his history class.

Mr. Gardner said the legislature has added about $2.5 billion for school operations and more than $4 billion for new school construction.

"We've responded directly to the Supreme Court," he said. "While I care what happens in the courtroom, I care even more about what's happening in the classroom, and academic opportunity and achievement in Ohio is going up."

Mr. Gardner served 15 years in the Ohio House before he was forced out by term limits. Mr. Nickens has never sought public office until now.

The 2nd District encompasses all of Wood and Erie counties and portions of Lucas and Ottawa counties, including Maumee, Ottawa Hills, Port Clinton, Put-in-Bay, and Marblehead.

In the 12th District, which consists of Allen, Champaign, Darke, Mercer, and Shelby counties and parts of Auglaize and Mercer counties, Sen. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) is seeking a second four-year term.

Just as in 2000, he is being challenged by Jack Kaffenberger, an independent candidate from Greenville.

Mr. Jordan, 40, handily defeated Mr. Kaffenberger four years ago.

Mr. Kaffenberger, 49, works at a recycling plant. Prior to being elected to the Senate, Mr. Jordan, 40, served three terms as a state representative.



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