Steve Buehrer and James Hoops, two Republican state House members who are prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, are battling in next week's primary for the right to move up to the Ohio Senate.
But before one of them can reach that chamber, the winner of Tuesday's GOP primary will have to face Ben Nienberg, a Democrat who has no opponent in the primary.
The 1st District is a Republican stronghold covering Defiance, Fulton, Hardin, Hancock, Henry, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, and Williams counties, plus part of Auglaize County.
The district's seat is being vacated by Sen. Lynn Wachtmann, who is prevented from seeking re-election. He is running for a House seat.
Mr. Nienberg of Glandorf is self-employed in financial services in the Putnam County community. He's a self-professed fiscal conservative whose stances on social issues and gun rights run parallel with those of his Republican competitors.
In Senate District 1, Republican loyalties run deep.
In 2002, Mr. Wachtmann defeated his Democratic opponent, William Flanary, with 68 percent of the vote.
In the 2004 race for the 75th House District, Mr. Hoops defeated Mr. Nienberg with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
Mr. Buehrer, a Delta native, says he wants to continue working on issues that he says are critical to northwest Ohio, such as improving highways and sewer and water service to attract new business.
A particular concern in the district is the commercial activity tax, signed into law last year, he said. The tax is levied on businesses' gross receipts, but Mr. Buehrer said it has the potential to "stifle" small businesses.
The measure replaced the corporate franchise and personal property taxes. Mr. Buehrer says the five-year phase-in of the tax will cause Ohio to borrow money to replace the income lost from the other two taxes it replaces during that time.
His campaign is well-funded "because so many people have been generous to this campaign." As of April 20, he had $84,451 on hand, having spent $223,413 through the filing deadline.
His campaign raised $57,085, which was added to the $250,756 in his treasury.
Tom Noe, who controlled the state's failed $50 million coin fund, was a major contributor to Republican causes, including the campaigns of Mr. Buehrer and Mr. Hoops.
Mr. Noe had given roughly $7,200 to Mr. Buehrer between 2000 and 2004 and nearly $8,000 to Mr. Hoops between 1998 and 2004, according to campaign finance reports.
Both House members have since donated their Noe money to the Northwest Ohio Safety Council.
Mr. Nienberg said Mr. Buehrer and Mr. Hoops should have given it back to the state's insurance fund for injured workers.
"Both thought the $7,000 to $8,000 was too hot to keep, so they gave it to charity," Mr. Nienberg said. He promised to raise the issue of Noe political donations and the loss of money from the workers' compensation fund during his campaign.
Mr. Hoops heads into the primary with $168,282 in his campaign treasury, according to campaign finance reports filed April 20 with the Secretary of State's Office.
He raised $85,027 through the filing deadline but had $180,419 in his war chest from earlier campaigns. His report shows he spent $97,163 through that period.
Mr. Nienberg did not file a campaign finance report for the primary.
Mr. Hoops, the House District 75 member, said he will continue to work on reforming the tax system, particularly the new business tax. "We'll continue to monitor that just to see how it does affect certain segments of society," he said.
If elected, he promised to give his full commitment to the district.
"I'm going to be a senator who wants to be in the room," he said. "I won't say no unless I have a better idea."
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