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Published: Sunday, 11/2/2008

Lucas County race assumes key role in statewide battle

BY ALEX M. PARKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Democrats looking to seize control of the Ohio House are closely watching two area races in northwest Ohio.

Currently outnumbered by Republicans 53-46 in the lower chamber of the General Assembly, Democrats need a gain of four seats statewide to reverse 14 years of GOP control. Of course, the Democrats also need to hold the districts they now control.

The key area races are in the 46th District in western Lucas County and the 80th District, which covers most of Ottawa County and all of Erie County.

In recent weeks, the Democratic Party has focused its attention and money with advertising largely in the 46th District.

That race pits Republican Barbara Sears, former president of the Sylvania City Council, against Democrat Darlene Dunn, a Sylvania attorney. The battle has included campaign advertisements that even the candidates themselves have said at times were unfair against one another.

Ms. Sears, 47, was appointed to the seat in January, the result of a chain of vacancies that began with the death of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Tiffin) last year and the election of then-State Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) to the vacant 5th Congressional District seat.

Co-owner of Noble & Sears, a financial services firm, Ms. Sears said she hopes to find ways to make Ohio s government more business-friendly and efficient.

She said her experience as Sylvania council president, and as a member of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, has prepared her for her work in Columbus.

I believe I ve done my homework. ... When I go to Columbus, it s not going to be foreign to me. I understand what has to be accomplished, she said. It s not always about running down to Columbus and throwing out 10 ideas.

Her opponent, Darlene Dunn, 57, a former assistant county prosecutor and former special counsel to the attorney general, is making her third run for the Statehouse. She said she decided to run again after her two sons moved out of Ohio in search for greener economic pastures.

Our two boys moved out of the state, and at least one of them wouldn t have moved out, except that there weren t good economic opportunities here, Ms. Dunn said. I m really hoping they ll come back. We really need to get this northwest Ohio area stimulated.

She said she would like to be involved in alternative energy development, education reform, a top-to-bottom review of the Ohio Lottery Commission, and, in the long-term, investment in high-speed rail.

The 80th District seat is now held by Catawba Island Township resident and Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern, who cannot run this year because of term limits.

Competing to replace Mr. Redfern are Sandusky City Commissioner Dennis Murray, a Democrat, and Republican Ed Enderle of Huron Township.

Mr. Enderle, 44, who is a farmer and engineer as well as a

Huron Township trustee, said he hoped to use his business skills to make Ohio more friendly to possible employers.

Mr. Murray, 46, an attorney with Murray & Murray Co. in Sandusky, said his experience as an attorney and city commissioner makes him well-prepared to make state government stand up for its residents.

In the 6th District, State Rep. Randy Gardner, (R., Bowling Green) faces a challenge from Democrat Jeff Bretz, 52, an engineer from North Baltimore.

Mr. Gardner, 50, who previously represented the 2nd State Senate seat and was appointed in January to fill the House seat previously occupied by Mr. Latta noted his accomplishments in freezing state tuition, promoting tourism, and blocking Governor Strickland s plan to distribute Ohio Turnpike revenue throughout the state, which he claimed would sell northwest Ohio short.

Mr. Bretz, who served on North Baltimore Village Council for 11 years, said he hopes to promote alternative energy development in the area by helping local industries such as the rubber industry, in which Mr. Bretz worked for 30 years move into the renewable and high-tech fields. The 6th House District covers all of Wood County.

Ohio representatives have a base pay of about $58,900 per year and serve two-year terms.

Other House races in the area:

• In the 58th District, which includes portions of Lorain and Seneca counties, as well as all of Huron County, Amherst Councilman Terry Traster, 52, a Democrat, is running against Huron County Commissioner Terry Boose, 52, a Republican.

The district is Republican-leaning but Democrat-held. A past representative, Matt Barrett, was asked to resign by House Democratic leaders after he accidentally flashed pictures of nude women before a Norwalk High School class. He later admitted that he knew the women in the photos and misled officials about how the photos got onto his computer flash drive.

• In the 48th District, which is in Toledo, State Rep. Edna Brown, 68, (D., Toledo) is defending her seat against Toledo minister Carolyn Eyre, 70.

• In the 49th District, which includes much of Toledo and eastern Lucas County, State Rep. Matt Szollosi, 35, (D., Oregon) is facing a challenge from Toledo business owner Jeff Wingate, 50.

• In the 74th District, Republican Rep. Bruce Goodwin (R., Defiance) is being challenged by Democrat David Pilliod of Swanton, a computer technician. The 74th District includes Fulton and Williams counties and most of Defiance County.

• In the 81st District, State Rep. Jeff Wagner, 48, (R., Sycamore) faces teacher s aide Andrew Kashmer, 27, a Democrat from Oak Harbor. The 81st District includes portions of Ottawa and Seneca counties, as well as all of Sandusky. County.

Contact Alex M. Parker at: aparker@theblade.comor 419-724-6107.



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