Democrats enjoy a 53-46 majority in the Ohio House of Representatives, but Republicans are making a determined effort to retake the House in November. Here are The Blade's recommendations in selected House races in northwest Ohio.
This district includes eight Toledo suburbs in west Lucas County. Incumbent Republican Barbara Sears of Sylvania has achieved some successes during her first full term, notably her work on legislation removing the mandatory "vicious dog" label from so-called pit bulls. A co-owner of a firm that sells health insurance, Ms. Sears has been a strong advocate of small business in the House.
But the district would be better represented by her Democratic challenger, HARRY BARLOS. Mr. Barlos has broad and valuable experience in local government as a former county commissioner, county court clerk, mayor of Maumee, and Holland village administrator.
Mr. Barlos played a key role in launching such big projects as Arrowhead Business Park and Fifth Third Field. He speaks knowledgeably of ways to leverage state resources to stimulate economic development in northwest Ohio. His experience and expertise make Mr. Barlos the better choice in this district.
Term limits prevent Democrat TERESA FEDOR from running for re-election in the 11th Senate District, so she is seeking the open seat in this Toledo House district formerly represented by Lucas County Administrator Peter Ujvagi. She clearly merits election.
A former Toledo Public Schools teacher, Ms. Fedor has worked diligently on vital legislation to criminalize human trafficking in Ohio - a particular plague in her home city. An Air Force veteran, she has taken a special interest in the needs of military veterans and their families.
Her Republican opponent, Rick Bush, is a bus driver for the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority and a former systems engineer for KeyBank. He offers standard partisan rhetoric but little political experience. Libertarian Joseph Pfeiffer also is on the ballot, but Ms. Fedor's decade of productive work in Columbus makes her the obvious choice.
Incumbent Edna Brown's decision to run for Ms. Fedor's Senate seat has created an open race in this overwhelmingly Democratic Toledo district. In an uninspiring contest, Democrat MICHAEL ASHFORD is the preferable candidate.
Mr. Ashford, an eight-year Toledo City Council member, has developed useful experience in neighborhood and youth issues in that position and as a YMCA community outreach official. But he told The Blade he could not discuss state issues in depth until he was elected - not the most proactive stance for a would-be lawmaker.
Republican Carolyn Eyre, who was trounced by Ms. Brown two years ago, is running as a write-in candidate. She did not respond to requests by The Blade to discuss her candidacy.
During his two terms representing this diverse city-suburban district, incumbent Democrat MATT SZOLLOSI of Oregon has risen to the number-two post in the state House, speaker pro tem. He has earned re-election.
Mr. Szollosi, a lawyer and former Oregon City Council member, offers practical ideas to balance the state budget while protecting school funding. He has a detailed and realistic proposal to create jobs by strengthening the region's port, rail, and highway assets.
Mr. Szollosi's Republican challenger, Jeff Wingate of Toledo, has run a virtually invisible campaign. The owner of a transportation company, Mr. Wingate did not respond to Blade inquiries.
In this largely agricultural district, which includes Erie County and most of Ottawa County, freshman Democrat DENNIS MURRAY of Sandusky merits a new term.
In his first term, Mr. Murray gained bipartisan support for legislation reforming Ohio's home foreclosure process. It aims to prevent foreclosed homes from being vandalized while they await sheriff's sales - an important issue in a state where foreclosures are depressingly prevalent.
Mr. Murray, a lawyer and former Sandusky city commissioner, also has taken a useful interest in helping victims of domestic violence.
Republican challenger Jeff Krabill of Sandusky is a marketing executive and former chairman of the Erie County GOP. He is a credible challenger, but he does not make a persuasive case for replacing Mr. Murray. Libertarian candidate Judy Kayden of Wakeman also is on the ballot.
Term limits are ending the House tenure of Republican Rep. Jeff Wagner in this district, which includes Sandusky County and parts of Ottawa and Seneca counties. In the open race to succeed him, the best choice is Republican REX DAMSCHRODER.
Mr. Damschroder, a small business owner from Fremont, held the House seat before Mr. Wagner. During his four previous House terms, Mr. Damschroder took a particular interest in fiscal and spending issues; that experience should prove useful as the state confronts new budget problems.
Democratic nominee Benjamin Nutter, the president of the Seneca County Board of Commissioners, says the right things about balancing fiscal responsibility and government efficiency with the need to maintain core public obligations and enlist the state in job-creating efforts. But his initial opposition to the ultimately successful - and proper - effort to renovate the Seneca County Courthouse suggests the limits of his rhetoric.
The 81st District ballot also includes Constitution Party candidate Bill Hrabak. But Mr. Damschroder offers the best prospect of providing the kind of representation district voters seek.