Three Republicans are vying for a shot at the November ballot for state Senate seat 19.

Three Republicans are vying for a shot at the November ballot for state Senate seat 19.

Republicans Thom Collier, Kris Jordan and Louis G. Petros will compete in the May 4 primary; the winner will face Democrat Neil Patel of Westerville in November.

Collier, 45, has some college education and has been self-employed since age 18. He is a business consultant and property manager and lives in Mount Vernon with his wife, Diane, and children Cathern, 15, and Natoli, 10.

Collier said he's running for the seat to get government spending under control and spur economic development in Ohio.

Jordan, 33, lives in Powell with his wife, Melissa. The Ohio State University graduate is serving his first term in the Ohio House of Representatives' 2nd District.

According to Jordan, he is running for the state Senate seat because he believes he's the strong, conservative voice that should represent the district.

Louis G. Petros, 62, lives in Mount Vernon with his wife of 31 years, Sandy. The couple's two children are grown. Petros graduated from OSU and has an MBA in finance from the University of Cincinnati.

Petros, a retired community banker, said he wants to bring more control to local government and to focus on states' rights.

School funding

Although school funding within the state has long been debated, Collier said, "no one has found the magic bullet" for funding.

"What I have proposed and will continue to propose from the state perspective is, we need to make the dollar amount that goes to school districts predictable and consistent," he said.

According to Jordan, last year's changes to school funding were negative because the state lacks the money to "implement the changes effectively."

"I believe that we need to empower families and inject competition into our schools," he said. "Competition will keep costs lower and improve the results of our schools. This is the right thing to do for students and parents."

Returning schools to local control is the best option, Petros said. With the state and federal government involvement in school, "we have nothing but controversy and funding shortages due to the mandates imposed by government too far away from the people. We need to return our schools to local control."

Ohio's unemployment rate

As for Ohio's nearly 11-percent unemployment rate, Petros said, the state has such high rates "because we have decimated our private-sector employers with high operating expenses, government regulations and taxes."

Petros called for the creation of an entrepreneurial environment by reducing regulatory and tax burdens on the private sector.

Jordan said job creation would be a top priority for him if elected.

"To facilitate job creation, we need to get government out of the way of business and entrepreneurs by cutting taxes and regulations on businesses," he said.

According to Collier, a better tax environment, which means a "friendly tax and regulatory environment for our businesses so they can continue to grow and expand," is needed.

Public pension problems

With Ohio's five public pension systems facing challenges in meeting the obligations to numerous active and retired members, solutions from the Republican candidates varied.

"This is something that is not new," Collier said. "We actually brought many of these issues to light four years ago, and the cry from the pension system was 'keep the legislature out of pension systems.'"

Collier said each pension system should be examined on "an individual basis. There's no question that we need to create rules to make sure the systems are solid."

For Jordan, making the system solvent will be tough.

"I don't believe additional taxpayer dollars should be used to keep the system afloat and will look at making the tough decisions that need to be made to protect taxpayers," he said.

According to Petros, the pension programs "have over-promised benefits to their members. The programs are unsustainable burdens on Ohio's taxpayers."

"We should reduce the percentage amount the 'employer' (governmental units) contribute up front, cut promised future benefits, require public-sector employees to contribute more and raise the retirement age," he said.

Passenger rail service

The candidates seem to agree on the proposed "3C" passenger rail service linking Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati and the $400-million in federal funds granted to the state for the launch. They don't like the pending plans.

Petros said the state would have to subsidize the rail system after it's built.

"Why should we waste our time and money on such a project," he said. "At an average speed of 39 miles per hour, the expenses of cabs and overnight stays related to depots and schedules, this project doesn't make one bit of sense to me."

Collier said, "To date I have seen nothing that would cause me to support that initiative," adding that it would be expensive to maintain. "There are only two rail systems in the world that are self-supporting, and neither is in the U.S. I don't see investing that money in a passenger system that most Ohioans would never see any beneficial use."

Jordan also opposes the service because "it has also been shown in numerous studies that it will not likely ever be profitable, goes significantly slower than automobile traffic going the same distance and will have very limited ridership."

Drilling for oil and gas

When is comes to Senate Bill 241, which was introduced in March, to allow drilling for oil and gas in state parks, Jordan was a primary sponsor of the bill in the House.

"This will create thousands of jobs for Ohioans and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the state at a time when the state sorely needs additional revenue," Jordan said, adding that it also means "homegrown energy that will help keep gas and energy prices low."

Collier said the idea is good, but the bill is not.

"While I think we should be open to the issue, there are some particular restrictions in this bill that concern me," he said. "But the idea of using state land and drilling and using those resources, I believe we ought to be open to that."

Petros also criticized some of the aspects of the bill and said placing the decision of drilling on the ODNR director "is not such a good idea. This issue needs to be put in context of the amount of revenues expected from the leases and what percentage of the state parks' expenses it would cover."