Voters met at Gahanna's Peace Lutheran church for a "Meet the Candidates" Forum Monday put on by the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government.

Voters met at Gahanna's Peace Lutheran church for a "Meet the Candidates" Forum Monday put on by the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government.

About 50 people, including candidates and organizers, gathered in the church's ConneXions Center, a gymnasium set up as an auditorium, for the forum. Featured were candidates for the 20th district of the Ohio House, 3rd district of the Ohio Senate, 19th district of the Ohio House, Franklin County Common Pleas Court and Franklin County Commissioner. Emily Riemer of WSYX ABC6 served as moderator.

The forum kicked off with a presentation on Issue 5, a 6.8-mill operating levy for Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools.

"The schools are the fabric of the community," said Scott McComb, a member of the Issue 5 campaign committee. "What we've seen where the community doesn't support the schools, home values decrease, busing gets canceled."

In response to the question of whether the district spends its current income wisely, McComb said he believes it does.

"I think Gahanna-Jefferson is a very thrifty organization," he said. After the failure of a 9-mill levy on the May ballot, the district eliminated 40 positions and is prepared to cut another $6-million from the budget if the current levy doesn't pass, McComb said.

Some questions posed by Riemer were prepared beforehand, but others were submitted by audience members during the forum. Of the questions posed to candidates, opinions on the governor's education plan were sought frequently.

Among those opposed to the plan were Libertarian Lawrence Binsky and Republican Matt Carle, candidates for the 20th district of the Ohio House, which includes portions of Columbus, Gahanna, Whitehall and Bexley. Incumbent Nancy Garland, a Democrat, was unable to attend the forum because she was visiting a sick family member out of state, Riemer said.

"The governor's education plan is focused on inputs and not outcomes," Carle said. "It also includes a bunch of unfunded state mandates with the promise of money in the future How on earth are we going to fund it in the future?"

Binsky said he's not as familiar with the particulars of the plan, but his stance on education includes support for statewide vouchers.

Libertarian Bill Yarbrough and Republican Kevin Bacon, candidates fro the 3rd District of the Ohio Senate, echoed Carle and Binsky's concerns. Democrat challenger Mark Pfeifer was not present at the forum.

Yarbrough said that Ohio school funding and achievement standards need a "fundamental re-examination."

"We have a serious brain drain problem here in Ohio," Bacon said, adding that having talented students leave the state after graduation has limited the state's draw for high-tech businesses. Bacon also said he supports school choice.

Anne Gonzales, Republican candidate for the 19th district of the Ohio House, said she doesn't want to make any further cuts to school funding, but doesn't support some aspects of the plan.

"I am not in favor of unfunded mandates," Gonzales said.

Democrat Marian Harris said she thinks the governor's team has done a good job given the times.

"I think underlying job creation and building our economy is education," she said. "The number 1 thing businesses look at is quality of life and that includes education."

Incumbent Kimberly Cocroft and challenger Kim Doucher, candidates for Franklin County Common Please Court judge, were questioned on their stances on gay marriage and their overall judicial philosophy. Both said their job is to interpret the law as it stands, not to legislate, and said they're not allowed to discuss their personal opinions on any issue that may come before their bench.

Cocroft said her judicial philosophy is that "the law should correct the lawless and provide hope to the hopeless."

"I think that a judge must combine compassion with firmness," she said.

Doucher seemed to disagree.

"While it is very laudable to protect the weakest, I believe that if one interest group is treated differently (than another), then everyone loses," Doucher said.

Another common question was whether they support the proposed plan for a train connecting Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. The Libertarian candidates said they opposed public funding of such a train.

Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown and challenger Julie Hubler fielded a related question about how to make mass transit more available.

Brown said Central Ohio Transit Authority funding would have to be increased, most likely via county taxes, in order to expand its reach.

"You'd need an additional taxing source to raise those funds," Brown said. "But it takes money to build roads. You need to remember that as you look at funding sources for transportation."

In contrast, Hubler advocated partnering with local businesses to increase COTA's reach.

"It's simple supply and demand, if there are certain employers out there who need their employees transported," said Hubler, a small business owner.

The forum concluded with brief explanations of Issue 42, the Jefferson Township levy; Issue 43, the Mifflin Township police levy; and Issue 44, the Mifflin fire levy.