Democrat Mike Curtin and Republican Nicholas A. Szabo will face off Nov. 6 for the right to be the first representative of the new 17th Ohio House District.
The 17th District was drawn and created by Republicans after the 2010 election and census. The old 17th District seat, which includes a portion of Cuyahoga County, is held by Rep. Marlene Anielski.
The new district includes the central Ohio communities of San Margherita, Marble Cliff, Valley View, Hilltop, Westgate, Briggsdale, Shadeville, Hamilton Township and Columbus' south and southwest sides.
Curtin, who turns 61 on Oct. 23, retired Dec. 31 as associate publisher emeritus for the Dispatch Printing Co. During his 38-year career with the company, Curtin also served as a reporter, public affairs editor, managing editor, associate publisher, chief operating officer and vice chairman.
Curtin and his wife, Sharon, have lived in Marble Cliff for eight years. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Szabo, 24, is a lifelong resident of Columbus. He is a graduate of Capital University with a degree in organizational communication and is working on his master's degree in marketing and communications at Franklin University. He currently works for Stanley Steemer in customer service, communications and logistics coordination.
Szabo is single.
While cutting taxes is important, Szabo said he didn't agree with Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature's cuts of state funding to education to help address Ohio's $8 billion deficit, in place when the governor took office.
"I value the importance of education and the importance of the legislature helping to improve our schools," he said. "It does state in the Ohio constitution that public schools should be sufficiently and justifiably funded."
A portion of the state's current surplus should be used to help Ohio schools, Szabo said.
"Yes, the budget was balanced," Curtin said, "but it was balanced by pushing the difficult choices downstream and punishing school districts and local government. I think there was a little more balanced way."
Curtin said he was not in favor of eliminating the estate tax, "so I would have not been totally adverse to the T-word. I would have looked at other revenue options rather than pushing the pain onto schools and local governments."
He said he is "200 percent" in favor of State Issue 2, which would amend the state constitution to create a 12-person commission of residents to draw legislative and congressional district maps and take the power away from the Ohio legislature.
The way Ohio's districts were redrawn in 2010 is the worst in the state's, and perhaps the nation's, history, Curtin said.
In many instances, including the 17th Ohio House district, "they've divided neighbor from neighbor and divided communities," Curtin said. "It makes legislators less accountable when people are confused about which district they live in.
"In the 17th district, Grandview and Marble Cliff have been separated," even though the two have long been sister communities, sharing the same schools, library and municipal services, he said.
Legislative districts should not be drawn to provide "pure partisan advantage," Curtin said.
Szabo said he is opposed to Issue 2.
"I don't like the fact that the committee would be able to set their own salaries," he said. "They would have unlimited funding and would have no accountability."
There's no doubt that the way the 17th District was redrawn left it "messed up," Szabo said.
Gerrymandering and other kinds of political corruption should be eliminated from the process of creating districts, he said, but the answer is making sure the Ohio secretary of state and local boards of election have sufficient resources "to ensure the sanctity of the vote."
Szabo said he is in favor of the state's new Third Grade Reading Guarantee that, beginning next school year, will hold back third-grade students who do not achieve the expected reading level.
"I think it's of high importance that if a child cannot perform up to expectation, they not be sent forward (into the fourth grade)," he said. "In Columbus schools, there have been cases when a child has been pushed through without any guidance or intervention."
While testing is needed to hold school districts to accountable standards, the reading guarantee's "one-size-fits-all" approach "is a crude system that doesn't work," Curtin said.
"Teachers, principals and school superintendents at the local level working with their school boards need to have the flexibility on deciding when to promote a student," he said. "As anyone who works in classroom can tell you, having one high-stakes test to determine when a child advances is a horrible practice."
One of the most important issues for Ohio is how to bring new companies and economic development to the state.
"We can start with tax simplification, although that is easier said than done," Curtin said.
The state's tax code is "a patchwork quilt" developed over 200 years, "one enactment, one exemption and one wrinkle at a time," he said. "It's become a Rube Goldberg tax system. We need to make a major effort to figure out how to simplify it."
Adding up all the tax credits, deductions and exemptions in the Ohio tax code represents about $7.5 billion in loss revenue in each biennial budget, Curtin said.
"Not all of those are justified. Some of them are," he said.
"I would like the state to enact sunset provisions" to force the legislature to periodically review, justify and potentially eliminate "a number of these loopholes" to make a more-level playing field, Curtin said.
Reducing taxes and government spending are keys to job creation in the state, Szabo said.
"Getting rid of useless government mandates will help with creating jobs and make our state more business-friendly," he said.