Like their parties, the two candidates for Ohio's 19th House District agree on little when it comes to the state's top political issues.
The race pits first-term incumbent Republican Anne Gonzales, a former Westerville City Council member, against Democrat Ryan Jolley, a current member of Gahanna City Council.
The 19th district, which was redrawn last year, includes all of New Albany, most of Gahanna and Westerville and parts of Columbus' Northland community.
When it comes to the state budget, Jolley said he feels Gov. John Kasich took the wrong approach to balancing the biennial budget in 2011. Jolley agreed with critics that the governor's budget put too much of the burden on cities and school districts.
If elected, Jolley said he would work to see how the state budget process works.
"On day one, I would introduce legislation to eliminate our antiquated biennial budget process and replace it with an annual budget, the same way any family or business does their budgeting," Jolley said in an emailed response to questions. "I would address our broken school funding system, and build the remainder of the budget around that priority."
Gonzales said she supported Kasich's budget, saying all levels of government needed to reduce expenditures in tough economic times.
"We had an $8 billion deficit -- and I get very stern when I talk about this -- we had an $8 billion deficit when Gov. Kasich and (legislators) came into office, and 89 cents in the rainy-day fund," Gonzales said. "Everyone has had to tighten their belts. ... It's a tough time. There were some tough choices that needed to be made. I could just not see raising taxes to balance the budget, not in the time of a recession."
While Gonzales did agree with Jolley that she would like to see school funding become a major issue in the next round of budgeting, set to take place next year, the two disagreed on a controversial piece of education legislation: The Third-Grade Reading Guarantee, which will require school districts to begin holding back third-graders who do not score high enough on state reading tests.
Jolley, who served a four-year term on the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education, said the guarantee provided an unfunded mandate for schools and could have serious implications for students who aren't allowed to advance to the fourth grade.
"Holding students back has serious implications for their long-term development," Jolley said. "We need to address education from cradle to college. The more resources we put into educating children early, the better they perform academically, and the less we spend in the long run."
Gonzales said the guarantee ensures that students in need of reading intervention are caught early and given the tools they need for success in middle school, high school and beyond.
"It's very important that we give these kids the skills they need to move forward," Gonzales said. "Who would not want a third-grader to be able to read?"
Gonzales said there are funds available to help districts implement the new state requirements.
"Here in Ohio, we've made $13 million available through grants to help implement the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee. I know there's also an additional $52 million in federal funds that could be used," she said. "There is funding available, and I don't believe people know that."
Gonzales and Jolley also are on opposite sides when it comes to state Issue 2, the constitutional amendment that would create a nonpartisan commission to redraw Ohio's legislative and congressional districts.
Gonzales said she does believe Ohio needs to look at the way its political districts are drawn, but she said she would favor an examination by the Constitutional Modernization Committee before a decision is made.
The problem with Issue 2, Gonzales said, is that it would create an unaccountable board and carries an unknown price tag.
"Right now, the boundaries are drawn by officials who are elected by the voters, so if the voters aren't happy with the way they are drawn, they can vote them out, so they're accountable," Gonzales said. "More importantly, this is going to cost Ohio millions and millions of dollars to create."
Jolley said creating a nonpartisan board that would base districts more on data than on politics is crucial for creating a more fair system.
"Removing partisan politics from our redistricting process is the most crucial issue facing our state and national politics," Jolley said.
The candidates did agree that Ohio must create more jobs, though they differed on their top priorities in seeing jobs created.
Gonzales said Ohio needs to be more business friendly by continuing to decrease regulations, something that legislators already have done by creating the Common Sense Initiative, which examines the impact all new regulations would have on businesses.
"We have had a lot of regulations that were in place at the start of the last General Assembly that we've gotten rid of," Gonzales said. "Eliminating regulation is very important to create a business-friendly environment."
When looking at creating jobs and encouraging business, Jolley said his focus would be on education.
"First and foremost, Ohio needs to fix its educational system. Both the funding and the results are inadequate," Jolley said. "Companies need intelligent, highly trained, skilled workers. Without that prerequisite, nothing else matters."
Jolley, 29, is a senior account manager at Staff Management. He has served on Gahanna City Council since January.
He is single.
Gonzales, 49, is completing her first term in the Ohio House. Prior to being elected to that seat, she served on Westerville City Council for 10 years and has served as mayor of Westerville.
She is married with three children.