Democrat John Ryerson will try to unseat incumbent Republican Margaret Ann Ruhl in the Nov. 6 race to represent the 68th Ohio House District.
The newly formed District 68 includes all of Knox County as well as the portion of Delaware County east of Interstate 71.
Ruhl, 56, was elected to the office in 2008. She previously worked as auditor for the city of Mount Vernon for 11 years and also has served as Knox County auditor and as a Mount Vernon payroll officer since graduating from Fredericktown High School.
She voted in favor of Gov. John Kasich's two-year state budget, which erased the deficit but took big chunks of funding from schools and local government.
"We had a huge hole to fill, and we couldn't make enough cuts in the state budget without cutting funds for local governments," she said.
She said Ohio's school funding system needs fixes, and said some districts are underfunded. But she said she'll leave it up to the House education committee to work out a detailed plan.
Ruhl said building strong schools is a recipe for a strong economy.
"We have to have good-quality schools to attract businesses that have families to come here," she said.
She said state officials need to reach out to businesses interested in moving to Ohio and be better ambassadors for the state, and said Kasich's private economic development body JobsOhio is a "good start."
Ruhl opposes State Issue 2, which would create a court-appointed committee to draw up boundaries for legislative districts. She said reforms are needed to prevent partisan gerrymandering, but said the committee would be unaccountable to voters.
She said the state should set up its own health-insurance exchange, as mandated under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. If the state fails to act, the federal government will intervene.
"I definitely don't want the federal government telling us what to do," she said.
Ruhl supported the efforts of some Ohio lawmakers to limit early voting in the three days before the election. She said it would save money with negligible impact on voters.
"I know how expensive running a board of elections is, and to me, it's just an added expense," she said. "By the end of October, most people should have done their early voting already."
She voted to keep hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, in Ohio. She said the method of extracting natural gas using high-pressure water and chemicals is a boon to the economy and added regulations are in place to assuage environmental concerns.
Ruhl said she's also a gun-rights advocate and supports strict regulations against abortion rights.
If elected to a second term, she said she'd focus on improving roads and infrastructure to allow businesses to easily ship their products across the state.
Ruhl lives in Mount Vernon. She is unmarried and has no children.
Ryerson, 62, is an attorney in private practice. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a law degree from Ohio State University.
He harshly criticized Kasich's two-year budget, which he said balanced the state budget on the backs of local taxpayers.
"There were a lot of moves made to take away from local government and especially the schools, which time has shown were not necessary," he said.
"It directly transfers the responsibility onto the residents and local governments."
He said he'd work to restructure the state's property tax-based school funding method, which twice has been declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
"Let's see if we can get on track to make the system constitutional and remove the burden from individual taxpayers," he said.
To build the economy, Ryerson said he would work to expand the state's technological infrastructure and invest in business "incubators" for the tech and energy industries.
He said state officials must be better advocates for their districts in talks with interested businesses.
Ryerson backs State Issue 2. He said the nonpartisan commission envisioned by the law would be better suited to draw up legislative boundaries than elected lawmakers.
"It has some problems, no doubt about it, but it's a lot better to the system we have now, which leads to public cynicism and apathy, because people feel the whole thing is fixed," he said.
He said the state should embrace the president's healthcare reform law by setting up an insurance exchange for Ohioans.
Ryerson also said efforts to curb Ohio's early-voting opportunities, driven by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, were politically motivated.
"Anything to encourage early voting is good," he said. "It builds public confidence and trust in the system. In my opinion, Husted's motives are suspicious at best."
He has reservations about fracking. He said it could be a boon to local economies, but added regulations must be stronger to avoid contaminating groundwater, among other environmental concerns.
Ryerson said he favors a woman's right to have an abortion, and said he'd work to repeal a law that allows concealed-carry of guns in bars.
He said he has a particular interest in working to improve Ohio's adoption practices and expand the rights of biological parents who give up a child for adoption.
Ryerson lives in Gambier. He is divorced and has two adult sons.