EATON — Several candidates — for state and local government seats — appealed to the Preble County Republican Party Central Committee for its endorsement on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
The committee will vote on their endorsements on Monday, Feb. 5, during an official endorsement meeting.
The meeting gave committee members and guests an opportunity to meet the candidates and “pick their brains,” before each of the candidates was asked to give a short speech.
In addition to the meet and greet and candidate speeches, the party also recognized Len Vonderhaar with the Outstanding Republican Award.
Chris Washington, Preble County Clerk of Courts, presented the award. He said, “I am doing a finish-up from the Republican rally. Typically, the presentation of the Outstanding Republican Award is presented at the rally. This year, because apparently he couldn’t get off of work to make it to the rally, we’re going to give him the award tonight. [Vonderhaar] has been a real supporter of the Preble County Republican Party for as many years as I’ve been in politics.
“That is 26 or 27 years. I don’t know how long he has been doing this, but forever. He missed my really good speech, but congratulations, Len.”
As for the “meet the candidates” part of the meeting, there were candidates running for: Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Governor, U.S. Senate, State Senate District 5, State Representative District 43rd, County Auditor, County Commissioner, and State Central Committee.
Frank LaRose is running for Secretary of State. He grew up in the Akron area of Ohio. He was an active member of the Boy Scouts of America and his troop leader inspired him to join the Army, where he served for 10 years. At the end of his 10 years he “decided to move on.”
He went to school at Ohio State University, where he earned his business degree. He then decided to run for office, where he has done a lot of work of which he is proud.
He noted it was “refreshing” to be able to spend his night with “fellow conservatives,” since he comes from a part of the state where Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats.
“I’m running to serve as Secretary of State, to replace John Husted at the conclusion of his term this year, to be Ohio’s chief elections officer and to be the first responsible for making sure that the accuracy and fairness of our ballots are protected,” LaRose said.
“The other job the Secretary of State performs is to be the front door for any new business filings. To get to be a representative of small business is something that comes naturally, because my family owns a small business.”
Current State Representative Robert Sprague is running for State Treasurer. Sprague grew up in Findlay, and attended Duke University to earn his Mechanical Engineering Degree. After spending some time overseas, he started his own consulting firm. He went back to school to earn his MBA in North Carolina, before returning to Findlay to raise his five children with his wife.
He became a city auditor, city treasurer, and then moved onto the state legislature.
“One of the things I want to do [as State Treasurer] is to help support our president and help our nation’s security by forming an even better relationship with the city of Jerusalem, further solidifying our relationship with the state of Israel, because they are our biggest ally in the War on Terror.
“I want to invest in State of Israel bonds, to help solidify that relationship. Another thing I’ve worked for a lot on is the heroin epidemic. One of the things I want to do at the Treasurer’s Office is to introduce something called the Social Impact Bond. I believe that the people who are most able to create innovation in the treatment world is the private sector.”
Current State Representative Keith Faber is running for State Auditor.
“The State Auditor’s Office does not collect taxes, does not audit individuals, but the office does audit government. It audits your smallest local government in Ohio through all the agencies and higher educations,” Faber said. “Let me tell you what the big three things the auditor’s office does.
“Catches government officials who are lying, stealing, and cheating. Second, it trains fiscal officers from the local level all the way through State Agencies. The third thing is called Performance Office. My focus on performance office is going to be on State Agencies and not education. My view is that local governments are our partners.”
Faber added that he has fought to make Ohio colleges more affordable and he believes that government should work harder for the individual. He finished by asking all to vote for him, issuing a warning that Democrats are looking for the position and while State Auditor “isn’t the most exciting office,” he asked Preble County to endorse him and keep the office in Republican hands.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State John Husted are running on a combined ticket for governor. Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson spoke on behalf of the two Republicans.
“Ohioans have never had a ticket for Governor and Lieutenant Governor who were stronger on pro-life. Mike DeWine has a 100 percent pro-life rating and has been the most consistent defender of the unborn that Ohio has ever seen,” Simpson said.
“Ohio has never had a combined ticket that has done more for the Second Amendment. John Husted fought to pass concealed carry in general assembly. As Attorney General, Mike DeWine has done more for the Second Amendment than any other AG in Ohio’s history.
“DeWine has stood up to support President Donald Trump on a number of his policies. He supported the travel ban in Federal Court, defending the president’s clear right to make immigration decisions. He defended the president’s order defunding illegal sanctuary cities.”
Next, those running for U.S. Senate had the opportunity to speak.
First, Don Eckhart discussed his reasons for running and how his platform differs from other candidates.
He was raised in Shelby County on a small farm. When he got older he worked as a farmhand on a larger plot of land. He then started working in factories, where he put himself through several years of college. He has gotten an MA in Christian Theology and a Master of Public Administration.
Eckhart added, he put his finance background to use in government.
“I want to stress how important it is to have actual experience in government. It is important to know how government operates,” Eckhart said, explaining that he worked in local government to get experience. He added that he has a book that has been accepted for publishing.
“Now I can make this my full-time obligation, but I have a different agenda. I do not accept lobbyist money. I decided this my very first time running for office and I have stuck with it. I saw the state legislators and I saw the system of big money and how it corrupts.
“I do not take donations from wealthy individuals either, because I would be obligated to that wealthy individual. My campaign is a different campaign. There is a place for someone like me to run for government. I’ve been neutral my entire career, because I am not obligated to anyone. I will stick with the Christian morals I was raised with.
“The President has already passed his tax cuts, but where else does finance come in? Republican to Republican, you would not believe the sort of cleanup that will be required. I will not say it is a terrible bill, but we won’t know for years what happens to the economy. It is not a middle class tax cut. It is a tax cut for corporations with a little bit added in for the middle class.
“There are other things in that bill. There is a lot of cleanup that needs to be made. I will help straighten those out.”
Mike Gibbons is also running for U.S. Senate. He was born in Cleveland and went to Kenyon College on a scholarship where he got a degree in Political Science. Then, he went to business and law school. In 1989, Gibbons started a business which became Brown, Gibbons, Lang and Company — a successful investment banking firm.
“If you heard the announcement of my election, you heard, ‘Wealthy Cleveland business man throws his hat in the ring,’ and I’m insulted by that, let me tell you why. My dad was a high school teacher and a wrestling coach. His summer job was water proofing houses,” Gibbons said.
“When I was in college I got a call from my mom. She said, ‘Your dad lost his job.’ I didn’t realize it at that point, but my family was in crisis. They had four kids and my mom didn’t work outside the house. When I came home at Christmas my mom told me he was working at a car wash.
“I went to the car wash and there was the man I respect most in the world working in a car wash, but I wasn’t embarrassed. What I said to myself is, ‘This man loves his family so much, he would do anything to provide for them.’ I made a commitment to change the economic circumstances of my family. I’ve done that.
“Unlike the Democrats I know that the government doesn’t bring jobs — entrepreneurs bring jobs. We put every possible barrier for them to succeed. When you give everything that you have to the government, it is hard to take a risk. I am on a mission and I am going to win this race and beat Sherrod Brown, but I need your support.”
Next, Steve Huffman and Gene Krebs — both running for State Senate District 5 — gave their speeches on why they should be endorsed by the party.
Huffman brought his two daughters and his wife with him to help collect signatures. He said, “I’m a physician and I work out here at the Preble County Emergency Room, so I work to take care of people in this County. People ask me why I want to get into politics and I reply that I want to make Ohio great for my kids. If I make Ohio great for my kids, it will be great for all of us.”
He added that he is pro-life, wants to limit those on Medicaid, and wants to serve his family and those in the county.
Krebs is also running for State Senate, and read his speech to conserve time.
“I believe in America and I believe in Ohio, because we can change and improve our situations. For the last 25 years I’ve consistently been a mover for change. You need someone who knows how economic development and workforce development can be effective to create jobs.
“You want a candidate who is going to make time to read every bill before voting on it? I am that candidate. Reading every bill before voting on it is something I did previously when serving on the Ohio House. That will make me unpopular with the ruling elite, who hope to slip something in unnoticed.
“In addition I am pro-life and have a concealed carry license. If you want a candidate who offers real solutions, I am that candidate. Finally, you want a candidate who will win this election. I am that only candidate that can.”
Both Kenny Henning and Stephanie Garrett are running to replace Representative Jeff Rezabek in the Ohio House of Representatives District 43.
Garrett stated she got involved in the local community to make a positive impact on her children and to show them that they could make a difference. She is the President of The Preble County Convention and Visitors Bureau and is on the Ohio Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities. According to Garrett, that is why she has chosen to run for House Representative.
“You know as well as I do that Ohio has a lot of challenges. It is not enough to talk about them. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work on solving those problems,” she said. “I was blessed to have the choice to home educate my children. I spent the last 25 years going through the state regulations. I have done the curriculum and I have also changed teaching and learning styles to teach to their specific needs.
“Learning is not a one size fits all. We all have different learning styles. Together, we need to empower parents, teachers, and school boards so we can make a difference in education. I have seen what the drug epidemic is doing to our community. We are left with broken families and broken children. They are definitely my heart and I will defend them at the state level on every path.
“If you know me you know if I see a problem I don’t stop until it is solved. I appreciate your support, your encouragement, but especially your prayers.”
Henning has been working with Representative Rezabek for the past four years to keep the House Representative seat in Republican hands. He has also been on the Clayton City Council for the past six years, where he helped manage a $16 million budget.
“This is the type of thought process I have: I always have that, ‘What can I do to help somebody else?’ I worked for Northmont City Schools for five years and now I work for Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. I went to the University of Dayton twice. I will admit, I come from education,” Henning said.
“The collaboration that we have seen in the 43rd District over the last four years has been instrumental in how people perceive our district. In a Democrat seat, we can’t risk having a candidate who is not willing to put in the extra work to get elected and to stay elected. This House seat means the world to me and I am not a farmer, I will admit, but I do have great friends in the agriculture world.”
Both Doug Cook and Robert Wood are running for State Central Committee.
“I am running for State Central Committee. I can’t believe it has been two years since I ran, I wasn’t a politician. I haven’t been all that present here in Preble County, but I am proud to say that at the state level some of the things out in Preble will able to be a part of,” Cook said.
Wood said, “I met a Preble County girl and fell in love with her. This lady has been an inspiration to me. My background is in financial services and I do a bit of consulting. For over 20 years I have worked with Republicans at every level. I am not a show horse, I am a work horse.”
He added, he decided to run for Central Committee for four reasons: to further communication, to reach new voters, to promote and elect conservatives, and to help Republican party run smoothly.
Current County Auditor Lavon Wright is running for re-election this year.
“This was my first term and I cannot believe I am already re-running. I was in the office two years before I ran for auditor. My goal as auditor was to be able to sit at every desk in my office. So, anything coming down from the pike I could do. I have achieved that and I am cross-trained in every desk at my office,” Lavon said.
“We spent a lot of time correcting levies and they are all now correct. Another thing about the office is visual. If you saw it before, there was a maze of boxes. It was a joke when I first came into the office. I microfilmed 20 years of documents. The next thing was my auditor state award, I have had that twice now. They hadn’t had that in year before I took office. I account that to my staff. There has been a huge change in them. The morale is up.
“I was nominated to be on the Executive Legislative Board in Columbus. Do I feel like I will be able to offer a lot in the beginning? Probably not, but I will be learning from them.”
Current Preble County Commissioner Rodney Creech is up for re-election in 2018.
“I just want to thank you for the last three years I have been in office. Four years ago I was up here asking you for your support and it was kind of split back then. I appreciate that, it was a tough race, but I’m happy I came out with the win. Over the last three years I hope I’ve gained some trust and respect. I work hard for the county and I love this county. I hope I can have the whole room, this next election,” Creech said.
Now that the candidates have had an opportunity to speak to the Preble County Central Committee, the party must vote on which candidates to endorse. The endorsement meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Eaton Country Club.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH