By BRIAN BOHNERT
In just four short months, voters throughout Seneca and Sandusky counties will make their way to the polls, casting their ballots for the next representative of Ohio’s 88th house district.
Before the polls open on Nov. 4, House of Representatives District 88 Democratic candidate Bill Young has invited his opponent, William Reineke Jr., to participate in a series of informational debates in which each candidate could weigh in on the issues facing the district and Ohio as a whole.
Young, a Green Springs resident who spent nearly four decades as a public school teacher, sent a letter to Reineke earlier this month, inviting him to take part in the series of open forums where they could each have an opportunity to expand on their platforms.
“When you go door to door or to farmers’ markets, you only get to talk to people on a limited basis,” said Young, 62. “You want to talk to people more; but unfortunately, you’re trying to get in as many meetings as you can in a small amount of time. You’re not giving the citizens any specifics as to what the issues are. We need to let the people know where we stand.”
To give area voters as many chances as possible to meet their two candidates, Young has proposed a series of 10 informational debates between himself and the well-known president of Tiffin Ford, with five occurring in each county.
Seneca County stops would include: Fostoria, Tiffin, Attica, Bascom and Bloomville. Sandusky County would be represented in Fremont, Clyde, Bellevue, Gibsonburg and Woodville.
“I wanted to give people options,” Young said. “People from Attica don’t want to go to Fostoria, or vice versa. I think it’s important to get out to all of those communities. If somebody can’t be there that night in Tiffin, they could go to Bascom or Fostoria.”
Young said he had hoped this series of meetings would allow people to see him as more than just Bill Young “the teacher” and his opponent as more than just Bill Reineke “the car dealer.”
“It’s an open seat,” he said. “Without having an incumbent with a voting record it is critical to have these debates to let voters know what the candidates stand for, rather than make this an advertising campaign.”
Young said there are many key issues facing citizens of the 88th district, including: education; agriculture; the American tax system; and of course, jobs. Additionally, he said these get-togethers could help clear up any misunderstandings as to how state representatives work to solve those issues.
“There are not too many state representatives bringing a factory into a town like Fostoria or Tiffin by themselves. They can work together with the entities that bring jobs into communities,” he said. “You look at the fact that Fostoria, a really great town, lost a lot of factories in the last 10-12 years. It’s not the fault of the state representative; and, I think that’s something people need to know about. They need to know the role of a state representative, what the job really is.”
While the key to economic growth lies in bringing big corporations to the community, Young also said the state should “seriously consider” raising the minimum wage to a level working-class families can support themselves on.
“We’ve got this dollar-store economy where a lot of people are working for minimum wage,” he said. “In Ohio, a full-time job on minimum wage is roughly $17,000 a year. A family can’t live on that. So, what you have is parents working two to three jobs just to survive.”
With voting numbers plummeting all across the area in recent years, Young said he hoped this series of debates would also encourage citizens to take advantage of their 15th amendment right.
“We know voting numbers are down and, unless you’re really into politics, nobody cares about this stuff this time of year,” he said. “I just think that maybe this would be a good way to encourage people to get out there and vote.”
The candidate said he would like his first meeting with Reineke to take place in late-July, with the rest being scheduled in August and September.
If the events take place, each would be facilitated by the League of Women Voters with the Democrat and Republican chairs of each county providing questions in areas of interest to the citizens each hopes to represent come Election Day 2014.
As of Monday evening, Young said he has yet to receive a response from Reineke, despite seeing him at a social event this past weekend.
“I’m doing the work putting things together and setting up the venues,” he said. “For him, it was basically just a show-up sort of thing. I wanted to make it easy for him … I’m very disappointed.”
Young filed his declaration of intent to be a write-in Democratic candidate on Feb. 24. No stranger to the campaign circuit, he lost to State Rep. Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont) in 2012, who is currently serving his second term in the 88th District of the Ohio House of Representatives. He had previously served from 1995 to 2003.
Damschroder was supposed to sign the petition for his re-election eight times but missed one signature, which voided his petition. His candidacy was officially withdrawn Feb. 12.
Reineke, 59, won the GOP nomination for the 88th House District seat May 6, defeating would-be placeholder Rhonda Damschroder. He filed for his write-in candidacy on Feb. 17.
A call placed last week seeking comment from Reineke was not returned.
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