Published Wed, Aug 8, 2012 5:49 pm Dateline
Updated Thu, Aug 9, 2012 7:14 am
The two candidates in the race for Ohio's 20th Senate District butt heads on collective bargaining and fracking, among other hot topics in southeast Ohio.
A political newcomer will take on Republican incumbent Troy Balderson.
Democrat Teresa Scarmack is a kindergarten teacher in the Logan-Hocking School District.
She says the fight over Senate Bill 5 inspired her to enter the race.
"I felt attacked as a teacher and to lose my collective bargaining rights in what we've worked so hard for since I started teaching, I didn't see that to be fair," Scarmack said, "and I didn't feel that that was something that we could continue to do the job that we do without the ability to talk with administrators and provide for safe working conditions."
Scarmack says education is her number one priority.
Sen. Balderson of Zanesville voted in favor of Senate Bill 5 but says the people have spoken and he's moving on.
His key issue is jobs.
"I go out, I go to these businesses, I have them touch base with me, I tell them to stay in contact with me and work with them, and make sure that everything is OK," Balderson said. "I'm more proactive than you'll find many legislators as far as going to businesses and making sure that they are doing OK and try to help them in some needs that they may have. The accessibility that I have with them is probably one of my greatest standards that I have for myself, and I put that demand on myself to be there for them."
His challenger says economic development is an important part of her campaign as well.
"For job creation, we need to expand access to credit for small businesses and simplify the red tape involved in doing that," Scarmack said. "I think that tax incentives to innovate companies would be a good way to go. I know that we need to stop shipping jobs overseas and start bringing jobs back home. I think that's gonna be key in helping our communities become more self-sufficient. I believe offering tax credits to companies that buy American-made products and supplies would be a good way to incentivize people."
Scarmack also calls for a moratorium on the controversial drilling practice commonly called fracking.
"I'm not against fracking for the jobs because if fracking jobs are available for people who live in Ohio and people who live in the communities where they're doing that, I think that that's probably a good thing," she said, "but I want to be sure that when they're doing that, that they're taking into account the possible damages that they could do. There were irreparable damages in some areas where they've done this before, and I think that that needs to be looked at."
Sen. Balderson, on the other hand, doesn't see any environmental concerns with hydraulic fracturing.
"This industry is big," he said. "It's going to be huge for us. It's going to provide jobs for people that don't have jobs. We can do it responsibly. I monitor that situation. I have been on rig sites. You know, there are some certain risks you have to take for reward, and I want to be here and continue to be here to make sure that we do good legislation for the fracking industry."
The Republican says he doesn't play politics like a lot of law-makers.
"I have no problem walking down to a colleague's, a Democratic colleague's office and sitting down with them and communicating with them and see where we can go that I can balance this out somehow or make it better or work with them," Balderson said. "Communication -- that's all we need to do. You know, at the federal level, you have deadlock. I mean, no one does anything, it seems like, except sit there so polarized. We wake up every morning, and we have to have communication with people."
Ohio's 20th Senate District covers Guernsey, Muskingum, Morgan, Hocking and Fairfield counties. It also includes parts of Pickaway and Athens counties.
Note: An earlier version of this story referred to Ohio's current 20th Senate District, which covers Athens, Coshocton, Guernsey, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble and Washington counties. The story now reflects the new district in effect for the November election.