94th District Republican Candidates Talk Jobs, Fracking

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The Republican candidates for the 94th Ohio House District discussed the importance of oil and gas development, jobs, and the dangers of marijuana during a candidate forum at the Athens Public Library Tuesday evening.

Yolan Dennis of Warren Twp. in Washington County and Daniel Lantz of Pomeroy will face off in the Republican primary election on Tuesday for a chance to represent the 94th District, which includes all of Meigs County, most of Athens County (except Trimble Twp.) and portions of Vinton and Washington Counties. Democratic incumbent Debbie Phillips of Albany is unopposed in the primary.

The Republican candidates responded to questions from the media and community members at the forum held by the Athens County League of Women Voters.

Dennis said she is running for the 94th District because she is “deeply concerned” about her family, her community and the state.

She said she considers herself a fiscal and social conservative.

She is a registered nurse who has worked in the health care field for more than 20 years.

Lantz said he wants to continue his public service in the Statehouse.

He has served on the Scipio Twp. Volunteer Fire Department in Meigs County for many years and has been a log buyer for more than 20 years.

Both candidates expressed their support for the oil and gas industry.

“We have a huge wealth of opportunity here to bring good-paying, quality jobs to our region and we can do that if we foster all of this development, all of energy development,” Dennis said.

“I understand that we need to keep our lands, and our people and our water safe, but we can do this in a very responsible and environmentally safe way.”

Dennis said that Southeast Ohio is often the forgotten part of the state.

She said that could be changed by allowing oil and gas development to happen in the region.

“Jobs is my number-one focus because everything revolves around creating an economic atmosphere here that will create the monetary needs this area needs,” Lantz said. “The oil and gas industry is pivotal in that, the capital that can be generated from it.”

Lantz said he’d like to work with officials in Wood County, W.Va. to provide spin-off jobs in the region related to the development of the proposed ethane processing plant.

He said although West Virginia owns the Ohio River, the two states could work together to provide jobs for the entire region.

Both candidates also opposed the proposal to raise the severance tax on the oil and gas industry.

“The severance tax should be as low as possible,” Lantz said. “Gov. Kasich has (proposed giving) the entire state an income tax cut and that there Southeastern and Eastern Ohio has for years had the highest unemployment rates and all that throughout the state. Therefore rewarding the rest of the state with our God-given resources there, I just cannot vote along with.”

“I would prefer to not increase the severance tax at all or as little as possible,” Dennis said, adding that the severance tax revenue needs to stay within the region from which the resources were extracted.

Candidates expressed their opposition to the proposed federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour.

Senate Republicans blocked the measure on Wednesday.

“I feel that each time the minimum wage has been increased, the poor has only gotten poorer because the buying power has been down,” Lantz said. “I know it seemed to me when I was just a youngin’ and the minimum was $3.35 an hour, that $3.35 bought more than today’s minimum wage or the proposal of $10 in the future. So as far as raising the minimum wage, I feel that is hurting the poor.”

Dennis said she felt that raising the minimum wage puts a burden on businesses.

“They may have to make the choice of whether to give a higher minimum wage to their employees and then maybe they have to lay someone else off,” she said.

Dennis continued, “Those in the poverty level or in the lower-income level, those people are usually not the breadwinners of the family so I don’t feel that that would be a detrimental thing to do, not to raise the minimum wage. Studies have shown that if you do raise the minimum wage it really doesn’t make that much of a difference in how the family performs and how it helps the family.”

The candidates were also asked how they felt about the possibility of legalizing marijuana, either for medicinal or recreational purposes.

More than 20 states already have some form of marijuana legalization on the books.

“Marijuana is a harmful product. It’s a harmful substance. It’s addictive and if we legalize marijuana, it’s just encouraging young people to use it,” Dennis said. “And it’s harmful not just to the person who is using it, but it’s harmful to the family. Behavior often becomes destructive, children are harmed.”

As a health care professional, Dennis said she’s also opposed to the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

“There are studies that have proven that it is not, at this point, medically useful in any diseases,” she said.

Lantz stated, “As far as I’m concerned marijuana, with the hybrid work that’s been done on it, is not your grandpappy’s marijuana and it’s strong. And it’s a gateway drug. It leads to heroin and potentially to meth. It’s not leading us down the road to build a strong country, to build a strong moral base. As far as legalizing marijuana, I’m opposed to it.”

The primary election is Tuesday.