Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, April 27, 2014

ELECTION 2014

Jobs, heroin and Beck’s legal troubles are key issues in 54th House District race

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By Michael D. Pitman

Staff Writer

Jobs and the economy are two common campaign issues for most candidates seeking political office, but the legal troubles of the incumbent in the race for the 54th Ohio House District GOP nomination is at the top.

Rep. Pete Beck, of Mason, is seeking the Republican nomination in the May 6 partisan primary election, but Deerfield Twp. resident Mary Jo Kubicki and Mason resident Paul Zeltwanger want to unseat the state lawmaker who was first appointed to the Statehouse in 2009. Both say it’s difficult for Beck to concentrate on representing the district while battling his legal issues.

Beck said he is seeking re-election because “I believe it is my duty, privilege and obligation to continue to serve my community that I have lived in for over 25 years.” That includes using his political experience — which includes two stints on Mason City Council (1997 to 2005 and 2007-2009) and Mason mayor (2003-2005) — and his military experience as a Marine Corps veteran.

In July 2013, Beck was indicted by a Hamilton county grand jury on 16 felony counts of securities fraud and theft for his involvement in Christopher Technologies, a now-defunct tech company where he served as the chief financial officer. In February, 54 additional counts involving political corruption, theft, perjury and securities fraud were levied — charges his attorneys say are based on the same evidence on the initial 16 felony counts were based.

A trial date was set Thursday morning for Nov. 17, after the the fall’s general election. After the trial, he will then have to answer a civil suit that was filed against him in January 2013.

Beck told the Journal-News that “it’s always hard to accomplish a goal when the odds are against you.”

“Recently everything has become difficult, campaigning is just one aspect,” said Beck.

Beck, a religious man, said if his re-election bid is unsuccessful, “it will be because God has ordained it so.” But he continues to work for the district.

“Our office is continually working for the people of District 54 and that has not changed and will not change because of non-office-related issues,” he said.

Workforce development, alcohol and opiate abuse, infrastructure projects, education reform and health care are a few issues the Statehouse needs to address “because they all serve as obstacles in our improvement to progress,” Beck said. He said the House passed earlier this month House Bill 486, which impacts workforce development and economic development programs in the state.

“This bill requires the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation to establish criteria to use for evaluating the performance of state and local workforce programs,” he said, adding it requires other state departments to submit a “single-state unified plan” for federal adult basic literacy, career/technical education and workforce development programs.

Both Kubicki and Zeltwanger have worked “behind the scenes” in Warren County politics and feel they are ready and have the time to dedicate to public service.

Kubicki, a 29-year-old who is the accountant for the family business ECU Corporation, has campaigned for the seat since she filed her petitions for candidacy in January. She said she was encouraged by friends and family in 2009 to seek the appointment Beck eventually received,but she was focused on helping her family business, which sells industrial air conditioners.

“We survived the recession,” she said. “It was a very tough time, and we learned a lot of hard lessons.”

And many of those lessons she can apply to the benefit of the 54th Ohio House District and the state.

Kubicki said some of the decisions by the Statehouse — such as in the 2013 biennium budget bill to raise some taxes and cut others — raised a concern for her and need to be re-thought because “you can’t raise taxes in one area and cut taxes in another.”

She said the state’s multi-layered tax system is “detrimental” to businesses, and “we need to work on streamlining the tax base.”

Kubicki said the heroin epidemic that faces Butler and Warren counties, and many other areas of Southwest Ohio and the state, needs to be tackled. She had an employee recently admitted to her that he was addicted to heroin.

“If it’s affecting somebody like us, it’s a problem,” said Kubicki. “There’s got to be a comprehensive approach.”

Education of the youth is one component of tackling the problem, she said.

Zeltwanger also sees heroin as a big problem that needs to be addressed, and echoed some of Kubicki’s sentiments, such as educating youth.

The 48-year-old owner of Joshua One, a real estate development company, said he filed his petitions to run for office close to the deadline, but spent a lot of time to research the issues.

“I took it very seriously when I was asked,” said Zeltwanger, who first got the blessing of his wife. “I wanted to, one, understand the current situation as it related to Pete. I believe he’s innocent until proven guilty. And to understand exactly the position and what would be required.”

Zeltwanger said he’s been involved for the better part of a decade, and with three kids in college, “I have more time to commit” to the job.

“We need, I believe, experienced private sector experience to represent us at the state and the national levels. The reality of it is we still compete for businesses to locate here, just as the GE example, and I believe we need leadership that has vision, innovation, is used to dealing with large companies,” said Zeltwanger, who worked 15 years for Ernst & Young and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

“The continual federal oversight direction of our country makes it more challenging and difficult to run a small business, and almost comes to the point you lose the incentives to be entrepreneurial,” he said. “That’s a big problem.”


The District

The 54th Ohio House District encompasses all of the Deerfield and Turtlecreek townships, Lebanon and Mason, and a portion of Monroe in Warren County. The district also includes a portion of Middletown in Butler County. The district has approximately 120,780 residents.

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