ELECTION 2018: Pair of political rookies competing to represent Ohio’s 51st House District

Sara Carruthers, right, and Susan Vaughn are running to represent Ohio’s 51st House District in Columbus. Both women are running for office for the first time.

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Sara Carruthers, right, and Susan Vaughn are running to represent Ohio’s 51st House District in Columbus. Both women are running for office for the first time.

A pair of political rookies want to represent Ohio’s 51st House District in Columbus beginning in January.

Sara Carruthers, who beat incumbent state lawmaker Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, in the May GOP primary, will face Susan Vaughn, the recently retired director of Miami University’s Office of Ethics and Conflict Resolution, in the November election. Vaughn was uncontested in the Democratic primary.

Both candidates, who have a long friendship, say they are not running against each other, but rather for the seat.

“Knowing who my opponent is doesn’t necessarily change why I’m running for office, but it can help me be more focused,” said Vaughn, 67, who retired at the end of July.

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Vaughn’s campaign platform has been set by the people she’s talked with while campaigning door-to-door within the district, she said.

“These are not just a minute at the door, but they are sit-downs in their homes,” said Vaughn, who said she is devoting seven days a week on the campaign trail and will be a full-time legislator if she wins in November. “They’ve been very vocal. Very conversational.”

Issues do depend on the neighborhood, she said, “but one of the first things (people have said) is safety within the neighborhoods.”

Those issues include school safety, education, jobs, the opioid crisis, she said — all common campaign platform issues in recent elections.

Vaughn and her son, Patrick, were contestants on the reality television show "The Amazing Race" in 2005. While she hasn't campaigned on her brief stint on reality television, she said that experience gave her a new outlook on life — andis shaping her perspective on approaching issues the district and state face.

“These are not new problems in these communities,” she said. “I don’t have all the answers, but I think I can be creative, innovated. I went hungry (on the show), I begged for money, and had to think about other ways of doing things. I think that’s exactly what we have to do now, and I think I bring that.”

Carruthers, 55, said this race ultimately comes down to political philosophy.

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“We’re both very new to the whole thing, so it’s not like there’s anything she’s done wrong before, or anything else that I totally disagree with,” she said. “We just have opposite ideas of how we want to do things.”

Neither candidate expects a negative contest, though Carruthers did run a negative television ad against her primary opponents, Retherford and Greg Jolivette.

“I don’t expect it to be ugly, or anything like that,” said Carruthers, who also doesn’t know if she’ll run television ads for the general election. “I’m trying to find conservative answers to the same questions she’s trying to find liberal answers to; it’s really down to that.”

Carruthers spent more than $250,000 in her primary campaign, including her two television commercials. While she said spending that much was “brutal” because it was her own money, Carruthers said she doesn’t know if she’ll spend any money on television ads or if she’ll spend as much in the general election.

“I just know the main function that I have right now is to be out there and to meet people, and I’m doing a lot of getting with groups in trying to find out what they want,” she said.

Vaughn says she won’t compete with Carruthers’ pocketbook.

“There are people out there who are supporting me. And I believe it’s who I am, what I bring to this (race),” said Vaughn, who has three times the contributors than Carruthers, according to campaign finance reports.

Carruthers said school safety is a big issue for her, and recently toured Southwestern High School in Shelbyville, Ind. — about 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis — which has been dubbed the “safest school in America” thanks to a $400,000 state-of-the-art security system. She said schools need to be proactive in their approach to school safety.

“It’s not radical,” she said. “It’s things that are fundamentally smart that can be done here, they can be done all over this county, and I want to see it done.”

Carruthers also wants to see education improve, because “it brings more people jobs.”

The Ohio 51st House District includes the cities of Hamilton and Fairfield as well as all or parts of Ross, Fairfield and Sinclair townships.

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