Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford is seeking his fourth and final term before term limits set in, and he believes his record — both in getting bills signed by the governor and addressing constituent issues — has earned him the right to be re-elected.
“I’ve consistently proven that I’m willing to do the hard work that’s necessary,” he said. “I’m not a status quo candidate. I’ve ruffled feathers in trying to do the right thing, and sometimes that makes people uncomfortable.”
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And he is now insisting that the Statehouse “is pointed in the right direction, and we’re finally picking up steam again. Now is not the time to change captains.”
This week, this news organization will be profiling each candidate vying for the Republican nomination in the Ohio 51st House District race. This is the first of those profiles.
Retherford, 33, is a three-term state lawmaker representing Ohio’s 51st House District, which includes all of the cities of Hamilton and Fairfield, and Ross Twp., and parts of Fairfield, Hanover and St. Clair townships.
There have been close to three dozen bills Retherford has introduced, either as the lone or joint primary sponsor. A handful of those bills were enacted by law, either signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich or amended into another bill that was signed into law.
“When you look at my accomplishment and my record in the House and what I’ve done on behalf of my constituents, I believe that’s a record that’s obviously better than my opponent that has no record and is a lot better than my opponent that does have a record,” he said.
The most recent legislative successes were the Elder Justice Act, which was included as part of the 2018-2019 budget bill, and House Bill 79 that allows medics assigned to a SWAT team to carry a firearm for defensive purposes, which was signed last week into law by Kasich. He also touts the bill he jointly introduced with former lawmaker Margy Conditt that prohibits a person from knowingly furnishing or administering to a pregnant woman, or inducing or causing a pregnant woman to use, a controlled substance. That bill was amended into House Bill 394 in 2015, which was signed into law.
His Victims Privacy and Protection Act was just voted out of committee, and he anticipates a House floor vote sometime after the capital budget vote.
“I would say that probably my biggest accomplishment so far is the elder abuse bill, the elder justice act. That was an issue that was brought to my attention by our prosecutor here in Butler County, and it was an issue that was a lot of meetings, a lot of phone calls and a lot of perseverance to get it across the line. Following it right back up, introducing the victim’s protection and privacy act. They’re both victims’ protection bills, they’re just different groups of victims.”
Retherford’s opponents, former state lawmaker and former Butler County politician Greg Jolivette and Hamilton philanthropist Sara Carruthers, have been critical of Retherford. Jolivette points out the Columbus Monthly article that called Retherford “lazy” and the “least engaged” lawmaker in Columbus.
Retherford dismisses the Columbus Monthly article, saying it was based on an anonymous survey of political insiders, and in fact at the time of the survey he said he was serving on a pair of active House committees — Insurance and Agriculture and Natural Resources — that met at the same time.
“Those were my two biggest committees, so I was in and out of those meetings constantly,” he said.
Retherford said while he isn’t serving on a standing committee — which he admits would take time from addressing constituent issues — he said he is one of the four state chairs for the American Legislative Exchange Council, is the vice chair for the Ohio House Veterans Caucus and is on the Ohio Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Commission he worked to form.
Both Jolivette and Carruthers reference Retherford’s March 2017 OVI misdemeanor arrest where he was found passed out in a fast food restaurant drive-through — which the Butler County GOP called for his resignation.
As far as his arrest, and subsequent OVI conviction this past May, Retherford said, “I’m a changed man.”
This primary is also the third consecutive primary Retherford has had a challenger, and the latest election for which he was not endorsed by the local party.
“It’s nice to have an uncontested race, but contested races makes you a better candidate and therefore makes you a better office holder,” he said.