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Election 2020: Retired Air Force officer faces West Chester trustee for Ohio House nomination

52nd Ohio House District candidates are retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jennifer Gross, left, and West Chester Twp. Trustee Mark Welch.
52nd Ohio House District candidates are retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jennifer Gross, left, and West Chester Twp. Trustee Mark Welch.

The two Republicans running for the open Ohio 52nd House District have similar beliefs.

Mark Welch and Jennifer Gross are pro-life conservatives who are Second Amendment and small business advocates. They are also supporters of President Donald Trump.

Both want to represent the 52nd Ohio House District, which serves Fairfield, Liberty and West Chester townships, and the Butler County portion of Sharonville. The winner of the GOP primary election will face West Chester Twp. Democrat Chuck Horn, 62, in November.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Horn said he’s running because he’s “seen so many radical changes in society that I believe the 52nd District is looking for a voice of moderation.”

The general election winner in November will succeed Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., who’s running for the 4th Ohio Senate seat.

Ohio’s 52nd House District GOP candidates are retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jennifer Gross, left, and West Chester Twp. Trustee Mark Welch.
Ohio’s 52nd House District GOP candidates are retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jennifer Gross, left, and West Chester Twp. Trustee Mark Welch.

Welch, 63, is a two-term West Chester Twp. trustee and co-owns SoZo HAIR & Spa with his wife, Karen. He’s running for the Statehouse because “I want to do my part as a fiscal conservative to make the 52nd District the most prosperous district in the state and to ensure we’re competitive, marketable and sustainable,” he said.

Welch said his three top priorities if elected is to improve transparency at all levels of government, push for a smaller government and make Ohio more business-friendly.

“Ohio is the seventh-most-left state in the country,” said Welch citing a national news article. “But before we can stop the leaving, we have to know why they’re leaving.”

Gross, 55, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and nurse practitioner with IMA, Inc., is running for the Statehouse seat because “the Ohio House is the people’s House,” and believes her position puts her in “the best place to represent” the district.

“Service above self is a way of life for me,” she said.

Gross said her three top priorities if elected to the Statehouse to defend life from the unborn to the elderly, defend the Second Amendment, and “to be irresistible to businesses looking for a place to call home.”

“I am listening to business owners and will work to reduce the burdens on their businesses, which stifle their growth,” she said.

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Both see opportunities to reach across the aisle if they win.

Gross said there are opportunities for bipartisan cooperation in several areas, including improving mental health care access, addressing the opioid epidemic and improving education “because we need top-notch schools.”

Welch said it starts with the fundamental political principle of compromise.

“We really all want the same things, but it’s about finding the common ground,” he said.

Information is also important for decision-making for both candidates, they said.

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Gross previously was opposed to the use of any cannabidiol, or CBD, products. CBD is a chemical compound found in marijuana and hemp, but don’t cause one to get high.

“My view changed when I met a patient with (post-traumatic stress disorder) who found that after using CBD products, he finally slept well for the first time in three years,” she said. “This caused me to change my mind about CBD products.”

Welch said he will “let the facts do the talking.”

“Often, I won’t make up my mind on something until I’ve done the research, and it becomes kind of self-evident,” he said. “I don’t like it when people say, ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind.’ It means they’re wearing blinders … and that to me is a very dangerous person.”

JENNIFER GROSS

Residence: West Chester Twp.

Age: 55

Family: Married 17 years to her husband, Chris, and have two sons

Employment: Nurse Practitioner with IMA, Inc.

Political experience: Republican Central Committee member

MARK WELCH

Residence: West Chester Twp.

Age: 63

Family: Married 20 years to his wife, Karen and have an adult son and daughter, and grandchildren.

Employment: Co-owner of SoZo HAIR & Spa

Political experience: West Chester Twp. Trustee, Republican Central Committee member