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Election 2020: Two state lawmakers, township trustee face off in Ohio Senate race

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Two sitting lawmakers and a West Chester Twp. trustee have different views about how they’ll represent Butler County if they are elected to the Ohio Senate in November.

West Chester Twp. Trustee Lee Wong, and Ohio Reps. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, and George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., are competing to be the GOP’s 4th Ohio Senate nominee in the primary. The winner of the GOP 4th Ohio Senate District race will face Kathy Wyenandt, who is unopposed in the Democratic Party primary.

Ohio’s 4th Senate District consists of most of Butler County.

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Wyenandt, 45, a small-business owner, is unopposed this primary and is running for Seate Senate because “it’s still very clear to me that this region needs an advocate in Columbus.” She lost her bid to Lang in 2018 for the 52nd Ohio House District seat.

“Healthcare costs continue to rise for small businesses and families here, many people are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, and our school funding system is broken,” Wyenandt said. “I know how to build coalitions and I will work with anyone to tackle these tough issues.”

Keller has been an outspoken critic of those to the political left, and even those, such as Lang, who are more moderate conservatives. She’s been a champion of the heartbeat bill, a version of which was signed into law in April 2019 by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine before a federal judge blocked its implementation in July 2019.

Keller, the executive director of the Community Pregnancy Center in Middletown, will push for more pro-life legislation during her time in the Statehouse, and if she’s elected to the Senate.

She also said she’ll push for Second Amendment-related legislation, such as the “Stand Your Ground” bill. Keller said she’s working on health care bills designed to reduce prescription drug prices, decrease mandates on the elderly’s health care plans and addressing the opioid epidemic.

She said the answer to the opioid crisis lays “in our ability to come together as citizens to empower law enforcement to get dealers off the street.”

Keller also wants to address issues children, such as foster care reform, kinship care and human trafficking.

“Our children are our greatest resource. We need to protect, preserve, defend,” she said.

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Lang has pushed for the “West Chester model” to be applied to the state in his time in Columbus, which started in September 2017 following his appointment.

His “business-first” message hasn’t changed since he first sought political office 20 years ago. He said that a business-friendly state “is the best way to create opportunity and prosperity” by developing a “thriving, sustainable economy.”

“When you put business first, everything else works itself out,” he said.

Additionally, Lange said he wants to take action at the state level to stem the flow of illegal immigration, including passing legislation that seeks to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving workers compensation and “encouraging law enforcement to follow the lead of (Butler County) Sheriff Richard Jones in cooperating with federal immigration enforcement officials.”

Wong’s top issues he sees facing Ohio are job creation, education from kindergarten through college, and access to affordable health care.

“I believe good government begins and ends with a concern for people, their concerns, their problems, and their dreams,” he said. “Governing should not be about partisan loyalty, but rather it should be about having loyalty to the people. “

Collaboration and compromise are how government works in order to respond to concerns and issues.

“I have demonstrated my willingness to work together with all kinds of people in my 15 years as a member of the West Chester Twp. Trustees,” he said. “I will continue to draw on our community for ideas and strength.”

Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised and spent by the candidates, but none more by Lang, according to pre-primary campaign finance reports which were due on March 5.

Lang’s pre-primary report showed he hs a commanding lead in fundraising, though Keller had more individual donors.

Lang received more than $40,200 since Jan. 1 and spent more than $133,700. He has more than $43,000 remaining in his campaign coffers.

Keller’s report shows she raised nearly $19,000 and spent $29,300, but she loaned her campaign an additional $44,500. She has $50,800 in her campaign coffers.

Wong has nearly $43,000 cash in his campaign coffers after raising $20,300 since the start of the year. Wong said most of his focus on this campaign is what he calls “shoe-leather politics,” as he knocks on doors throughout the county with the assistance of a Segway.

Registered voters can cast early votes now, either at the Butler County Board of Elections, 1802 Princeton Road, Hamilton, or request an absentee ballot to vote at home. Election Day voting hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. March 17.

CANDICE KELLER

Residency: Middletown

Age: 60

Family: Married 42 years to her husband, Kent. Together they have two adult sons

Employment: Executive Director of Community Pregnancy Center

Political Experience: 53rd Ohio House District representative since 2016

GEORGE LANG

Residency: West Chester Twp.

Age: 57

Family: Married 35 years to his wife, Debbie. Together they have two adult daughters

Employment: Owner of a few small businesses, including Second Call Defense

Political Experience: Former West Chester Twp. trustee, 52nd Ohio House District representative since 2017

LEE WONG

Residency: West Chester Twp.

Age: 68

Family: Married 37 years to his wife, Terri. Together they have an adult daughter.

Employment: Retired

Political Experience: Four-term West Chester Twp. Trustee