Ohio Rep.-elect Thomas Hall will be the youngest member in the next General Assembly, but he says that won’t stop him from working on big issues such as school funding reform.
The 25-year-old Madison Twp. Trustee was first elected to an office as a 20-year-old college student in 2015. Hall was elected for the 53rd Ohio House District seat this year with 68.25 percent of the vote over Democrat challenger Michelle Novak, according to official election results.
Hall will represent the district that runs from western Butler County and Oxford to Middletown, and wants to connect with people who “differ from the way I think,” he said.
“I’ve met a lot of great people in this district that probably did not vote for me but they’re willing to work with me,” Hall said. “It’s more than just me. It’s about this district and it’s about trying to find ways to better this district.”
One of Hall’s favorite jabs at his age came from a fellow Butler County trustee when the then-new trustee was at a conference in Columbus. A group went out to eat, and he wore a suit because he felt it made him look older, and that trustee told the host to “get the kid a high chair.”
Hall takes over the “youngest lawmaker” mantel from Rep. Jenna Powell, a 26-year-old Republican who represents the 80th House District in the Miami Valley. Powell turns 27 next month.
But he won’t be the youngest to ever serve as a lawmaker. Former lawmaker Derrick Seaver ran as a Democrat in 2000 (he switched parties in 2004) and was elected at 18 to represent the 78th House District from 2001-2006. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, and former Ohio Rep. Christina Hagan both served in the Statehouse as 22-year-olds. Brown was first elected to the Ohio House in 1974, and Hagan was first elected in 2010.
Ohio Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, 28, is the youngest Democrat in the House and can empathize with the age jokes. When the then-26-year-old campaigned for her first term in 2018, she said “people thought I was selling Girl Scout cookies.” She was re-elected in November.
Sweeney, who represents the 14th House District in the Cleveland area, said there are advantages and disadvantages to being a young lawmaker.
“Every committee I go to, I’m more prepared,” she said. “I know what bills are going to be heard, I’ve already looked at them, I’ve prepared questions from my sponsor testimonies.”
Her preparation earned her appointments to four committees, including on the Finance Committee and a ranking position on the Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education. She is also on the Insurance and Labor and Commerce committees.
One of Sweeney’s main agendas is to encourage young people, no matter their party affiliation, to be involved in state politics.
“Our state legislature should look like the rest of Ohio, and it’s very skewed. Women in politics, and young people, and people of different backgrounds,” she said, adding that older lawmakers won’t have the same approach to issues as her Millennial generation colleagues.
Hall is working to develop relationships with people currently in office and “trying to surround myself with people that are smarter than me.” That includes his primary opponent, Monroe School Board member Brett Guido, and Novak, a Middletown School Board member, to work on education issues like school funding.
If House Bill 305, known as the Cupp-Patterson bill, that addresses the state’s unconstitutional school financing system doesn’t pass this General Assembly, that will be one of his focuses in 2021.
“If we honestly get this right we can fix this for the next few bienniums,” Hall said.
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