Two candidates new to elected office are vying for state representative of the 51st District covering Hamilton, Fairfield and Ross Twp.
After longtime politician Greg Jolivette withdrew his petitions to run as a Republican in the primary following questions about the documents, then was barred from running as an independent candidate, Wes Retherford was the sole Republican squaring off against Democratic candidate Mark Hardig.
Hardig, 57, a Hamilton attorney who has lived in Ross Twp. for nearly 30 years, said he was prompted to seek election after last year’s heated debate on Senate Bill 5 and Gov. John Kasich’s “attack on the working class.”
“The Governor has cut funding to schools and local governments and tried to eliminate collective bargaining for police, firefighters and teachers,” Hardig said, noting he believes in fiscal responsibility and school and local governments “need a haircut but they don’t need to be cut off at the knees.”
He added, “in 2008 our economy nearly collapsed, due largely to miss conduct in the financial industry. Our governor came in and seemed to blame the middle class.”
Retherford, 28, a Hamilton native who is a former Marine and works as a mortician’s assistant, said he has always been interested in politics and government, but concern for his children and his neighbors prompted him to seek office.
“For the first time, more Americans believe their kids will not be better off than they are,” Retherford said. “I have been fortunate and I want my children and their generation to also prosper.”
He said since leaving the Marines he has worked many jobs to pay the bills and knows the value of hard work.
If elected, Retherford said he will work to establish an economic climate that will promote growth and establish state policies to foster business growth along with good employment opportunities.
“I will work to bring high-quality jobs to this area, focusing on strengthening our economy,” Retherford said, noting working with entrepreneurs, workers and businesses owners to making Ohio a more business-friendly state.
Retherford added, “I think I am more in touch with the concerns of everyday people. I really the middle class. I know what it is like to struggle to pay the bills.”
While he admitted he does not have all the answers on what reform is needed, Retherford said they are needed in government and school funding.
“Money needs to be spent wisely,” Retherford said. “There is not so much of an outrage from taxpayers if they get their money’s worth.”
Hardig said his is a believer in lean government, but not so lean that it can’t perform its statutory duties.
“Our taxes should benefit everyone our communities,” Hardig said, noting he believes property taxes are already too high.
Hardig said both sides of the table must come together to get Ohio’s economy back on its feet. He said he believes that a strong work force depends on quality education, and modernizing and maintaining infrastructure is critical to job creation and economic opportunity.
“I am interested in representing everyone in my area, not just Democrats,” Hardig said when asked if a Democratic candidate could be elected in a county that is a Republican strong hold. “I am a moderate, reasonable person, not a flame thrower.”