Wong says Hamilton, Middletown need high-paying jobs to succeed; Carpenter says both cities are on a path to success

Butler County Commission candidates Cindy Carpenter and Lee Wong didn’t pull punches Thursday night at the only scheduled debate between the campaign rivals.

Carpenter, the incumbent commissioner, took offense when Wong, who’s serving his fourth term as West Chester Twp. trustee, implied that Middletown and Hamilton needed high-paying jobs in order to succeed.


What Wong’s bicycle taught him about campaigning (and winning)

Wong wants to bring the successes he’s been a part of in West Chester Twp. over the past 12 years — including being named by Money Magazine one of the best places to live in America — “and I intend to do the same for Butler County.”

Wong said as a trustee of the largest township in Ohio, he’s helped create an environment that encouraged 3,600-plus businesses, touts the township as No. 2 in southwest Ohio to Cincinnati in attracting jobs, and boasted about West Chester’s Aaa bond rating.

“And I believe I can do the same for Butler County,” he said.

Carpenter and Wong are competing for the GOP nomination in the Butler County Commission race in the May 8 primary. The winning Republican will face former Middletown vice mayor Dora Bronston in November. Bronston was invited to Thursday’s event but was attending the Middletown Branch of the NAACP’s annual dinner. She is the Middletown NAACP’s president.

During the hour-long debate at the Miami Hamilton Downtown Center hosted by the Journal-News and Miami University Regionals, Carpenter asked what Wong thought county government was doing wrong that prompted him to compete against her.

VOTER GUIDECompare candidates in the 2018 Journal-News Voter Guide

“Let’s ask the city of Middletown how well they’re doing. Ask Hamilton. You get down to it, there’s a lot of brokenness, a lot of empty space, warehouses. Where are the … high-dollar jobs? Liberty Center, those are low-paying jobs. We cannot sustain that,” he said.

Later in the debate Wong brought up Middletown again, saying, “I think they can use a lot of help” and need more high-paying jobs.

Near the end of the debate, Carpenter said she took offense to Wong’s remarks that Butler County’s two largest cities aren’t doing well “and thinks jobs are needed for them to succeed.”

“This is a community that is an 80 percent Appalachian descent. We’re proud of it,” said Carpenter. “Everyone is not going to have a high-paying job …”

She went on to say she’s “very proud of the renaissance that’s happening in Middletown,” and the recent successes in both Middletown and Hamilton.

“They’re proud people, they’re hard-working. They may be blue collar, they may be white collar, and they love their communities, and they choose to be there, so I support every community in Butler County,” she said.

Both also disagreed on the level of involvement the county government should have in helping businesses.

Wong said he’s failed to see a countywide plan for economic development and said there’s too much red tape for businesses.

“It is very difficult to do business in Butler County,” Wong said. “I hear that over and over again from businesses. In West Chester, from my experience, we always help business.

He also was critical of the county’s limited financial investment in the Spooky Nook project in Hamilton, saying it “only committed about $2.5 million. That is really not enough to have that business get started.”

Carpenter said the county gets involved in economic development “at the request of the individual townships, the different political entities that are asking us.”

When the county becomes involved, they help with development tools like tax increment financing and the county port authority, she said.

“It is not the same governmental structure as the township,” Carpenter said.

With regard to the county’s involvement in Spooky Nook, she said “The county does not jump in first to give money to city projects. We never have. We watch it play out, we make everybody else get in the game and see what they’re willing to put in for it before we risk our county dollars in a project that may or may not be fully supported.”

About the Author