Young Democrat challenging 3-term GOP state rep in Warren County

State Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, at left, is being challenged by Morgan Showen, at right, in House District 54.

A University of Michigan senior is aggressively challenging a three-term incumbent’s re-election in the 54th Ohio House of Representatives district.

While completing his political science degree, Morgan Showen is running to replace Rep. Paul Zeltwanger.

The winner will represent residents living in and around Lebanon, Deerfield Township, Mason and Middletown and be paid $65,528 a year to represent the district in 2021, with an increase in 2022.

Showen’s campaign has posted a website blasting Zeltwanger, who was chairman of the Ohio House of Representatives' Economic Recovery Task Force, on LGBTQ issues. Showen also points to past reports about Zeltwanger sharing a “Plandemic” video suggesting the coronavirus was a global conspiracy among elites to profit and gain power.

“He spent the past six years racking up one of the worst attendance records of any state representative,” Showen, 21, of Union Twp., added.

In response, Zeltwanger, 54, of Mason, said, “I focus my time and resources on the issues and items that directly affect the people in my District” and dismissed the website as election “chicanery.”

Concerning his consideration of what some call conspiracy theories, Zeltwanger added, “if you define it as a person that researches a subject, then uses critical thinking skills to form an educated opinion instead of blindly believing whatever they read and or see, I guess that might apply.”

The Friends of Paul Zeltwanger campaign committee reported $6,245 on hand and a $35,000 loan owed in a March pre-primary filing, the last with the Ohio Secretary of State. The Morgan Showen for Ohio committee reported $2,830 on hand on June 2.

Voters will have a clear choice between the two candidates. They differ on most issues.

Q: The governor’s Strong Ohio gun reform package isn’t likely to pass this legislative session and will likely be re-introduced next session. Where do you stand on the basic elements of the package?

Showen: One of the original reasons I got in the race last fall was because of the legislative actions taken by my opponent to pass Stand Your Ground legislation after the Dayton shooting. I have friends who knew victims. The fact our current legislator thought it was a good idea to enact legislation that would only greaten the number of gun homicides was just a key motivator for me to get in this race. It’s just such a generational issue. I don’t think Strong Ohio goes far enough, it’s a good baby step.

Over 90 percent of Ohioan’s agree that background checks should be required for all gun sales. The NRA and other organizations have such a sway over the Republican supermajority. It’s a real shame that we can’t pass this and red flag legislation that allows families and police to seek a court order to remove firearms from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Zeltwanger: I believe the gun laws we have in place right now are appropriate. In respect the 2nd Amendment and I think we’re good in Ohio.

Q: Do you support or oppose the state authority to issue public health orders to shut down businesses, schools and other activities during a pandemic?

Showen: We’ve seen how crucial those orders have been. If not for the actions taken by Dr. Amy Acton and Gov. DeWine at the start of this pandemic, thousands more Ohioans would have died. That’s the crucial point in this election, a contrast between myself and my opponent: one person who believes in public health experts, trusts the science and is willing to do personally what is necessary by wearing a mask and social distancing and one person who believes in coronavirus conspiracy theories, is calling for the resignation and impeachment of Dr. Acton and Gov. DeWine.

Zeltwanger: I actually believe in following science and the experts and the actual data. We should never allow one individual or a small team... There should be checks and balances. When you reject even a 14-day oversight.... There have been so many violations of the Constitution. The approach to it was very poorly done. As a result, he supports DeWine’s impeachment.

We needed to protect the elderly but a lot of the other decisions are being questioned now. My issue has always been about data transparency. I still don’t think we have it.

Q: Do you wear a mask in public spaces when you cannot maintain six feet of social distancing? Why or why not?

Showen: Absolutely, you have to follow the science and take the steps to protect not only my family but others.

Zeltwanger: I follow the mask guidelines. I understand protecting people. I don’t believe there’s actual studies and medical science behind those. I put one on yesterday. I’m respectful of it.

Q: Do you support or oppose removing the ‘catch all’ language in Ohio’s child immunization laws that allow parents to opt not to have their kids vaccinated for reasons of conscience?

Showen: When you are living in a time of public health emergency, the coronavirus vaccine should be required of all students attending public schools.

Zeltwanger: I support the opt out for reasons of conscience. I don’t believe in mandatory vaccination of children. Leave the father and mother in charge of their children.

Q: Ohio and other states saw sustained demonstrations this summer against racial injustice and police brutality. Protesters called for a slate of reforms. What do you think are the most important changes we should make?

Showen: I was proud to join those protests in Lebanon and Mason. We need to acknowledge that racism is a public health crisis. We also need to address community reforms for police violence. Reforms should include banning chokeholds and requiring officers to have body cameras on at all times, limit use of tear gas and require training on deescalating incidents and recognizing implicit biases, requiring independent investigations of officer-involved shootings and deaths in custody, centralized reporting to the state of use of force incidents and increased transparency for officer discipline and disciplinary files. Demilitarize our police force overall. I’m not a supporter of the defund the police movement.

Zeltwanger: I’m always for the transparency issues. Peaceful protest. It’s good to get the facts out. I don’t support he defund police ideas, but there is room for improvement in any profession.

Q: The FBI and DOJ are charging former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and four other men in a racketeering scheme that allegedly involved $60 million in bribes to elect Householder and pro-Householder lawmakers, make him speaker, pass House Bill 6 and defend the bailout bill from a referendum. Have you received campaign donations or any support from Friends of Larry Householder, Larry Householder, Jeff Longstreth, Neil Clark, Juan Cepedes, Matt Borges, Generation Now, FirstEnergy PAC, any other FirstEnergy sources? If so, have you or will you donate that money to charities?

Showen: Over the last three years, we’ve had two Republican speakers of the Ohio House removed from their positions or resign because the FBI has had to get involved because of corruption charges. The Ohio House with 91 of 99 person body was able to support the removal of the speaker. Our current representative did not support them. There is a culture of corruption we need to be able to remove from the statehouse. That starts with trying to defeat those representatives who have continued to support Householder even after his indictment.

We don’t accept donations from corporate PACS or lobbyists. We have not received any contributions from those or 501c4s.

Zeltwanger: I’ve received 0 from any of those. If some individual or PAC sends me checks, I accept them. But I don’t actively seek them out. I just never got involved in that, fortunately now because of all this.

Q: Do you support or oppose repeal of House Bill 6?

Showen: I was opposed to it from the start. I’m even more opposed to it now. We need to repeal it now. We’ve gutted renewable energy standards when we should only be increasing them. The bailouts of coal fired power plants in Ohio and Indiana, for some reason, just do not make any sense. I worked on Green Energy legislation in Michigan. We can create jobs within our own state based on investments into renewable energy.

Zeltwanger: I don’t think a complete repeal. If you dig into the details, there’s a lot in it way beyond the nuclear energy piece. How can we produce more clean energy in the State of Ohio?

Q: State lawmakers craft laws that impact open meetings and access to public records. In your public service experience, how have you worked to increase transparency?

Showen: The more open our governments are, the more transparent and trustworthy they can be. Ohioans just don’t trust their own statehouse anymore. The more we can do to improve transparency and accountability is only a positive.

Zeltwanger: Yes, even during the pandemic or coronavirus issues, I’ve always been pushing about the actual data and more transparency. During Economic Recovery Task Force hearings, we brought people from all around the state in and let them share their stories. I was so upset with the small people who were being completely disregarded.

Q: Given the pandemic and economic crisis, state tax revenues are tumbling and the upcoming budget is expected to be very challenging. Would you vote to increase income, sales and/or business taxes to avoid drastic cuts to state programs? Why or why not?

Showen: Yes. Over the past 10 years, instead of trying to raise tax and close loopholes on businesses and individuals who can afford it, we’ve chosen to cut funding for local governments and public education and leave us in a worse position when a crisis like this happens. We should never have stocked up the rainy day fund to $2.7 billion when we can’t afford to pave our roads.

Zeltwanger: No, why would you do that when people are struggling. You’ve got to cut costs.

Q: A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June makes employment discrimination against LGBTQ workers illegal but it doesn’t cover housing or places of public accommodation. For more than a decade, some Ohio lawmakers have tried to pass a bill that would make discrimination in housing, employment and places of public accommodation illegal on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce now backs this bill. Do you support or oppose the bill?

Showen: We need to be able to pass the Equality Act in Ohio as we have in other states. Actions to curtail LGBTQ rights were another reason for my campaign. My opponent still does not believe in marriage. He believes a marriage is only between one man and one woman. We need someone who is going to be able to go in there and fight for all Ohioans, regardless of their sexual orientation or identity.

Zeltwanger: I don’t see that as an issue that there’s discrimination on those issues. I work in the urban areas. I live in a world where I don’t see color of skin. These things get politicized. People that discriminate would get run out of business. There already are fair housing discrimination laws. I’m open-minded on that.

Name: Paul Zeltwanger

Age: 54

Hometown: Mason

Family: Married for 31 years, four children

Political Party: Republican

Political Experience: - 5th year as State Representative

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Grace College: Business Administration/Accounting, MBA, Indiana University: Finance

Current Employment: - Business owner

Name: Morgan Showen

Age: 21

Hometown: Union Twp.

Family: Single

Political Party: Democrat

Political Experience: Presidential, gubernatorial, state representative campaign worker

Education: Political Science, University of Michigan

Current Employment: College student, part-time campus job

Election 2020

Count on the Dayton Daily News for everything you need to know this election season. We are the only news source covering all local candidates and issues on your ballot, and digging into a safe and accurate vote.

In Other News