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Ohio House candidates face off
Ohio House candidates face off
By TONY LANGE
SOLON – Before any finger-pointing finish, last Thursday’s hour-long debate between incumbent state Rep. Marlene Anielski, R-Walton Hills, and challenger Anthony Fossaceca, D-Chagrin Falls, began with a moderate and indifferent tone.
As each candidate for Ohio’s new 6th House District, which includes much of the 17th District that Mrs. Anielski represents, answered questions about gun control, abortion, unemployment and a balanced budget, eye contact across stage was minimal and cross commenting remained stray.
Hosted by Solon’s Junior Statesmen of America, a national scholastic club that promotes political awareness, the debate took place at Solon High School. As 75 or so potential voters watched and listened, a question regarding cuts to public education seemed to be the line in the sand where pleasantries ended.
Since taking office in 2011, Mrs. Anielski said she has maintained a constant communication link with school superintendents whom she represents, including Solon Superintendent Joseph V. Regano, whose district only receives about 4 percent of its total operating revenues from state funding, according to its most recent five-year financial forecast.
“They know exactly what’s going on,” Mrs. Anielski said about superintendents in her district. “I know that public education is very important, and we need to make sure that they are funded in the classroom.”
In his rebuttal, Mr. Fossaceca said one thing he would not have done is put his name on House Bill 136, a voucher program that would expand greatly the numbers of families eligible for publicly funded, private-school tuition.
“It’s one thing to say you’re for public schools, but when you’re supporting a bill that would allow $5,000 per student to come out, I think it’s hard to make that argument,” Fossaceca said. “So I would have never supported that bill. As far as education cuts go, quite frankly, I would have voted against this budget. We are not in a position right now where we should be cutting education.”
While Mrs. Anielski was an original co-sponsor of HB 136, she was one of two Republican members on the House’s Education Committee to vote against the bill.
“I voted no so that (it) would not come out of committee,” she said. “Just so we’re clear, I voted no. So I don’t want any misunderstanding or stretching of the truth.
“That shows inexperience and not knowing what happens in the General Assembly and not knowing what happens in Ohio. When you put your name on a bill initially, it will stay on there until it is voted on the floor.”
Mr. Fossaceca said her name never should have been on the bill in the first place.
Throughout the debate, Mrs. Anielski also championed her bipartisan effort in producing eight bills.
“Two of my bills have come into law and were voted in unanimously out of the House and the Senate,” she said.
Mr. Fossaceca belittled her proclaimed bipartisan efforts and said her two bills that became law were no-brainers.
“One was Site Ohio, which is simply a no-brainer. I would have voted for that,” he said about a website that gives local governments a chance to market properties. “The second is Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. An awareness month. I would have voted for that as well. I don’t think too many members of the House would vote against an awareness month. The point is, you had two bills that were passed and neither was particularly needy.”
Mrs. Anielski, a career politician who spent 10 years as mayor of Walton Hills, also championed the 129th General Assembly and Gov. John R. Kasich for closing “an $8 billion budget deficit” and for helping Ohio to become a leader in job creation.
“I absolutely, definitely think we are better off than we were two years ago,” she said. “We are No. 1 in job creation in the Midwest and No. 4 in the nation, where prior to two years ago, we were 48th in the nation.”
Mr. Fossaceca, a small-business owner, said Ohio is better off than it was two years ago and is better off than it was four years ago. He credited President Barack Obama’s automotive bailout.
“Had it not gone through, it would have devastated this state,” he said. “So much of our state is tied to auto manufacturing. Walton Hills is a perfect example. Years ago it was a booming area. In recent years, the decline and the loss of the Ford stamping plant weakened that area, which has struggled.”
Despite being a member of the House’s Economic and Small Business Development Committee, Mrs. Anielski doesn’t have a clue about what small-business owners need or want, Mr. Fossaceca said during a post-debate interview.
“She should have been working from day one helping small businesses in Solon and Independence, Chagrin Falls and Valley View grow and expand at a faster rate than they are now,” he said. “Instead, this General Assembly has put its time and energy in chasing large corporations to our state. It’s our small- and mid-sized businesses that sustain a thriving economy.”
Mrs. Anielski did not take questions from the media post-debate.
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