Yesterday, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (OCCPAC) released its list of Ohio General Assembly endorsed candidates for the 2016 General Election. The list includes 72 candidates running in November; of those, seven have been awarded the distinction of Chamber Choice candidate. Of the 72 candidates, 58 are running for seats in the Ohio House of Representatives and 14 are running for seats in the Ohio Senate.
In order to select endorsed candidates, OCCPAC utilizes a member-driven approach. Several criteria are used to evaluate each race. For incumbents, the Ohio Chamber’s Free Enterprise Index, which was released last week, is a compilation of member votes casted during the General Assembly and is used as the leading indicator of a candidate’s commitment to improving Ohio’s business climate. Other criteria applying to both incumbents and new candidates includes a candidate questionnaire, personal meetings with candidates and input from members.
The seven Chamber Choice candidates were selected because they are in highly competitive races and have shown to strongly support job creation and economic growth in our state. These candidates have distinguished themselves on important business issues, and signal to the business community where opportunities exist to ensure the next General Assembly has a strong voice for Ohio’s economy.
Here is a further look at the Chamber Choice Candidates:
Senate District 16-Rep. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) over Cathy Johnson (D-Columbus)
Rep. Stephanie Kunze is running for Sen. Jim Hughes’ seat. The district, consisting of portions of Franklin County, leans Republican at +4 on the partisan voter index (PVI). Stephanie is a previous Chamber Choice candidate (2014) and has carded a perfect 100% session and lifetime voting record with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Her opponent, Cathy Johnson, holds an at-large position on the South-Western City School Board.
House District 5-Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem) over John Dyce (D-Guilford Lake)
Rep. Tim Ginter defeated incumbent Democrat Nick Barborak for this seat back in 2014. With a -3 Republican PVI, Rep. Ginter will need a lot of support to retain his seat that encompasses all of Columbiana County. A Salem Chamber of Commerce member, Rep. Ginter has a 100% session voting record during his first term in the Ohio House. His opponent is John Dyce, a retired postman.
House District 43-Rep. Jeff Rezabek (R-Clayton) over David Sparks (D-Dayton)
Although Rep. Jeff Rezabek easily defeated incumbent Roland Winburn by a margin of 58% to 42% in 2014, the makeup of the 43rd House District looks quite different during Presidential election cycles. The district carries a -2 Republican PVI. An attorney by profession, Rezabek holds a 100% voting record thus far in his first term. His opponent is David Sparks, a past education union president.
House District 55-Rep. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) over Kelly Kraus Mencke (D-Elyria)
Although Rep. Nathan Manning’s opponent Kevin Watkinson dropped out of the race last month, this race is a toss-up regardless of who his opponent is. The 55th District is a -3 Republican PVI and covers many traditionally Democratic communities in Lorain County. Manning’s PVI deficit is the second highest for any incumbent Republican. Rep. Manning has carried a 100% pro-business voting record during his first term in the Ohio House. Rep. Manning’s new opponent is Kelly Kraus Mencke, a sales representative at PR Newswire.
House District 79-Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) over Alex Wendt (D-Springfield)
Rep. Kyle Koehler is a small business owner, running K.K. Tool Company with five of his siblings. During his first term, Koehler has displayed a deep understanding of business issues and a commitment to free enterprise. Rep. Koehler holds a 100% pro-business voting record during the current General Assembly. He was a previous Chamber Choice Candidate during the 2014 election cycle. His opponent, Alex Wendt, is a firefighter in Yellow Springs.
House District 89-Rep. Steven Arndt (R-Port Clinton) over Lawrence Hartlaub (D-Port Clinton)
Former Rep. Steve Kraus’ upset of ODP Chairman and then-Rep. Chris Redfern was the surprise of the evening during the 2014 election cycle. Following some legal troubles, Rep. Kraus was forced out of his seat making way for Rep. Steve Arndt. Arndt, a small business owner, previously served as an Ottawa County Commissioner for 27 years. During his time thus far in the legislature, Rep. Arndt has achieved a 100% pro-business voting record. The 90th House District encompasses both Ottawa and Erie Counties. The district make up is -3 Republican PVI. The race will be challenging for Rep. Arndt as he faces Ottawa County Auditor Lawrence Hartlaub.