Mark J. Romanchuk, 51, 3306 Oakstone Drive, Ontario, owner of PR Machine Works, said his focus is on the economy, getting people back to work and improving their lives.
Romanchuk, a Republican, has been state representative since 2013, when he garnered 57 percent of the vote against Ellen Haring. He replaced Democrat Jay Goyal in the reconfiguring of the former 73rd District.
He has a bachelor of science in electronic engineering and a masters of business administration degree.
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Democratic challenger Don Bryant, 29, of 478 E. Cook Road, Mansfield, is a teacher with a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations and a masters of science degree in education. He is working as a substitute teacher for the Mansfield City Schools.
Bryant said he has experience in local, state and federal government — starting with an internship in U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's office, education-related work for Mayor Don Culliver and a stint as legislative aide for a Cleveland-based Ohio House member.
"Each experience gave me an opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes," he said.
The challenger said he has knocked on 12,000 doors across the district. "A lot of people are struggling," he said.
Romanchuk points to the following as accomplishments during his first two-year term: bringing Richland County $4.8 million in state funding for upgrades to the campus of The Ohio State University at Mansfield and North Central State College; $500,000 to create a MEDAL Talent Innovation Center in Shelby; and support for one of 10 Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative robotics centers across Ohio to come to the area.
The Republican said he has worked with his party to "reform some of the taxes in Ohio, some on the small business side."
Romanchuk said the local economy is improving. While the first job openings he saw after the downturn were for positions requiring specialized training, now he sees lots of 'wanted' signs. "This is not 2009," he said.
One big job-related issue is finding workers with the specialized skills that have left some local jobs unfilled.
"It's about skills. You've got the right skills, you'll make money," he said. "The WIA has $1.5 million they can't spend because they can't get anybody to come forward and take the training."
But Bryant said many people he has met are struggling to find jobs at wages that sustain them. Some are grappling with issues like finding transportation to the workplace, and others have not been aware of training programs, he said.
Workforce development is Ohio's biggest issue, he said — "helping people find sustainable income here in Ohio."
The state can do much better at linking people who aren't making it economically to better jobs, he said. Students should be exposed starting in middle school to the real world of work requirements, "not sugar coating it," the Democrat said.
Romanchuk said statewide cuts in Local Government Funds forced elected officials in cities and counties around Ohio to look at belt-tightening strategies. He knows two mayors who were grateful for that opportunity "to think outside the box," he said.
Romanchuk said part of the state surplus was put into Medicaid, which he called "the elephant in the room (in the state budget) — doubling in size every 10 years."
The incumbent added he supports shifting Ohio from income tax-based revenues "to a consumption-based system."
But Bryant said Ohio needs to "slow down" on that to see whether residents would benefit.
"We need time to figure it out. Do we have the make-up of a state like Texas or Tennessee?" the challenger said.
Bryant said he "definitely does not" support privatizing many public services. The teacher added he's troubled tax funds have been shifted from public school districts.
"Should taxpayers have to pay to send kids to for-profit charter schools? If we are taking money away from public schools, that is a problem," he said.
Bryant said he taught Common Core for two years and was concerned about placing too much external controls on classroom teachers. "I support local control of education," he said.
Romanchuk said school districts have done too much "social promotion" of students who weren't actually ready over the years. "I think we're doing the kids a disservice."
He supports third-grade guarantee testing — but has concerns about Common Core, saying it does not allow states to develop their own standards.
Reference: Mansfield News Journal