Republican Craig Riedel (first) and Democrat Aden Baker (second) are competing for Representative of the Ohio 82nd District. Both candidates spoke at the Heartland Patriots “Meet the Candidates Night” on Tuesday. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Republican Craig Riedel (first) and Democrat Aden Baker (second) are competing for Representative of the Ohio 82nd District. Both candidates spoke at the Heartland Patriots “Meet the Candidates Night” on Tuesday. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – The Heartland Patriots held a “Meet the Candidates Night” on Tuesday where several State and local candidates spoke about their qualifications and platforms.

Locally, Van Wert will see two contested races on the Nov. 6 ballot. Sara Lape and Phil Baxter will face-off for the position of County Auditor.

Lape, who is running on the Democratic ticket, was unable to attend on Tuesday due to a prior obligation but spoke to The Times Bulletin Tuesday night to explain why she feels she’s the right candidate for the job.

“I have 33 years of experience working hands-on in local government,” said Lape. “I work for the Commissioner’s Office, but I am located within the Court House in the Auditor’s Office, and I assist with the functions in the Auditor’s Office.”

Lape noted that the Auditor’s Office is responsible for managing $76 million of taxpayer money, something she has been helping to do for many years.

According to Lape’s resume, she cites that she has helped secure lower worker’s compensation costs for the County by achieving multiple rebates and refunds, and has helped keep the self-funded County health insurance premiums stagnant for the past four years with zero increases.

Running on the Republican ticket is Phil Baxter who referred to himself as a “Christian Conservative.” Baxter said he aims to make the Auditor’s Office “current,” “up-to-date,” and “competitive.”

Baxter noted that he has worked in various positions including farm work, industrial sales, and with technology. He received bachelor’s degrees in business and electrical engineering technology and is the treasurer for the Van Wert County Republican Central Committee. Baxter said he has 14 years of experience using accounting programs such as Quick Books and is familiar with Generally Accepted Accounting Practices.

“I am the candidate with the technological background,” said Baxter. “I am the candidate with insight and business expertise. I am the candidate that will bring the Auditor’s Office in-line with the goals of Van Wert County. I will make it more current; I will bring it more up-to-date. I will make us, Van Wert County, more competitive.”

Van Wert will also see a contested race for the County Treasurer’s Office.

Republican Nathan Vandenbroek is running for County Treasurer against Democrat Bonnie Thatcher, who was not in attendance.

Vandenbroek was appointed as County Treasurer in September after the retirement of Beverly Fuerst. In his month in office, Vandenbroek cited changes he’s already made to ensure money is handled more carefully in the office. A new procedure when transferring money to the bank allows for only Vandenbroek and the banker to access money in a locked money bag.

Vandenbroek has experience in accounting and also noted that he is working on a better counterfeit policy in the Treasurer’s Office.

“I’m here to represent [Van Wert County citizens]; I’m here to stay,” said Vandenbroek. “I’m here to take my experience and apply it to this role. I feel I’m very qualified for it.”

Several State candidates were in attendance for Tuesday’s meeting.

Incumbent and Republican Craig Riedel, Ohio House 82nd District Representative, spoke about his last two years as Representative.

Riedel, a first-term legislator, has been assigned to five different committees: the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, Armed Services, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security Committee, Economic Development, Commerce, and Labor Committee, Finance Committee, and Ways and Means Committee.

“When I’m making decisions on your behalf in Columbus, I believe in limited government,” said Riedel. “I believe in fiscal responsibility. I believe in free markets – free market principles. My wife and I are pro-life to the bone, and I’m pro-Second Amendment.”

Riedel said what he is most proud of in his first two years is the groundwork he’s laid and the relationships he’s made with his peers such as Senator Rob McColley as well as others.

“Moving forward, [having these relationships] is really going to pay off for this part of Ohio because to get things done, you have to have great relationships with the people that you work with,” noted Riedel. “I’m very optimistic, if I have the privilege to represent, that we’re really going to get a lot of things done in this part of Ohio.”

Running against Riedel on the Democratic ticket is Aden Baker, a recent Wayne Trace graduate from Grover Hill. Baker noted that while he is a Democrat, he is a “Christian Conservative” who has been a gun owner most of his life.

“I’m here because I am not a national Democrat,” said Baker. “For me personally, when I look at the legislator, I definitely don’t recognize myself. As a young person, it feels like the age of elected officials goes up and up and up while our interests get looked over.”

Baker concentrated his time on Tuesday on the state of small municipalities citing the budget crisis in Grover Hill. Grover Hill is currently in a financial crisis, said Baker, noting that the municipality recently lost its police force due to lack of funding. He noted that it wasn’t due to poor decision making on the part of town officials, but due to restricted State funding that continues to dwindle.

“Over the last eight years, John Kasich and the legislators cut $1.5 billion from the Local Government Fund, so now all of our communities are competing for peanuts and trying to do the best with what they’ve got,” said Baker. “They continue to tell us they’ve saved us so much on our taxes but realistically, all of that is coming right out of our paychecks anyways because these places have had to pass ballot levies to stay afloat.”

“I’d like to return power and funding to local governments,” continued Baker. “I am a proponent of the radical idea that your tax dollars should be reinvested into your communities. I’d like to give the little guy a voice to focus on the little things in Columbus.”

Also attending the meeting was Republican Rob McColley who is running for reelection as Senator of Ohio’s 1st District.

McColley referred to himself as “pro-business,” someone that “fights for our freedoms,” and “being pro-life.”

McColley said during his time as Senator he has helped cut regulations to help bring businesses to Ohio. He noted that he’s worked to find workers for a demanding workforce.

McColley cited his voting record of always voting with the NRA and being pro-Second Amendment and also cited a voting recording that is consistent with his pro-life stance.

Running on the Democratic ticket for Ohio Senate 1st District is Adam Papin who spoke about the need for reform in the way Ohio attains workers. Papin noted that in the next 10 years it is estimated 30 percent of the workforce will retire. To fill the demand, Papin would like to see a reform in the way businesses conduct interviews.

“One of the things I’d like to do is, through Ohio Means Jobs, work on conducting more digital and Skype interviews,” said Papin who also explained that he’d like to see Ohio Means Jobs Centers conduct drug tests that could be used for employment in more than just the city where the test was conducted. “This would expand their job possibilities by reducing some of the interview pressures and hiring expense for some of these companies.”

Papin said he aims to solve difficult problems and invited people to reach out to him to learn more about his ideas on policies.

Other speakers for the night included Don Kissick, a Libertarian running for US Congress District 5 against Republican Bob Latta and Democrat Michael Galbraith, who asked those in attendance to consider voting for a third party; County Commissioner Thad Lichtensteiger and Judge Martin Burchfield who will be running unopposed on the November ballot; and County Prosecutor Eva Yarger, who spoke on the dangers of Ohio Issue 1.

The Times Bulletin invites readers to look for more in-depth interviews with local candidates in October editions of The Times Bulletin.