68th District race comes down to candidates’ own priorities

Meranda Watling


CHANDLER, Democrat

• Pre-school through higher education

• Economic development

• Health care

IN HER WORDS: “Economic development and education go hand-in-hand.”

DAVIS, Republican

• Change how education funding is handled by public schools

• Increasing higher education funding

IN HIS WORDS: “Ohio is 47th in education (in the nation), but 15th in funding for education … How can that be?”

There are two candidates running for state representative in the 68th District, which covers most of Portage County including Kent.

One of the candidate’s political experience is as long as many students’ lives. The other is running for election for the first time and says he’s “not a politician.”

Kathleen Chandler, the incumbent state representative from Kent, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. Bill Davis, of Ravenna, is running unopposed in the Republican primary. The primary election is May 2. Both candidates will move on to the general election in November.

The term for office is two years. The salary for 2005 was $56,465.

Davis, who owns D.S. Transport in Ravenna Township, said he decided to run for election because he believes Chandler has been ineffective during her two terms as state representative. Davis said Chandler hasn’t produced results because she’s “not willing to work across the aisle.”

Working across the aisle, Chandler counters, is something she strives to do, but because she is in the minority party, it’s not been easy. She said if reelected she would continue to work with the Republicans on important issues.

“It’s a question of priorities,” Chandler said. “If you ask the Democrats and Republicans what their priorities are, they’re probably the same.

“Put money with priorities first, then if other things need to be sacrificed, so be it, if we get the priorities.”

Kathleen Chandler

Chandler said her priorities are pre-school through higher education, economic development and health care in Ohio. She said she would put money toward these programs first.

The problem, Chandler said, is that many of the good job openings in Ohio require highly skilled workers, which we lack. Many of the jobs in service industries don’t pay very well or provide benefits, so workers can’t adequately support themselves.

“Economic development and education go hand-in-hand,” Chandler said. “We have jobs available that require a well-educated workforce.”

She said she would provide job training to help workers meet the needs of employers with Ohio workers, and to prevent employers from looking outside of Ohio to fill the jobs.

“It used to be that you could leave high school and work in a factory making a very high wage,” Chandler said. “Now they require higher education and training to move into those higher-paying jobs, so job training is critical.”

Better jobs would also mean better access to health care for many of Ohio’s workers. Currently, Chandler said pharmaceutical costs have risen rapidly over the past five years, making it more difficult for people to afford health care and more likely they will rely on some form of welfare.

Chandler holds a master’s in Public Administration from Kent State and a bachelor’s and master’s from Michigan State. She and her husband Charles have three grown daughters.

Her political experience includes eight years spent as a Kent City Councilwoman, seven years as Mayor of Kent and six years as a Portage County Commissioner. She has served as state representative since 2003.

Bill Davis

Davis, a Youngstown native, said if elected he would work to change how education funding is handled by public schools and increase funding for higher education.

He proposes a “65-cent solution” where 65 cents of every dollar given to public schools goes directly to the classroom instead of to administration or transportation. He said currently only 57 cents goes to the classroom.

“Ohio is 47th in education (in the nation), but 15th in funding for education,” Davis said. “How can that be?”

The schools are getting more money, but the money isn’t used as efficiently as it could be, he said.

He also wants to offer more grants to help students better afford college.

“You’ve got to have technical skills or college, one or the other (to be successful),” he said. “I came from a poor family and couldn’t afford to go to college. Educated, gifted kids deserve to go to college.”

Although inexperienced in politics, Davis said his business has given him experience getting things done.

“In my company, I deal with state and federal government bureaucracy all the time,” Davis said. “I haul and provide transportation to Fortune 500 companies, so I know how to work with higher ups.”

Davis graduated from East High School in Youngstown. He and his wife of 18 years, Phyllis, have three grown children. He has owned D.S. Transport for 13 years.

Contact public affairs reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].