Candidates state similar positions during primary forum

By Heather Rutz

April 22, 2014

LIMA — With little daylight between Bob Cupp and Kurt Neeper on the issues, the two men focused on their experiences Tuesday during a candidate forum.

Cupp has served as a prosecuting attorney, commissioner, state legislator and judge and most recently as a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, in addition to owning his own law practice, and said those years of experience, and varied perspectives would help him carry on a tradition of strong leadership in the Ohio House from Allen County. At nearly every answer, Cupp had a “been there, done that” story ready to share and show how his tenure would lead to a solution.

Neeper is a former member of Lima City Council and vice president of business development with Superior Federal Credit Union. Having worked in the private sector for more than a decade, Neeper said he is familiar with issues small businesses face and helped job creators navigate an economy often weighed down with government regulations. He said he showed on council that he is a protector of taxpayer dollars and that he would do the same thing in Columbus.

The two are running against each other in the Republican primary for the 4th District Ohio House seat. They spoke and answered questions for an hour and a half in a forum hosted by the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce and Lima Area League of Women Voters and sponsored by Ray Magnus and his company, JTR Inc. The winner of the May 6 primary will face Democrat Robert “Bo” Huenke in the fall. The forum will be rebroadcast on GTV-2.

On job creation, Cupp said he would have a hands-on approach and ask for regular updates with local economic developments, and revive a tradition in the district of town hall meetings for legislative ideas. He also stressed previous experience, such as being part of a group that developed economic opportunities with Canada.

Neeper supported efforts underway to develop a statewide strategy to advocate for defense spending and also repeated a legislative priority, to move fines and fees collected by state agencies to the state's general fund. The move would take away a financial incentive for regulating agencies to line their own coffers, he said.

Cupp and Neeper discussed education through three separate questions, on funding, vouchers and Common Core standards.

On funding, Neeper said he can't get good answers about what it costs to graduate students and comply with state mandates. He also advocated for long-term funding for school districts so that they could withstand the changing policies of governors.

“Administrators need time to plan, so that funding doesn't change every time a new governor comes in, and you're right back to square one,” Neeper said.

Neeper also said he favors competition and parents having the right to determine what kind of education their children receive. He said a loophole allowing a student to spend only nine weeks in a poor performing district before receiving a voucher should be fixed, and that a student should be allowed to move after a school year. He also advocated for holding private and charter schools to the same standards as public schools, because tax dollars were flowing there.

Cupp said the question of school funding is a tough one, but that when he left the Ohio Senate, the state had a functioning funding formula, one that he helped draft.

“We had one when I left, and we've had four since,” Cupp said. “They don't have one now and administrators have no way to plan.”

Cupp said he would forward fund school districts, so that administrators knew a year in advance what their budgets would be to help them plan.

On Common Core standards, Cupp didn't specifically oppose the idea, but said he was opposed to the federal government's involvement in education. He also said he's heard concerns about the national standards not being as rigorous as what the state already has.

Neeper said he opposes Common Core, and that local communities and school boards need to set their own standards based on their needs, such as preparing students for the workforce of the future.

Both candidates said they were opposed to the recent expansion of Medicaid in Ohio and how Gov. John Kasich and the Legislature used the state Controlling Board to do it.

Both candidates also local communities have been hurt by cuts to Local Government Funds and would work to restore the funding.

They both expressed support for JobsOhio, Kasich's effort to privatize the state's economic development agency. While Neeper said he supported the effort fully and that it has been a win for the state, Cupp didn't as fully embrace it, saying the agency is an experiment that appears to be bearing fruit.

Neeper and Cupp expressed some differences in their opinions on abortion and the heartbeat bill. Cupp said he is opposed to abortion, except to save a mother's life, and said he is endorsed in the race by Ohio Right to Life. He also said the heartbeat bill needed to be written in such a way that when it went through court challenges it didn't undermine Ohio's current abortion restrictions.

Neeper said he is pro-life and opposes abortion in all instances. Neeper said Ohio needs to pass the bill with the understanding that as it's written it will be considered unconstitutional with the goal of taking the issue to the Supreme Court and overturning precedent.