LIMA — While both candidates for Ohio’s 4th House District have their sights set on education and criminal justice reform if they were to win the office, age, experience and ideology sets the two apart.
The seat’s current incumbent, Rep. Bob Cupp has held office in city, county and state governments, including a six-year stint on Ohio’s Supreme Court. This November, he’s being challenged by 18-year-old college student Tristam Cheeseman.
Cheeseman said in comparison to Cupp, his young age allows him to take bolder actions in order to solve the issues affecting Ohio.
“I’m willing to take bold action to tackle some of the biggest problems in this state,” Cheeseman said. “I respect Bob Cupp, but I think we need people who are capable of bold — not just bold — but risky action.”
Cheeseman’s policy platform expresses some of that boldness. The issues he said he wants to tackle during his term include reforming education — such as the the elimination of public charter schools and revision of Common Core guidelines — tackling corruption and strengthening labor law protections for unions.
“I see the problems that current young Americans face,” Cheeseman said. “On the education side, I saw the complete failure that was Common Core in the state system.”
Cupp also named education reform as his primary goal. As chair of the joint education oversight committee, he’s been working on changing how the state determines the amount of funds it gives to each school.
“What we want to accomplish is to have a better, far more logical school funding formula,” Cupp said. “It’s been very clear that what we have isn’t working very well. I’ll be working with colleagues on the other side of the aisle and a group of experts to come up with a better way.”
Cupp said he aims to have the new framework enacted in the next biannual budget put together by the General Assembly.
Like Cheeseman, Cupp also mentioned the need for charter school reform, especially for online schools, but he proposed regulation instead of a charter school ban.
As for criminal justice reform, the second issue both candidates mentioned, Cupp said Ohio’s sentencing laws need to be reconsidered and updated to ensure the “laws are properly tuned” to the needs of the judicial system. As a member of the criminal justice committee, he expects there will be a number of hearings to consider what form such overhauls may take.
On the same issue, Cheeseman said the state legislature can take steps to decriminalize drug offenses to ensure addicts get the treatment they need. Such steps include legalizing marijuana, nixing the “three strike system” and ending mandatory minimum sentencing “so (addicts) don’t spend their entire life in prison from one mistake when they were 18- or 19-years-old.”
Along similar lines, Cheeseman also named the opioid crisis as the most important issue affecting Allen County, and he said Ohio needs to do a better job giving funding assistance to local municipalities to deal with the problem.
“It has decimated the suburbs of Lima and tied down the police force. They’re stuck dealing with opioid cases, and they simply didn’t have help coming from the state government,” Cheeseman said.
In comparison, Cupp highlighted the need to keep the economy moving through public policy that encourages low taxes, limited reasonable regulation and develops the local workforce as the region’s most important issue.
“We obviously have to keep working on workforce development issues.” Cupp said. “We’ve put some extra money into helping people get the training they need for industry credentials so they have the skills to take the jobs available. I think in the longer term, we need to do a better job of exposing our children to the kinds of jobs that are available while they are in school.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.