COLUMBUS, Ohio — Throughout the month of September, Spectrum News is highlighting key races in both the state's House and Senate.
The 6th House District in northeastern Ohio includes central and southeast Cuyahoga County. The race pits a freshman legislator seeking re-election against an opponent with state and federal government experience.
In 2018, Democratic Representative Phil Robinson (Solon) not only flipped the 6th District for the first time in nearly 40 years but also became the first African American to represent the area. Meanwhile, Republican Shay Hawkins is not impressed with Robinson calling his opponent 'the least effective member of the Cuyahoga County delegation' and 'of all the freshmen' lawmakers.
“My opponent ran on the platform with lofty goals along the lines of education and supposed help for small business and we just have not seen it pan out,” says Hawkins.
Hawkins, born and raised in the Cleveland area, has worked in several different sectors such as investment banking, the law, nonprofits, education and politics.
“I’m really in a great position to deliver legislation that folks in the 18 communities that make up the sixth district that they need,” Hawkins feels.
Hawkins once interned at the Statehouse before moving onto Capitol hill to work with South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott and then-Ohio Republican U.S. Representative Jim Renacci. In D.C., Hawkins says he was responsible for getting opportunity zones into the 2017 tax law. Now as the CEO and co-founder of a trade group known as the Opportunity Funds Association, he says he wants to help other entrepreneurs create jobs in northeast Ohio.
“My goal is that everyone who has the ability to work has the opportunity to work and that’s all the more important now dealing with the economic fall out of this pandemic,” says Hawkins.
Two years ago, Robinson ran on education, local government funding and boosting the local economy.
“I was proud that as a freshman legislator to pass a bill not only in the House and the Senate but have Governor DeWine sign it into law. House Bill 4, which is going to streamline the process for workforce development, certificates and training to put more Ohioans to work,” Robinson says.
Robinson feels he has adequately addressed all three issues so far and hopes to do more if given a second term. As the Ranking Member on the Primary and Secondary Education Committee, schools are his top priority.
“We passed legislation to increase education funding at an all time high including $625 million for wraparound services. We also increased the minimum salary for teachers across the state which is gonna attract more teachers,” Robinson says.
The candidates do not see eye-to-eye on other key issues. When it comes to giving Ohioans better access to affordable healthcare, Hawkins thinks the state should follow the Trump administration's plan to cap Medicaid spending. While Robinson wants to further protect those with pre-existing conditions and lower prescription drug prices. He is also the only one of the two in favor of Governor DeWine's mask mandate and of the belief that systemic racism exists.
“That’s why I was probably one of the cosponsors on the legislation to declare racism a public health crisis. I’ve experienced it, many people I know have experienced it. You can’t fix it if you can’t identify it, name it and use some research to talk about what are the steps forward. So I would encourage my opponent to read that resolution,” Robinson emphasized.
Republicans believe Robinson could be in trouble considering he only won in 2018 by less than two percent of the vote. However, Cuyahoga County is a deep blue area which gave Hillary Clinton 65 percent support.