COLUMBUS, Ohio — Throughout the month of September, Spectrum News One is highlighting key races in both the state's House and Senate.
On Tuesday, we are focusing on the 18th Senate District in northeastern Ohio, which includes portions of Geauga and Lake Counties, as well as all of Portage County.
There are two candidates with extensive experience in health care vying to fill the open seat. One is an attorney who previously ran for Congress. The other is a current county commissioner and retired business executive.
The 18th Senate District will have new representation in November, as Republican Senator John Eklund (Munson Township) steps aside after nine years. Now voters will have to decide if Lake County Commissioner Jerry Cirino holds onto power for the GOP or if Democrat Betsy Rader flips the seat.
Rader, an employment attorney, says she wants to get into politics because she feels like the people of her district have not been properly represented. Two years ago, she ran to unseat Republican Congressman Dave Joyce in the 14th Congressional District but was unsuccessful. Now, Rader is trying to get in at the state level and make an immediate impact in the healthcare sector.
“It's continued to be a really difficult issue for people throughout my district,” said Rader.
Rader's experience includes work as an executive at a physician staffing company and also for The Cleveland Clinic and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid.
“And certainly with the pandemic and healthcare being one of our most critical issues right now, I think that experience will really help in a policymaking role,” Rader said.
While Rader's career has focused on healthcare, Cirino was once a leader on the business side of the industry. He owned and operated several medical device and distribution companies. He says he first ran for county commissioner to influence public policy, but now he wants a larger platform.
"I have some really serious priority interests in the state of Ohio— particularly now when our economy is going to need so much work to recover," said Cirino.
Cirino has confidence he can help fix some of the economic issues his neighbors are facing because of his success in business and politics, having built himself up from humble beginnings.
"Everybody should have that opportunity no matter where they’re coming from, what race or religion they are, what gender they are and I think it is our job as elected officials to make sure that that American dream does not go away,” Cirino said.
Cirino's vision of the 'American Dream' includes fixing Medicaid, but not mandating masks during the pandemic. Rader believes in protecting those with pre-existing conditions and lowering prescription drug costs and is in favor of Governor DeWine's mandate.
The two also have thoughts on the current racial climate in the state and country.
“I don’t know how the evidence of the United States of America electing an African-American president twice, who won both the popular vote and electoral college vote, could possibly do so in a country that is systemically racist,” Cirino believes.
“People who in the past seem to think that we lived in this color blind world and did not recognize the systemic racism impacting various areas. Of course, I work in the area of employment where you can see the impacts of unconscious racism,” emphasized Rader.
For perspective, President Trump and Governor DeWine cleaned up the 18th Senate District in both 2016 and 2018. However, voters were split on congressional races in the midterms.