COLUMBUS, Ohio — Throughout the month of September, Spectrum News is highlighting key races in both the state's House and Senate.
On Tuesday, we are focusing on the 32nd Senate District in northeastern Ohio which includes Ashtabula and Trumbull Counties and part of Geauga County. The race features two candidates with the same last name but are not related and do not have much else in common. One is an incumbent who is part of the minority leadership team with experience in both Statehouse chambers. The other served more than a decade in the administrative side of local government.
Senate Minority Whip and Democrat Sean O'Brien (Bazetta) says of all the accomplishments he has achieved in his first term he is proudest of his ability to work across party lines to get things done. However, his opponent, Republican Sandra O'Brien, does not feel Sen. Sean O'Brien has a real seat at the table because he represents the minority party.
Sandra O'Brien once served as the Ashtabula County auditor for 12 years but this is not the first time she has run for state office. She ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2000, state treasurer in 2006 and 2018 and secretary of state in 2010.
"I'm tired of my senate district being ignored when decisions are being made about how our hard earned tax dollars being spent," says Sandra.
Sandra O'Brien says if elected her top priority would be to fix the way the state's gas tax is distributed.
The revenue can only be used for bridges, construction, reconstruction and maintenance and repair of public highways. Currently, the state keeps 60 percent and divides the remaining 40 percent equally to its municipalities.
"That is not fair. In northeast Ohio, we have extremely harsh weather conditions. It weakens our roads. They deteriorate faster. They get these huge potholders," Sandra says.
Sen. Sean O'Brien has gotten several bills passed through his chamber and signed into law. Former Gov. John Kasich signed bills to fast track the Lordstown TJX Homegoods project that is still under construction along with the creation of the Clean Lake 2020 Plan to keep Lake Erie clean. The CEO of Lordstown Motors says Sen. Sean O'Brien helped the 'Endurance' electrical vehicle project become a reality.
Finally, Sen. Sean O'Brien says he worked with the state and the joint venture of LG Chem and GM to bring an electric battery plant to the Lordstown area. It is a $2.3 billion investment in the state of Ohio.
"These are pretty big projects in the area and very proud of those but it takes that knowledge and where to go and do it quickly rather than trying learn on the job," says Sen. Sean O'Brien.
Sen. Sean O'Brien says he wants make his community the electric hub of the midwest but he worries COVID could affect that goal.
"I'm concerned about part of us is not wearing a mask, not being able to get ahold of this pandemic and then these small businesses suffering," Sen. Sean O'Brien says.
Sen. Sean O'Brien is only one of the two in favor of Gov. Mike DeWine's mask mandate. He also believes the best way to give Ohioans better access to affordable health care is protecting Medicaid Expansion while his opponent says it is all about providing more competition. They each have opposing views on systemic racism.
"If we were a racist country, we would never have elected an African American president like we did. I do not believe the USA is a racist country. I'm proud of Ohio and I'm proud of my country," says Sandra.
'I think racism exists and I think it's inherent but I think that by educating people, by being more together we can get rid of that," says Sen. Sean O'Brien.
This is a very purple district so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Back in 2016, Sean O'Brien won this race by 12 points. At the same time, President Donald Trump all three counties in the district.