Times Reporter

October 29, 2006

Space sees need for change; Padgett stresses experience

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service


WASHINGTON – Two years ago, no one would have guessed that then-Rep. Bob Ney, a rising star in Congress, would have any trouble keeping the 18th Congressional District seat in Republican hands.

Then came revelations tying him to an influence-peddling scandal, followed over the summer by the Heath Republican’s withdrawal of his re-election bid and then his acknowledgment that he participated in a criminal conspiracy.

As a result, the race to succeed the six-term lawmaker has become one of the most competitive in the nation and could help determine whether Republicans retain control of the House or yield power to Democrats.

Zack Space, a Dover resident who serves as his city’s elected law director, or city attorney, initially campaigned against Ney after winning the Democratic nomination.

After Ney dropped out, Space switched his focus to state Sen. Joy Padgett, R-Coshocton, who won a special election Sept. 14 to replace Ney on the ballot.

Padgett’s declaration of bankruptcy in 2005, arising from the failure of an office supply company she and her husband owned, and their default on a $737,000 government loan, quickly became an issue.

In an interview for this story, she denied mismanagement and blamed the business failure on competition from a Wal-Mart store and the loss of major customers.

“Both my husband and I just believed that it would get better,” she said of the failing business. “And it didn’t. It just didn’t.”

Space argues that his five years as Dover law director prepare him to serve the largely rural, 16-county district that stretches from Tuscarawas and Carroll counties southwest to Jackson County.

“I’ve been a very proactive law director,” he said. “It’s given me a real good glimpse of what small town government should do for its people.”

Padgett, a state senator since 2004 and previously a state representative and director of the Ohio Office of Appalachia, said the experiences have taught her how to work with other legislators to get bills passed and provide service to constituents.

“I really do know how to meet constituent needs and that is a primary duty,” said Padgett, who was a teacher before entering politics.

Space, 53, has stressed a need for change at a time when Republicans have been criticized for corruption scandals in Ohio and Washington.

“The most stark and obvious problem of this Congress and this administration is that they have catered to special interests at every turn,” he said. “They’ve placed the interests of the wealthiest and most elite Americans above those of working families.”

Padgett, 59, acknowledges that a series of tax cuts championed by President Bush and Republicans in Congress has not helped residents of the 18th District as much as some others because of the loss of manufacturing jobs in Ohio.

But she still supports the tax cuts and believes she could promote economic development in the district by pushing for legislation that would require the extension of high-speed Internet and wireless service to rural areas.

“If we are to grow the rural areas of America we must provide these basic tools,” she said. “Otherwise it gets left further and further behind.”

Space says he favors tax cuts that benefit the middle class, as opposed to the recent tax reductions that he said favor “people who need help the least.”

Space lists his priorities as pushing for fair trade and promoting clean coal-burning technology and the production of ethanol in the district.

He said he would have voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement and similar trade pacts.

Padgett also favors development of alternative energy and said she already has been involved in efforts to bring two ethanol plants to the district.

She also pledged to work with Appalachian organizations to promote economic development in poor areas of the district.

The Iraq war divides the candidates. Padgett said she supports the president’s policy.

“There’s never been a time in which wars are won easily, they just are not,” she said. “I do know that I look at this as a war on terror.”

Space, a critic of the administration’s prosecution of the war, has called for Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He advocates a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq based on specific events, such as “the buildup of the Iraqi security forces and their own self-sufficiency.”

Padgett is more concerned than Space about projections that, based on demographic trends, the Social Security trust fund will run out of money in 2042, requiring significant tax increases or benefit cuts to restore the system to solvency.

“It is a very serious issue and must be addressed in the near future,” she said.

Padgett, who opposes cutting Social Security benefits, said she doesn’t know how to solve the problem but believes it should be addressed.

Space dismisses such concerns, which he believes have been exaggerated by the Bush administration, which has advocated the creation of voluntary personal accounts within the Social Security system that advocates say could earn higher returns.

“I’m adamantly opposed to privatization of Social Security,” he said. “The system is going to be stable, and it’s going to work for decades to come.”

Both candidates support efforts to prevent illegal immigration, but Padgett takes a more aggressive line on it.

“I believe illegal is illegal,” she said. “I believe that for far too many years we have been complacent about illegal immigration.”

The candidates differ on abortion and stem cell research.

Padgett describes herself as a “pro-lifer” who opposes abortion, while Space believes abortion should remain legal.

Space nevertheless opposes what critics call “partial birth” abortion, and he backs requiring parents to be notified and to give their consent before their minor child has an abortion.

A strong advocate of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, Space said he has a 15-year-old son who suffers from diabetes. He said the research “offers the only meaningful hope for a cure.”

Padgett supports Bush’s ban on such stem-cell research, except for studies on a number of existing lines of the cells. Padgett agrees with the president that the destruction of a human embryo that accompanies the experiments is wrong.

Both candidates describe themselves as strong defenders of the Second Amendment and oppose further restrictions on gun ownership.