Canton Repository

October 30, 2006

Race for 18th district has national implications

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 in Republican hands.

Then came revelations tying him to an influence-peddling scandal, followed by the Heath Republican’s withdrawal of his re-election bid and then his guilty pleas 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 which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives.

Zack Space, Dover’s elected law director, 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.

Defaulted loan, experience, corruption, constituents

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. “And it didn’t. It just didn’t.”

Space maintains 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 former state representative and director of the Ohio Office of Appalachia, said her experiences 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.

Space, 53, 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,” he said. “They’ve placed the interests of the wealthiest and most-elite Americans above those of working families.”

TAX CUTS and technology

Padgett, 59, acknowledged 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 Ohio has lost manufacturing jobs.

But she supports the tax cuts and believes she could promote economic development by pushing for legislation to extend 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.

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.

IRAQ AND SOCIAL SECURITY

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,” she said. “I look at this as a war on terror.”

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

Padgett is more concerned than Space about projections that the Social Security trust fund will run out of money in 2042, requiring significant tax increases or benefit cuts.

“It ... 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 said he believes the concern has been exaggerated by the Bush administration, which wants to create private 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.”

IMMIGRATION and abortion

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

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

The candidates differ on abortion and stem cell research.

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

He nevertheless opposes what critics call “partial birth” abortion, and he backs requiring parents to be notified and 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 existing lines of the cells. She 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.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, 18TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Term of office: Two years

Salary: $165,200

ZACK SPACE

Age: 53

Address: Dover

Party: Democratic

Education: Law degree, Ohio State University Law School

Occupation: Dover law director, hotel developer

Family: Married, two children

Religion: Greek Orthodox

Political experience: Dover law director

Why are you running? “The first priority … is jobs. We have been hit especially hard by the dislocation of our economy and we intend to be a strong advocate for fair trade as opposed to free trade.”

JOY PADGETT

Age: 59

Address: Coshocton

Party: Republican

Education: B.S. in education, Kent State University

Occupation: State senator

Family: Married, one stepson

Religion: Roman Catholic

Political experience: State senator, 2004-present; unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006; state representative, 1993-1999

Why are you running? “I really do know how to meet constituent needs, and that is a primary duty. Also my reputation is one of being able to work with different coalitions and craft bipartisan legislation and turn that legislation into law.”