Four Democrats are vying for the seat of term-limited Democratic incumbent Dan Ramos in the 56th House District. Whichever candidate wins in May, he or she will square off in November against Republican Robert Weber, who is unopposed in the primary. Candidate Mark Ballard did not respond to multiple messages.
What makes you the best candidate for the position?
Joe Miller: I come from a working-class family that taught me the meaning of hard work and service to others. I care about what you have to say and want to work for you in Columbus. We need to create more living wage jobs, improve our schools and make public safety, the opioid addiction in particular, a top priority. As a family man, teacher and city councilman, my experience serving my family, the public education system, my church and my community, I know what it takes to find solutions, navigate complicated governmental agencies and legislation to get things done.
Education: United States Military Academy at West Point, 1995; bachelor's in environmental engineering University of Louisville, 1999; MBA in leadership and management, Ohio State University; Moritz College of Law, 2003, juris doctorate
Family: wife, Michaelene "Mickie" Weber; four children; two grandchildren
Job history: U.S. Army active duty 1991-2000, captain, armor (tank battalion); trial lawyer, 2003-current; Robert M. Weber Co. LLC; civil (non-criminal) trial practice specializing in plaintiff's personal injury law; more than 30 jury trials; numerous multimillion dollar settlements and jury verdicts, including the largest jury verdict ($27 million) ever against Greyhound Lines Inc. and largest of its kind ever in Ohio history, in 2016, on behalf of a catastrophically injured client who underwent more than 30 surgeries.
Claudia Olaes: I know what it's like not to be heard. I'm tired of years of inaction and silence from our political representatives. We need to break the stagnant status quo. As a young candidate, I bring my energy, empathy, commitment, creativity, and idealism. I'm focused, hard-working, full of grit, and I'm not afraid to take action and risks. I offer fresh ideas and out-of-the-box solutions to the growing problems here in my community. I'll always remember first lady Michelle Obama giving Oberlin's commencement address. Her words that stick with me are, "If you truly wish to carry on the Oberlin legacy of service and social justice, then you need to run to, and not away from, the noise."
Education: bachelor's degree from Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs
Family: engaged to Breanna Bock-Nielsen
Job history: project manager, Lorain County Port Authority; operations director for Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks; assistant to Chief of Corrections Geoff Stobart, Franklin County Sheriff's Office
Cory Shawver: My experience, as the only candidate who has dealt with state and federal legislation on a regular basis in my career, as well as the relationships I've built in both Lorain County and Columbus, make me the candidate best suited to represent the 56th District. In addition, the wide variety of experience - dealing with budgets, law enforcement, community revitalization, the land bank, economic development, and how to help the struggling individuals and families in our communities - I've gained from roles in my career gives me the perspective to be able to work on many different issues in our community.
Robert Weber: I am politely and respectfully confident that I am the best candidate because I possess real experience, a lifetime of service, and proven leadership beginning with enrolling at the U.S. Military Academy at the age of 18. After graduating from West Point, I served my country by leading combat arms soldiers as an armor (tanks) officer for five additional years of active duty service. Over the last 10-plus years, my trial practice has focused on serving and helping individual citizens of Lorain County. I also serve in the local community on the board of Goodwill Industries of Lorain County.
What is the biggest challenge facing the district and how would you address it?
Miller: For the past eight years, legislation coming out of the state House has been a direct assault on working families. The toxic legislation has schools, families and communities overburdened and underfunded. Working families have seen middle-class-wage jobs leave the state with no solutions to replace them, while both public and private sector unions have been attacked for bargaining for fair wages in the remaining jobs. Our children leave school in debt, disheartened and forced to leave the state for economic opportunities. I will work to reverse the race to the bottom and support schools, labor, economic revival and our local communities.
Education: Lorain High School graduate, 2012; associate degree, Lorain County Community College, 2012; bachelor's degree in economics, Morehouse College, 2015; expected to earn juris doctorate in law this spring from Mississippi College School of Law.
Education: Oberlin College, pre-med with a minor in art and politics; Oberlin High School, valedictorian and Robinson Scholar
Family: parents, Carm and Rowena; siblings, Ethan and Isabelle
Job history: co-founder of the Ethan88 Foundation: Let Music Move Us, a nonprofit organization inspired by Olaes' brother Ethan, "which raises awareness and support to important causes;" creator of the touring art exhibition titled, "His Ability: Autism Seen Through His Sisters' Eyes;" advocate for individuals with disabilities and their families.
Olaes: As I campaign door-to-door and listen, one of the largest issues facing Lorain County is the absence of effective and comprehensive public transportation. This directly affects economic development, the environment and access to education and health care. We must take a regional approach to resolve this problem. We need the state to provide funding that can be used to leverage and obtain millions in available federal dollars. We must also change Ohio's public policy to get onboard with financing public transportation. Other states realize its importance, and I will be a strong voice to bring Ohio to this realization and direct resources to fund the solution in Lorain County.
Shawver: The most important issue facing the 56th District is the need for more good-paying jobs. I would work to bring the local government fund dollars back to our communities to ensure that our children are getting a quality education in our public schools, to fund training for the high-paying jobs of tomorrow for our adults, to ensure that our safety forces are properly staffed and equipped, and that our roads are safe and new and our infrastructure system is strong. Having a well-educated, safe community with a solid infrastructure will help to give us the competitive edge to bring jobs to the district.
Education: bachelor's degree, Bowling Green State University; master's degree, Ashland University
Family: wife, Kelly Szalay; sons, Joseph and Jordan
Job history: teacher at Firelands High School; at-large councilman for Amherst.
Weber: The 56th District, and all of Lorain County, is facing many issues that need the attention of leadership. Local law enforcement, prosecution, and social services need the much-needed support of Ohio's lawmakers to help solve the drug and opioid epidemic that is destroying our local communities. Improvement and change in our elementary and secondary educational systems is needed so that Lorain County's young adults are better prepared for college and/or entering the workforce upon completing high school. Lastly, I believe in a bipartisan and cooperative approach to leadership as the major issues and concerns of Lorain County clearly transcend party politics.