Having represented District 76 in the Ohio House of Representatives since just last year, Rep. Diane Grendell said resident-driven policies will help her succeed at the polls on Nov. 3, despite recent controversies.
“The only thing I care about is helping the people of my district,” said Rep Grendell, R-Chester. “I have the background in medicine, in business as well as in the legislature to help them out, which I do. I must get 100 calls almost every day.”
She was appointed to the seat in May of 2019 after Republican Rep. Sarah LaTourette stepped down to take a position as the executive director of Ohio Family and Children First. Rep. Grendell previously served in the Ohio House from 1993 to 2000.
Running against Rep. Grendell is Democrat Garrett Westhoven of Chester who is a senior web software engineer at Dealer Tire in Cleveland. He said his engineering mindset to determine the best solutions to problems using data would benefit residents.
“Is a certain policy working, what can we do to make this policy better, what is the data behind that?” he said. “You need to make sure you get expert testimony, that’s the way I think we should be thinking about things. We’re looking at a $60-million bribery scandal coming from FirstEnergy. That was legislation and policy drafted not by data and analytics but by giant corporate lobbyists.”
When former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested in July as part of said bribery scandal, Rep. Grendell said in a written statement that she learned of the allegations against him with a “heavy heart.” She did not vote to remove Rep. Householder from his leadership position on July 30 saying she was stuck in traffic. She later voted to table a motion that would have removed Householder from the General Assembly.
Rep. Grendell said she received no campaign funds from Rep. Householder and introduced House Bill 762, to remove “dark” money in Ohio by requiring nonprofit organizations to disclose donations to political entities.
“It’s not the bill that is the issue, it’s the taint of the process,” Rep. Grendell said. “And this [bill] would stop any taint. This is really good for the state of Ohio, if people are concerned about dark money.”
Mr. Westhoven proposed another solution to the issue of untraceable funds, one that would hold legislators accountable instead of donors.
“My opponent is someone who, for the primary, got half a million dollars from the Ohio Republican Party, which she got through [Rep.] Householder,” he said. “So her money is legally clean but looks really shady. The best answer is that, at a federal level, we need a congress to set campaign spending limits so that money does not equal speech.”
Rep. Grendell recently introduced the Restore Ohio Now bill that addresses steps to end recent orders by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The legislature has the power to end the pandemic because the governor doesn’t have the authority,” Rep. Grendell explained. “I believe the latest statistics that I got from ODH, in Geauga we’ve had no hospitalizations. We had one in August and no deaths in September and they haven’t had people in Geauga hospitals for over five weeks.”
Data from the Ohio Department of Health during the period referenced by Rep. Grendell shows that there were four hospitalizations in Geauga and three COVID-caused deaths in August.
Mr. Westhoven said that data-driven policy can help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think at the federal level you can see right now, you have the director of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] who is testifying before Congress saying the mask is probably the most effective thing we can do right now, would probably be more effective than the vaccine,” he said.
“And then the president clearly ignoring science and medical data, contradicting him in a press conference hours later. From that perspective, the data is being ignored. If we think about data and how to collectively approach this problem, it’s not that hard of a problem to solve,” he said.
He said that lesson carries over into environmental concerns, which have only gotten worse lately as evidenced by the wildfires raging on the West Coast. He pointed to House Bill 6, a piece of Ohio legislation that props up the coal industry, which he called one of the worst energy bills of the century.
Mr. Westhoven said Ohio could create more jobs and bring new revenue and industry into the state by pursuing clean energy manufacturers, making the Buckeye State a leader in new technology.
“Instead, they turned around and clung desperately to industries that, no longer matter how much we try and support the coal industry, the world is collectively moving on from coal,” he said. “We could be looking at the science and saying, what can we do to incentivize this technology and for those who are going to lose their jobs, what can you do to make sure they have jobs in the new industry.’
Rep. Grendell, who voted in favor of HB 6 when it was introduced last year, said that she’s helped the environment during her time in office by organizing a team of volunteers, including trustees and Boy Scouts, to remove 400 tires from the Grand River.
“What would be dirty?” she asked in response to a question about clean energy sources. “Coal burning? Even with the towers that they have? They have the huge chimneys with scrubbers in them. And they’re using cleaner coal, but we should always pursue any energy source that’s clean.”
Rep. Grendell said that she’s opposed to mail-in voting because it can be dangerous, with too high of a potential for committing fraud. “I’m getting reports that people have died and they’re somehow mailing in their votes,” she said.
Even though he prefers to vote in person out of a sense of patriotic duty, Mr. Westhoven said he is a fan of the remote approach to voting this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s completely secure, it might even be more secure [than in-person voting],” he said of mail-in ballots. “In the state of Ohio, if you put in a mail-in application, you have a unique ID tied to you that you can see where that has been processed. Your vote is still anonymous, that ID is not tied to your vote. It’s a completely secure system, we’ve been using it for years.”
Rep. Grendell served on the Ohio Eleventh District Court of Appeals from 2000 to 2019 and was a state representative for 68th District from 1992 to 2000. She holds both law and nursing degrees.
Mr. Westhoven worked as a senior software developer at WayFair in Boston, a lead developer at Next Jump that improves company-employee relations and a technical producer at ESPN. A native of Suffield, Connecticut, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2004 with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and music.