Democrat Tom Jackson is challenging Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, for the state senate seat for District 24. Sen. Dolan was first elected to the seat in 2016 in a race against Emily Hagan.
District 24 includes Bentleyville, Chagrin Falls Village, Chagrin Falls Township, Glenwillow, Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Solon and other communities in Cuyahoga County.
Sen. Dolan, 55, earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Boston College and graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He is a partner at the law firm Thrasher, Dinsmore and Dolan. He also serves as vice president of 7th Avenue Properties, where he manages businesses and real estate properties.
“I’m running for re-election because I love the work and I love working with people and solving problems,” he said.
Mr. Jackson, 56, of Solon, earned his bachelor’s degree in education from the State University of New York, Oswego. He was an instructor and administrator at the Close Up Foundation and a manager at Progressive Insurance. He now serves as a risk manager for Leverity Insurance Group.
“I’m running because Ohio’s just not keeping up and I know that we can do better,” Mr. Jackson said. “We’re not making enough progress fast enough and in some cases we’re going backwards.”
The two candidates differ on a number of subjects including the what is known as the Hunting Valley amendment that Sen. Dolan inserted into the two-year state budget bill in July of 2019 at the last minute. The amendment would have cut property taxes for only Hunting Valley residents and would have resulted in a $2 million to $6 million annual revenue loss for the Orange City School District. Gov. DeWine vetoed the amendment.
“I will fight for my constituents,” Sen. Dolan said. “Not everything I do will be popular or understood.
“When residents came to me in Hunting Valley and they weren’t getting proper understanding of how a local school system was spending their tax dollars, I fought for them,” Sen. Dolan said. The Orange superintendent is communicating with Hunting Valley residents, he added.
Mr. Jackson said that the amendment was quietly slipped into the 3,000 page budget bill with no hearing or publicity. He called it “an obscene plot,” a phrase used by local media.
Sen. Dolan said that he fought hard to protect schools, provide infrastructure funding and authored legislation to keep the schools, government, businesses and elections operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this day and age, we need someone who acts in the best interest of public policy and not in partisan politics,” said Sen. Dolan, who also serves as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
He voted for House Bill 6 but said that he was not involved with the $61 million scandal surrounding the bill, led by Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford. Sen. Dolan said that HB 6 needs to be repealed and legislators should make Ohio attractive for alternative energy, including solar, thermal and wind.
To recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Dolan said that the healthcare system must be prepared to handle the coronavirus as well as normal operations. The public needs to be responsible by wearing masks and social distancing, he said, but businesses should be open.
Sen. Dolan also reacted to recent civil unrest and Black Lives Matter resurgence after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He said that with additional training and screening, officers will understand how to operate in a multicultural society. He said that legislators need to look at underlying issues that create racial tensions.
Regarding the EdChoice voucher program, Sen. Dolan said that he supports school choice and students should be eligible for vouchers by the family’s income. He added that the state should pay for the vouchers, not the school district. Sen. Dolan pointed out that he significantly reduced Gov. Mike DeWine’s funding cuts to area school districts during the early stages of the pandemic.
In regard to reproductive rights, Sen. Dolan said that he is pro-life with exceptions for rape and incest. He supports sex education and access to contraception.
Mr. Jackson said that he is open-minded and principled, which are necessary qualities for a good legislator. Mr. Jackson said that he has had successful business careers in the corporate, nonprofit and small business realm.
Mr. Jackson said that Rep. Householder’s illegal actions surrounding HB 6 should preclude him from serving as a state representative. Mr. Jackson also publicly called on Sen. Dolan to donate funds that he received from FirstEnergy and other companies named in the Department of Justice complaint. Sen. Dolan said that he is donating those campaign contributions to local charities. Mr. Jackson said that HB 6 should be repealed and legislators should restore energy efficiency standards that were stripped in HB 6.
To help the state recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Jackson said that he supports large-scale testing and contact tracing. Until the virus is contained and medical professionals know where the virus is, he said that the state’s recovery will be slowed.
Mr. Jackson also commented on recent civil unrest and racial tensions. He said that legislators need to examine inequities “across the spectrum,” including in healthcare and public education. He is the son of a police officer, he said, so he is acutely aware of what police officers face. Mr. Jackson said that frontline workers and first responders should be supported. Mental health services should be improved, he added, rather than putting that burden on the police force.
Regarding EdChoice, Mr. Jackson said that he is not in favor of expanding the voucher program. If the state does want to expand it, he said that the state should fund it, not local school districts.
“I am not in favor of expanding [vouchers] at this point,” he said. “We need to reinvest in public education.
He also spoke on reproductive rights. He said that he is pro-choice and women should be treated as equal citizens will full agency over all aspects of their healthcare, without interference from the state.