Republican Matt Dolan and Democrat Emily Hagan will be vying for the Ohio Senate District 24 seat during the Nov. 8 general election.
The top vote getter will replace Republican Tom Patton, who is not seeking re-election due to term limits.
The district encompasses 28 communities, including Chagrin Falls Village, Chagrin Falls Township, Gates Mills, Glenwillow, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills and Solon.
Both Mr. Dolan of Chagrin Falls and Mrs. Hagan of Rocky River said their job experience will help them work across the political aisle to better serve residents.
Mr. Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Indians, is a partner at the law firm Thrasher, Dinsmore and Dolan. He also served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 2005 to 2009. He said his combination of public sector, private sector and community experience make him the right choice.
His goals, if elected, include taking steps to grow the economy, helping the education system meet the needs of employers and students, and protecting natural resources like Lake Erie.
“I’ve been a lawyer for 27 years, I’ve been involved in several businesses through my family so I know what it takes to operate a business,” he said. “I know the stresses and advantages that you have with good or bad policy. When I was the finance chairman (of the Ohio House of Representatives) I passed a budget that was unanimously voted upon, so I can work well with both sides.”
Mrs. Hagan, who works as an attorney for Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael P. Donnelly, said part of her job is to mediate cases, which requires bridging the gap between two parties that don’t see eye to eye. This experience would be beneficial at the state level, she said.
She added that she would bring better balance to the state senate, which now has 10 Democrats, 23 Republicans and only seven women. Worker’s rights and “misguided funding” for local schools and local governments are important issues she wants to tackle.
“I think that I can bring a voice to the legislature that is being overlooked in our current climate in terms of all of those issues,” she said. “Our legislature right now is very unbalanced. When that happens, it means they (Republicans) have a super majority and don’t have to listen to anybody or do anything that they don’t deem important. As a result, a lot of things are getting overlooked.”
Both candidates said they recognize the need for improving public education and the system that funds schools.
Mrs. Hagan said redirecting money from charter schools to public schools would be helpful. “That will free up millions of dollars every year when we stop putting taxpayer money into failing charter schools because they’re not working for our kids.”
Mr. Dolan said that through the state budget he will focus on getting local schools more money and will work to give these schools more flexibility in terms of setting curriculums and relief from some standardized tests.
“We still need to find measures and hold our schools to a high standard, but I’m comfortable that the schools in the 24th District, given their track record,” he said, “could produce high-quality education and be free from the tests that exist now.”
Mr. Dolan also said he wants to work to get municipalities more revenue that was lost when state lawmakers reduced the amount of local government funds going back to townships and other municipalities. He pointed out that all funds, whether they are paid to the county, state or local municipalities are paid for by taxpaying residents.
“We shouldn’t have an us-against-them attitude. We’ve got to get back to a state and local government partnership,” he said.
One way would be implementing a set percentage of the state’s budget to go to local government, similar to what was put in place when he served in the legislature, he said.
“As the state’s fortunes rose, so did the distribution to the local government. And as the state went through hard times and had to tighten its belt, so too should the local governments,” he said. “My goal would be to go back to putting a percentage of the local government fund as it relates to the state budget. That’s a partnership and that’s a respect to the taxpayer as well.”
Mrs. Hagan said one way to get money to local governments would be through tapping into the state’s “rainy day fund.”
“Right now we’re looking at a $2 billion surplus. When we have all of that money in the fund and we have all of these communities going back and taxing their (residents) unnecessarily, that’s a huge issue,” she said.
People in the local communities are paying taxes that go to Columbus, she said. Instead of sending a good portion back to local communities, she said, state lawmakers are keeping more dollars for their rainy day fund. “It’s a tax shift and we really need to address that because it’s too burdensome.”
Family leave is another issue Mrs. Hagan identified. Some local communities have passed family leave legislation, she explained, but the issue should be addressed at the state level. This could help increase employer retention and reduce the number of people who are forced to quit their jobs if they need to take time off to care for a sick parent or a new baby, she added.
Mr. Dolan said he favors strengthening vocational and post-secondary education.
“We really have to make sure that the value of our higher education exceeds the cost and right now, I don’t know that we could say that as a blanket statement,” he said. That would take long-term planning and recognizing that not everyone needs a four-year university degree, he said.
“We can get vocational training maybe back into the high schools,” he said, “and maybe more importantly have more post-secondary school vocational training because those jobs are always going to be needed.”