About 20 people were on hand at the Hi-Tech Center in Hillsboro Monday evening as Ohio gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Jon Husted made a campaign stop at a Highland County Tea Party Meeting, where he highlighted personal and professional accomplishments and shared his vision for the future of Ohio.
The candidate is one of four Republicans seeking the party nomination for Ohio governor in the 2018 Republican primary, including Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Representative Jim Renacci.
Husted said he is a Christian, conservative and Republican, “in that order,” supports tax cuts and a balanced budget, and has received support from the National Rifle Association.
Husted added that if he is elected, “Ohio will not be a sanctuary state and we will not tolerate sanctuary cities.”
During his hour-long visit, Husted shared his life story with Tea Party members, and how he came into state politics after playing college football at the University of Dayton.
Husted said his adoptive parents instilled traditional conservative values in him for most of his young life, and taught him the value of hard work and determination, which he said he has put into practice throughout his career.
Husted said he at one point turned down a coaching job at the University of Toledo in favor of running a local political campaign, and was later elected as a state representative after working for a Montgomery County Commissioner for a number of years.
Husted has also served as speaker of the Ohio House.
According to Husted, when he took office as secretary of state in 2011, he had to battle post-recession fiscal tangles to make the office more business-friendly. Husted touted financial, administrative and staff reconfigurations that he said have reduced the office’s fiscal footprint and made it more efficient.
As a Republican, Husted said he wants to lead Ohio with conservative values and help people who are “working harder and falling behind,” – the same demographic Donald Trump championed while running for president, Husted said.
During his speech, Husted spoke briefly on the opiate epidemic, which he described as a “crisis of hope,” due to a lack of employment around the state.
When asked by The Times-Gazette what policies he has in mind to fight the opiate crisis, Husted offered few specifics but said he has observed opiate addiction focused in areas with economic challenges and fewer employment opportunities, so he feels efforts to curb unemployment around the state would be a step in the right direction.
Husted also said over-prescription has contributed to the drug problem, and the surge of opioids from other countries such as Mexico should be stopped by securing U.S. borders.
More recovery and treatment options, specifically faith-based facilities, would also go a long way toward solving the problem, Husted said.
Heather Gibson, who serves as president of both the Highland County Tea Party and the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition, asked Husted if he has a written plan to combat the opiate epidemic, and Husted said his staff will create plans for the opiate epidemic and other important issues.
After a brief discussion between Husted and Gibson regarding “pain management clinics,” or clinics that offer prescription medication to combat withdrawal symptoms, Husted said he would like to have further dialogue with Gibson to learn more about the issue.
Gibson also asked Husted what plans he has in place to combat human trafficking in Ohio, and Husted said curbing the opioid epidemic will make authorities “better prepared” to address the issue.
Alex Butler, a local real estate agent who ran for county commissioner last year, asked if Husted could speak to Highland County’s challenges as a rural county, such as its lack of interstate access and reliance on manufacturing.
Husted said rural areas facing such challenges should evaluate local resources and adapt to meet future demands, such as lithium batteries for cars, to become more competitive in manufacturing.
Fayette County resident Jim Rosendahl, who has been involved in public education for a number of years, asked Husted how he feels about testing in schools, and Husted said Ohio needs substantial education reform with an emphasis on stronger vocational training programs.
Husted said the state needs to “end high school as we know it,” and he envisions an education system where all students graduate from high school ready to seamlessly begin careers or pursue higher education.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.