Drew Hastings said Wednesday that in addition to his appreciation for his wife and for those who volunteered to help with his campaign, the biggest thing he has learned through his re-election bid is humility.
On the heels of a victory that saw him defeat Democratic challenger Pam Limes by a 59 to 41 percent margin to earn another four years as Hillsboro mayor, Hastings said driving around town during the weeks leading up to Election Day made him reflect on the trust his supporters have placed in him.
“My biggest takeaway was what a humbling experience it is,” said Hastings. “I was driving up the street the other day and looked over, and a guy had my sign in his yard. I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me. But he believes enough in me to put a sign in his yard and tell the world that he supports me. That, to me, is very humbling, and it was repeated over and over.”
He said he is honored by “people I don’t even know, but who believe in what I’m doing and what our team is doing and voted for that.”
Hastings had what he described as a “skeletal” campaign crew, mentioning young volunteer Aaron Brown, who was “very energetic,” along with council member Tracy Aranyos, whom he described as “a huge cheerleader for the campaign.”
Hastings credited council member Dick Donley and his wife, former county clerk of courts Paulette Donley, with being “invaluable to this effort.” He added, “They have a lot of experience in campaigns.”
He thanked the Highland County Republican Party and its chairwoman, Kay Ayres, along with longtime political and government veteran Sam Stratman, whom Hastings called “a great political observer.” He said that after a campaign which saw Hastings targeted by numerous attacks – not necessarily from Limes, he said, but from other opponents, including on social media platforms – Stratman gave him good advice when the results came in.
“He said, ‘Don’t be a sore winner.’ I’m glad he reminded me of that,” said Hastings.
Hastings also thanked Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger, who – after reading that the state Democratic Party had given Limes a $5,000 contribution and provided Limes with “training, polling and special webinars,” according to local Democratic Party chair Dinah Phillips – arranged for a group of young Republicans to come to town to help Hastings with his final weekend door-to-door campaign.
“Cliff kind of swooped down in the final days to help us lock this up,” said Hastings.
In the end, Hastings’ victory was similar to his win four years ago. In 2011, he won 1,008 votes, and this year garnered 1,027 in unofficial totals.
Four years ago, Hastings’ opponent, independent candidate John Levo, won 614 votes. On Tuesday, Limes received just 91 more votes than Levo, totaling 705, despite raising more than $13,000 for her campaign. There are a few provisional and absentee ballots that will be added to the final tally for both candidates.
Limes could not immediately be reached Wednesday, but her campaign manager, former Hillsboro Mayor Betty Bishop, said she had no regrets and would not change the campaign’s strategy.
“We hit every door at least three times,” said Bishop, adding that Limes ran a positive campaign and gave voters a choice. She said she stood by Limes’ decision not to agree to a debate with Hastings. She said debates have become “clown activities,” and advised Limes against doing them, a decision with which Limes readily agreed, said Bishop.
Bishop praised Limes as a candidate and a person, and said that while she knew Limes previously, she has grown to appreciate her more in recent months.
Bishop said that despite comments to the contrary, the opposition to Hastings is not based on hate or animosity.
“It’s hard to hate someone who you pray for every day,” said Bishop. “I pray for Hillsboro every day.”
She said that issues which Limes brought forward may not be recognized by voters today, “but they will,” she predicted.
Hastings said that his wife, Taryn, was his most important ally and asset during the campaign.
“I really saw the importance of the role a spouse can play,” said Hastings. “She’s very involved in her church, in senior issues, in youth activities, and her just being visible, I think, helped people see me as more human, a guy who actually has a wife and family. She stood by my side and was very helpful in the campaign.”
Hastings said his re-election and the certainty it brings for the next few years already began paying off Wednesday morning.
“People have already stopped me and said, hey, now I’m going forward with that project or those building improvements,” said Hastings. “They feel comfortable about continuing to invest in Hillsboro.”
Hastings said that the moves he made in his first term, including the controversial decision to disband the city’s fire department in favor of a contract with the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, brought criticism from some quarters but support from most voters, based on Tuesday’s returns.
“I’m glad it was by a wide margin,” said Hastings. “The margin we did absolutely puts the negative faction in perspective.”
Hastings said he will unveil an administrative initiative for his second term at the November meeting of Hillsboro City Council on Monday.
“We’ve got some exciting things coming up,” he said, adding, “exciting and controversial, of course.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.