Less than a month before the Nov. 4 general election, local candidates did their best Tuesday night to help voters make up their minds.
Candidates in contested races laid out their positions during a Erie County Chamber of Commerce forum at Sandusky High School that lasted about two hours.
The incumbent clerk of courts, Barbara Johnson, is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Stephen Schaeffer.
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Johnson said she is the best-qualified candidate because she has five terms of experience, and said she has a track record of providing service.
"We are people oriented, and we look to you to give you service," she said.
Schaeffer said Johnson has neglected to collect $500,000 to $1 million of overdue fines and costs, and said he'll begin catching up immediately if he's elected.
He said Johnson has failed to put her office records online, as many other court systems have, and asked why the Erie County auditor has an "excellent" Web page and the court clerk's office doesn't.
The two candidates for the 80th House district, Democrat Dennis Murray Jr. and Republican Ed Enderle, are fighting for the allegiance of Erie and Ottawa County voters.
The two differed on several issues.
Enderle called for teaching both evolution and creationism in public schools.
"My dad always said, you give people both sides of the story," he said.
Murray said only evolution should be taught in science classes.
"There is a place for theology and there is a place for science," he said. "I support science."
The candidates also had different positions on State Issue 5, which would limit the interest rates for the short-term loans offered by the payday lending industry.
Enderle told the crowd he saw both sides of the issue and said, "I'm going to let you guys make the decision."
Murray said the "outrageous fees" take advantage of people and dismissed the payday lending industry's contention that keeping the new law will take away thousands of jobs.
"Those are jobs that we don't want," he said.
The Democratic candidate for the Ohio Senate District 2 race, Jackie Brown, said she's running because she understands the struggles of ordinary people. Brown said her family has endured three job layoffs, and no one bothered to tell her state funds were available for job training.
Brown said her mother-in-law, fighting breast cancer, could not afford food or her utility bills because her medication costs were so high.
The incumbent, Republican Mark Wagoner, said his record shows he cares about his constituents. He said he helped pass a jobs package, supported the Third Frontier program to encourage alternative energy jobs and helped to pass the Great Lakes compact to keep Lake Erie water from being diverted to other areas of the U.S.
Wagoner said that because of his willingness to meet with companies considering new locations in his district, he's been asked to meet with companies by local economic development groups.
"I am more than willing to meet with anybody anytime," he said.
The four candidates for county commissioner said they all will work to address jail overcrowding in Erie County.
Tom Ferrell said the commissioners gave judges a deadline to establish an electronic monitoring program, and "they failed. That ball is still in their court."
"Your are the bosses of those judges. Give them a call. Tell them you want the program started," he said.
His opponent in the race, Republican Mike Printy, said that community safety has to be a serious goal for commissioners. That means the county must find a way to address jail overcrowding.
Republican Joe Hayberger said moving the ankle bracelet program forward and freeing up deputies by using video for court hearings has proved to be difficult. He said he'll work with the sheriff to make progress.
Pat Shenigo, a Democrat running against Hayberger, said he is disappointed the electronic monitoring program has not gone forward, as it could free up 35-40 jail beds. He said he believes a building can be found in the community to house an alternative sentencing facility.
WANT TO WATCH?
The candidate forum at Sandusky High School was taped. Beginning Oct. 15, it will be rebroadcast noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, 8-10 p.m. Thursday and 7-9 p.m. Friday on Buckeye CableSystem channel 81.