Rep. Andy Thompson believes a ballot boost from controversial GOP nominee Donald Trump will help lift him to victory in his race against Democrat Ginny Favede in a competitive district in the heart of Ohio’s coal country.
But Ms. Favede, the president of the Belmont County Board of Commissioners who is seeking to best the Marietta Republican, said she believes the constituents of the 95th House District will be more judicious in their choice at the polls.
“I would like to think the people of the 95th District have enough sense they are looking at candidates and they are looking at what’s best for their area, that they’re not just voting straight ticket,” Ms. Favede said in an interview.
“I’ve been around for a long time so I have a reputation of being committed to people, of being honest and hardworking, and I think that in my race that’s what’s going to matter – that it’s about the person.”
House Democrats are counting on Mr. Trump’s status at the top of the ticket to help them wrest several seats from the GOP this fall. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, August 12, 2016)
But that outcome could be reversed in Appalachian and coal-heavy districts like the 95th House District, with Mr. Trump expected to perform well in the Ohio “chinstrap” counties. The district is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
Not helping Ms. Clinton in those areas are remarks like those she made in Columbus in March that her clean energy policies would put miners and coal companies “out of business.” (See Gongwer Ohio Report, March 14, 2016)
In addition to his accomplishments thus far in office, Rep. Thompson’s counting on comments like those and Mr. Trump’s popularity in the district, which the businessman won in the Ohio primary, to buoy him to victory.
“Trump is having a huge impact. There is a huge wave passing through eastern and southeastern Ohio,” Rep. Thompson said. “It’s an anti-establishment kind of year and even though I’m in office I’m kind of perceived as anti-establishment myself because I buck the trend sometimes.”
Opposition to raising of the oil and gas severance tax, Medicaid expansion and the Youngstown schools takeover are all stances Rep. Thompson cites as examples of his willingness to vote his conscience.
But Ms. Favede believes her ground-level effort across the five-county district will return the district to Democratic hands; the district hasn’t been held by a Democrat since it was redrawn prior to the 2012 election.
In her eighth year as a Belmont County commissioner, Ms. Favede describes herself as a consensus builder who’s helped boost Belmont County and the rest of the Wheeling Metropolitan Statistical Area to its status as the fifth fastest growing economy in the nation according to U.S. Department of Commerce data.
“I know economic development,” Ms. Favede said. “I’ve been doing it here locally for 13 years. I have the knowledge and the connections to make it a reality going forward.”
But she said local governments are struggling financially after cuts in recent years to local funding and that citizens of shale areas are frustrated at losing dollars through oil and gas severance taxes – dollars that she said should be used for local infrastructure.
Ms. Favede sees an opportunity for continued growth in the region and the state thanks to the forthcoming ethane cracker plant set to be finalized in Belmont County by Thai chemical company PTT Global early next year, she said. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, May 6, 2016)
“I see that as a huge opportunity with myself in place to work on behalf of the area to recruit manufacturing to come into this area for what we refer to as the downstream of the ethane cracker,” she said.
“We have the labor force, we have the land, and we have transportation routes…in order for it to benefit not only my area and the region but the entire state of Ohio. These are the potential jobs our state has needed for two decades.”
Rep. Thompson said he has “unfished business” in the Statehouse. He wants the region to play a more important role in the statewide conversation on energy and plans to advocate for more local support in the face of the opioid epidemic.
He lists repealing the Common Core state standards and pending bills that may not pass during the upcoming lame duck session – like his bill (HB 214) to ensure all types of piping materials are considered for public improvement projects – as priorities if reelected.
Rep. Thompson was first elected in 2010 to what was then the 93rd House District. In subsequent elections he defeated Democrat challenger Charlie Daniels in 2012 and 2014 for the 95th District by 5.6 points and 13.9 points respectively. He said if reelected he’ll continue to be a voice for the people of his district.
“Principle matters to me, taking on the establishment when necessary,” he said. “We’re probably an underdog part of the state and that requires that I be assertive, stand up for principles….I will work with whoever I need to to get things accomplished and that means I’m not afraid to ruffle feathers.”
Rep. Thompson said his strong name recognition in the district will be an asset come Election Day. And Ms. Favede said she’s spent the last nine months – and the last 23,000 miles on her car – knocking on more than 9,000 doors across the district.
“This is my fifth election,” she said. “I have always knocked on doors. It has always been well received. I think at the end of the day the people treasure their vote and appreciate anyone who’s willing to knock on their door and ask for it. I’ve always made it personal because for me it is personal.”