Candidates speak at Tea Party forum

By Scott Halasz -

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two stories the Gazette will run from the candidates night.

XENIA — Candidates for various elected positions had a chance to win over some voters during a meet the candidates night in Xenia April 25 at Xenia Senior Center.

Sponsored by the Greene County Tea Party and held at the senior center, 16 candidates from seven races attended or had representatives speak in their place. Several others sent in letters.

One of the most hotly contested local races is in the Ohio House’s 73rd District, where incumbent Rick Perales is being challenged by Jocelyn Smith, who has made several sex-related allegations against Perales that made state-wide headlines.

The two stuck to the issues during the forum.

Perales, from Beavercreek, highlighted a pair of bills he has in the House, one that would address counterfeiting, which he called a “financial tool for the elicit drug underground circuit,” allowing criminals to get drugs into “our system.”

“We can’t do much about it,” he said.

Another bill will allow veterans access to veteran treatment courts if they can’t otherwise access one.

“I’m not up here telling you that I want to do this, I’d like to do this. It would be nice to do this,” Perales said. “I’m telling you that I am doing this. I’m working on your behalf.”

Smith, a Fairborn resident, said she decided to enter the race when Perales would not sponsor a pancreatic cancer awareness license plate in honor of her mother, who died from the disease before the plates came to fruition.

“If Rick Perales would have helped me she would have lived to see what we were able to get accomplished,” Smith said. “We need a candidate who is in office for the right reasons and will be a service to the community.”

Smith told the crowd she is pro-life and will fight until every Planned Parenthood is shut down in Ohio. She also said she is against the Commercial Activity Tax, which is what she called a “hidden tax on Ohio businesses that hinders economic growth.”

Three of the four candidates for county commission — incumbent Alan Anderson of Xenia and current County Treasurer Dick Gould, of Xenia Township, both Republicans, and Democrat Steve Bujenovic of Yellow Springs, spoke. Susan Lopez, also on the Democratic ticket, did not attend but sent in a letter that was read.

Bujenovic had a humorous take on the race.

“We have really good commissioners,” he said. “Alan, he’s done so many things, he probably deserves a break. Dick’s our treasurer isn’t he? We can’t do without a treasurer. Don’t you have a commitment to like two more years? Susan Lopez, I don’t see her around. Enough said on that. I’m the obvious choice right?”

On a more serious note, Bujenovic said that while the county is in good hands with the current commission, he brings a little “balance” to the group. He said as a doctor he has a little better handle on the opioid situation. He suggested a mobile treatment plan, where “we bring the treatment to them.”

Calling himself a conservative Democrat, Bujenovic said he will work across the aisle, citing his business experience as a managing partner in a large hospital.

In her letter, Lopez, who grew up in Fairborn, said she has worked for the county’s family and children first department and has the most knowledge of the county among all four candidates. She said treatment and prevention of opioid addition are her priorities, along with fiscal responsibility and transparency.

Anderson said Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the jobs it brings are a top priority, along with the airmen and retirees.

He listed several accomplishments including being a leader in eliminating the estate tax in Ohio and in reducing the real estate taxes in the county. He said he insisted that Clark State University build facilities in the county, which they did.

Anderson said he has been a part of 12 successful budgets, including during the downturn year of 2008 “as well as during good years.”

He said the county’s budget carryover of about $16 million on a $50 million budget is the general standard.

“My opponent thinks that this is too much,” Anderson said. “He may have forgotten that within an account balance at any point of time of $25 million, we have 2.5 million set aside for voting machines, we have five million for parks and trails new offices and garage, which are now about to fall down. We have five million for other infrastructure work that was put off over 2008 and thereafter. We need 50 to 60 million for new jail, much of which will be borrowed.”

Gould, who has been treasurer since 2011, said as part of his job he invests more than $130 million of the county’s money. He said he saw $700 million in receipts pass across his desk last year. Gould said he reviews every taxing authority’s budget, including the county, and serves on the county’s debt committee, which reviews every debt the county considers taking.

“I’m a financial expert,” he said, adding that he is one of the only county officials who can see both sides of the balance sheet.

Efficiency and fiscal responsibility are keys.

“We need to streamline all of our processes we do in the county, look for ways to operate more efficiently,” he said.

He said the county had a $24 million carryover as of the end of March and a $3 million reserve fund.

“That’s $27 million on a $50 million budget,” Gould said. “And it’s your money.”

He said the argument that the money is needed in case of a downturn “doesn’t hold water.”

“When revenues decrease, you don’t start spending your savings, you cut your expenses,” Gould said, adding that he called for a 1 mill real estate tax rollback instead of the half mill the commissioners agreed on.

By Scott Halasz