The Tribune Chronicle Editorial Board endorses Tom Letson and Roger Peterson in their respective primaries for 64th District state representative.
Letson is serving his third term. He faces challenges from Sheila Calko and David C. Cook. All are Warren residents.
The number of challengers in this race - three Republican candidates are running, too - probably stems partly from Letson's personal issues. With Letson having met his problem with alcohol head-on, voters should stick with political issues.
One of Letson's recent political successes is passing a bill that recognizes the suffering involved with macular degeneration. The recognition will help advocates for the blind generate more support for preventive measures, such as public service announcements and other ways to heighten awareness and educate people.
Another recent Letson accomplishment is passing a bill that designates a person as a witness the moment a crime occurs rather than after a prosecutor files charges. This means that people receive legal protection immediately, which should reduce incidents of intimidation and other dangers.
On Letson's agenda, if he receives another term, are tax credits. Pointing out that a tax credit for one person or business creates a corresponding burden on another person or business, Letson is calling for a review of Ohio's $7.5 billion in tax credits in an effort to eliminate those that fail to help everybody. One that helps everybody, he cited as an example, is the property owners' homestead tax exemption.
Another agenda item for Letson is helping rural communities secure money for infrastructure damaged by the oil and natural gas industry.
A chief complaint against Letson is that he doesn't focus enough on local issues. But we're not seeing his opponents focus on local issues, either.
In fact, Calko and Cook support a proposed moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas in the Utica Shale. This would stand in the way of what is potentially the largest economic boost the 64th District has seen since the onset of the steel industry a century ago.
Peterson seeks the Republican nomination against Randy Law and Albert J. Haberstroh Jr.
Law had a successful term as the 64th District representative in 2005 and 2006. Republicans coveted a seat in such a Democratic stronghold, so the political favors from Columbus began pouring in the moment it was clear in 2004 that Law was a viable candidate.
One reason for a crowded Republican field this year isn't so much Letson's personal issues as it is the district's new shape that has it extended much further north. This means more rural, conservative voters.
On top of that, perhaps the two largest issues for all of Trumbull County are shale drilling and septic systems, both playing out in rural parts rather than in the urban centers.
Therefore, Peterson, of North Bloomfield, and not Law, of Warren, may stand the best chance of challenging Letson and, in turn, receiving support from Columbus.
Peterson lists as his No. 1 issue EPA reform in terms of how it impacts the Trumbull County Health Department and a consent decree that governs how Trumbull property owners must deal with their septic systems.
Peterson lists shale drilling as his No. 2 issue. He sees the need to address Ohio's deficient severance tax on the oil and gas industry to protect infrastructure. He does not advocate for a moratorium on fracking.
Haberstroh, who lost to Letson in 2010, doesn't have enough specific ideas regarding issues that directly impact Trumbull residents.
We have little doubt that Law is capable of again serving the district well. However, the issues and geography have changed, leaving Peterson in a better position to challenge Letson and serve constituents.