Veteran, newcomer face off in 58th

YOUNGSTOWN — It’s experience versus change in the Ohio House of Representatives’ 58th District contest between two-term incumbent Michele Lepore-Hagan and political novice and businessman David Simon, both of Youngstown.

Although Simon is a relative unknown, he said that may work to his advantage and that the change dynamic of the 2016 presidential election cycle will carry over to his race.

“Let’s not consider experience in this area,” Simon said. “When people ask me who I’m running against, 98 percent of them say I’ve got their vote.”

But Lepore-Hagan said the Hagan name, prominent in Youngstown politics for decades, will not work against her.

“I bring a different perspective,” said Lepore-Hagan. “I’m running as myself and as a woman. I’m a different person.”

Lepore-Hagan said her husband Bob’s — a former state representative and senator — female colleagues at the Statehouse were persistent in asking her to run. She said she sees evidence every day that this is truly the “year of the woman.”

“I really do see it with young and elderly women,” said Lepore-Hagan, adding that women learn from an early age to compromise and to share opinions.

While Simon is a newcomer to elective politics, he is no stranger to trying to make his hometown a better place.

“I’ve been an advocate for the community for 35 years,” said Simon. Simon said he has worked to improve neighborhoods by cleaning up and planting flowers, working with the Easter Seals for nine years and starting a northside coalition.

One of his main achievements was to help establish a community entertainment district in downtown Youngstown, similar to those in downtown Warren and in the Short North neighborhood of Columbus. The designation allows a limited number of establishments to acquire liquor licenses to sell alcohol at events downtown. Simon said the designation will help transform downtown Youngstown. “I was tired of seeing my town look like a third world country,” Simon said.

Simon said two issues are among the most important to him: releasing the state’s nearly $2.7 billion rainy day fund and sending it back to property owners and changing the way the state distributes fuel tax income to counties. Simon would like to see the revenue sent to each county based on the miles of road in each county. Currently, the state gives each county an equal amount of money.

Lepore-Hagan is currently working to crack down on predatory land contracts. Those who sign such contracts may not know that back taxes are owed on the property, and that they must correct code violations and pay fines as part of the contract. To that end, Lepore-Hagan introduced House Bill 368, the Fair Lending Through Land Contracts Act that would clearly spell out the seller’s and buyer’s obligations, makes the seller responsible for taxes and assessments against the property and prohibits the seller from holding a mortgage on the property when executing the contract.

Lepore-Hagan is also concerned about the cuts to local government funds during Republican Gov. John Kasich’s two terms in office.

“Communities have to put issues on the ballot because they can’t fund safety services,” said Lepore-Hagan. “We have to make sure we repair our crumbling bridges and roads.”

Simon is sole owner of SEECC LLC, which provides mold inspections, indoor air quality testing and remediation. Lepore-Hagan formerly served as director of the performing arts series at Youngstown State University.