Eleven candidates are running in the Republican primary Aug. 3 for the chance to represent Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. (A 12th candidate, Brian Stewart, filed to run but later unofficially withdrew.) The seat opened up when incumbent Republican Steve Stivers resigned in May to become president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The Republican nominee will face the winner of the Democratic primary, in which two candidates are running.

The district includes all of Clinton, Fairfield, Hocking, Madison, Morgan, Perry, Pickaway, and Vinton counties, and parts of Athens, Fayette, Franklin, and Ross counties.

According to the elections website Ballotpedia, in the Republican primary Mike Carey, Ruth Edmonds, Jeff LaRe, and Bob Peterson have led in endorsements and media attention. Judging by their campaign material and information shared with the Logan Daily News through interviews, all four present themselves as staunch conservatives largely supportive of former President Donald Trump’s policies.

Mike Carey

An executive and lobbyist in the energy industry for more than 20 years and an Army National Guard officer, Mike Carey puts great emphasis on having the former president’s endorsement.

Carey said he met Trump in 2016, to discuss “trying to push back on a lot of the regulations and things that were putting the coal industry, in our opinion, out of business,” and developed “a very good working relationship” with him. Recently, he said, he met with Trump again. “It turned into an hour-and-20-minute meeting, and at the end of the meeting he said, ‘Mike, I’m going to endorse you.”

He attributes this to the personal connection, as well as a shared outlook. Trump “knew the hard work I did for the American mining and coal industry,” he said. “And I think he likes the fact that like him, I’m somebody that’s not a career politician, and somebody that’s willing to put their career aside and step up and do what’s right for the country.”

Carey is deeply critical of what he calls misguided legislative initiatives in the current Congress on climate change and the use of fossil fuels. “They are trying to put in place the elimination of fossil fuel energy by 2035,” he said. “And as any person that has studied economics knows, one of the best things for your economy is to have cheap, affordable energy. And the Chinese are not going to stop building base load power plants, whether they be natural gas, coal or nuclear.” To make things worse, he added, many materials needed to make renewable energy sources work, such as rare earth metals, are coming from sources abroad, including China.

“We’re saying, essentially, that that we’re going to do away with our domestic natural resources and flip to all renewables, but the majority of the components in those renewables are coming from China,” he maintained. “It’s just a screwy thing to do. They’re going to make them; we’re going to buy them, and we’re going to be relying on them.” While moving toward more use of renewables makes sense, he said, “there needs to be an energy mix.”

On the subject of stimulus and unemployment support spending, Carey said this clearly is creating a disincentive for people to go back to work, and hurting small businesses.

“I have dear friends of mine that have small restaurants in the district, and they can’t get (employees) to open the restaurant,” he said. “This unemployment or this stimulus spending, or whatever they call it – we’ve got to stop it.” If elected to Congress, he added, “I would be the lead author of anything that said we have to have a balanced budget.”

On immigration, Carey said President Trump “was doing the right things,” and that the United States should finish the border wall and spend more on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He said the issue of public school curricula such as critical race theory is of great concern to district residents. “When I talk to voters, that is one of the things that is brought up in the first 30 seconds,” he reported. “We are dividing people – that should not be the role of the schools.”

Ruth Edmonds

A former president of the Columbus NAACP, Ruth Edmonds describes herself as a conservative civic leader. Before entering the 15th District race, she was church relations director with the Center for Christian Virtue, a Christian public policy group. She has also been an aide to elected officials including Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo, Gov. Bob Taft, and former 15th District U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce.

Edmonds’ campaign website describes her as pro-life, pro-jobs, pro-faith, pro-family, pro-police, pro-liberty, pro-military and pro-Constitution.

If elected, she said, “In my first term I want to work to change the narrative on race relations. I want to fight human trafficking and drug epidemic by fixing Biden’s broken border. And I will work to protect our Constitutional freedoms.”

Asked to identify the characteristic that most distinguishes her from the rest of the primary field, Edmonds referenced the controversy over critical race theory, suggesting she’s the candidate best qualified to offer pushback on this issue.

“I am a patriot and believe America is the greatest nation on Earth,” Edmonds declared. “Unlike many of my opponents, I have the ability to take on the left’s divisive narrative on race. Leftists want to teach Caucasian children that they are villains and brown-skinned children that they are victims. As a mom, African-American, and soon-to-be congresswoman, I will be in a unique position to stand up to AOC, Nancy Pelosi, and Democrats in D.C. who seek to divide Americans in the name of diversity.”

In an appearance on the news and opinion website Newsmax that’s featured on her campaign site, Edmonds speaks up for unity in response to a New York Times story suggesting that even the U.S. flag is becoming a politically divisive symbol.

“You go anywhere in the world, you see that flag, you don’t think R, you don’t think D — you see America,” Edmonds told the hosts. Later in the same appearance, she went so far as to suggest that polling that shows a significant percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds don’t feel proud to be Americans can best be explained as a reaction to the divisiveness she’s campaigning against.

“They see adults acting like children and being divisive, and I think that’s what they don’t like,” she theorized. “The truth of the matter is, our young people do love this country… What they don’t like is, they don’t like to see s-called adults pitting themselves against the other along the race line.”

Edmonds said she wants to bring an opposition voice of reason to the nation’s capital.

“I am running for congress because I do not like the direction the country is headed under Nancy Pelosi and the Biden Administration,” she stated. “I want to restore common sense, America First conservative leadership in Washington, DC. I am tired of seeing far-left radicals sowing seeds of hate and disunity along the lines of race and gender and further dividing us as a nation.”

If elected, she added, “In Washington I will fight for religious liberty, pro-life values, and strong families. Additionally, I will be a strong defender of the Constitution and staunchly fight Biden’s job-killing policies and runaway spending and advocate a return to the Trump-era policies of tremendous economic growth and increasing prosperity.”

Jeff LaRe

Jeff LaRe, like Carey, can point to a coveted endorsement – that of Steve Stivers, fomer occupant of the 15th District seat. He’s also been endorsed by several Republican colleagues in the Ohio General Assembly, where he represents the 77th House District.

Asked to summarize his issue priorities, LaRe said, “For me it comes down to safety – not only safety for our economy, but safety for our border, and public safety for our law enforcement.”

On the issue of economic security, LaRe argued that “we need to get Ohioans back to work. They’ve become way too comfortable, with a large portion relying on the government for a handout.”

On whether stimulus and unemployment checks actually encourage workers to remain idle, LaRe said, “I think it’s obvious. I mean, we’ve got a large number of open jobs to fill right now, right? We’ve got companies that are offering sign-on bonuses, and they can’t so much as get applicants.”

On border safety, LaRe had this to say: “When I talk about safety for the border, it’s clear that Joe Biden is not going to do anything, and is allowing this influx of illegal immigrants, and a huge influx of illegal drugs, into our country. I know that from the conversations I’ve had with law enforcement as I’ve traveled through the district.”

As for the public safety/law enforcement piece, LaRe said, “we all saw what happened in our big cities last year, and I thing when people are violent and destructive that we suffer as a community.” Law enforcement, he added, “has a perception problem right now. They need our support now more than ever. And I’ve got the experience to keep our families safe, and to stand with law enforcement, and make sure that they have the support and the resources that they so desperately need to serve our communities and keep us protected.”

On what sets him apart in a field of strong conservatives, LaRe said, “I think it’s pretty simple. My record as a state rep illustrates that I’m pro-life, I’m pro-Second Amendment, that I believe in cutting taxes. Also my background; I’ve run a business for the last two decades, so I’ve got a true appreciation of what it’s like to sign both sides of the paycheck, and how to keep a major budget balanced to make sure my employees can put food on their tables for their families.”

In a race in which deficit spending is hardly popular with any of the frontrunners, LaRe also emphasized his own commitment to budget conservatism. “I think the best way to cut spending is to cut taxes,” he explained. “The less money that the government has to spend, then you’ve got to make those hard choices, right? To figure out where to cut the spending… We just did that in the state budget; we cut taxes by $1.78 billion.”

He’s confident voters agree with him on this. “I think Americans have had enough of the waste,” he said. “It’s got to stop.”

Bob Peterson

Ohio 17th District state Sen. Bob Peterson, who has also served in the Ohio House, the Fayette County board of commissioners, and the Ohio Farm Bureau, has a political profile that resembles in many points those of Carey and LaRe. He points, however, to his roots in the farming community, and his support among grassroots local officials, as factors that set him apart from the field.

“We’ve been in all 12 counties (in the district),” he said. “We are the only campaign running a true grassroots campaign, door to door, visiting with people, doing the county fairs, doing the parades.”

He can also point to a list of endorsements of his own. “I’m the only candidate in this race that’s been endorsed by Ohio Right to Life,” he said. “I’m the only candidate in this race that’s been endorsed by over 150 locally elected officials in all 12 counties. And those endorsements are critical, because they’re people working, living, voting in their communities, and they are actively talking to people, encouraging them to vote for me.” He also cites a new group, “Farmers for Bob,” which he said includes hundreds of farmers and has a chair in every county of the district.

“That groundswell of support is because I’ve lived my whole life in central Ohio,” he suggested. “I didn’t just move into the district.”

He added: “The American Conservative Union ranks legislators, and I’m the most conservative candidate in this race as ranked by the American Conservative Union. I’m also the only candidate who has ever defeated an incumbent Democrat. In 2010 I ran for the Ohio House, and defeated an incumbent Democrat who had spent over $1 million in that race. I know how to win.”

On his political priorities, Peterson said, “The most important thing for me as an elected official throughout my career has been job growth and making sure that the economy grows and people have jobs.”

The current Congress and administration, he suggested, are wrong-headed on economic growth, immigration and spending.

“What’s happening today is, Washington, D.C. is actually incentivizing people not to work – and that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, as do a lot of things coming out of Washington, D.C. We didn’t have a border issue when President Trump was in charge, and I don’t understand why we don’t go back to the Trump policies and secure our border.”

On the issue of stimulus spending, Peterson suggested, the best approach is to “just do what the Republicans in Washington, D.C. are doing right now- they’re saying ‘No, certainly we’ll sepend where it makes sense, we’ll invest in reasonable infrastructure projects, because that will benefit our economy.’ But you don’t create these massive new social programs. You don’t bail out states or municipalities like San Francisco and others that haven’t managed their budgets.”

His first priority if elected, Peterson said, will be to “stop the Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi agenda.” As someone who grew up during the Cold War, he said, “It’s just unimaginable to me that people on the House floor, congresspeople, talk about socialism as if it might be a good thing.”

The Logan Daily News plans to provide information on the other GOP candidates – John Adams, Eric M. Clark, Thad Cooperrider, Ron Hood, Thomas Hwang, Stephanie Kunze and Omar Tarazi – and the two Democrats, Greg Betts and Allison Russo, in a forthcoming issue.

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