A relative newcomer to politics will challenge Republican incumbent Jim Hoops in the Nov. 6 election for his House seat in Ohio District 81.
Democrat Janet Breneman ran unopposed in the May 8 primary election. In her first pursuit of political office in 2016, she was defeated for the House seat in District 67 by Republican incumbent Andrew Brenner.
Hoops (R-Napoleon) won the primary over Putnam County Republican Party Chair Thomas Liebrecht. Hoops served in the House of Representatives between 1999-2006, departing after fulfilling term limits. In 2017, he was appointed to serve the remaining term of District 81 Representative Rob McColley, who replaced District 1 Senator Cliff Hite. The term expires in December.
District 81 covers southeast Fulton County, including Swancreek Township and the Fulton County portion of the Village of Swanton.
Breneman, 58, of West Unity, said she’s passionate about tackling issues in District 81, “which has been suppressed by not having a proactive representative who looks into bringing industry and jobs to our community.”
A graduate of Monroe High School in Michigan, she worked various jobs in the medical profession before receiving a Bachelor degree in nursing in 2002 from what is now Lourdes University in Sylvania. She is currently a business owner.
She first became politically involved in 2015 by supporting ballot Issue 3, the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Breneman had studied alternative medicines following her husband’s death from cancer, and was specifically an advocate of medical marijuana.
The bill was voted down, but legislators wanted more information. Using her research, Breneman testified in 2016 before a state Senate committee in favor of proposed House Bill 523, the Ohio Medical Use of Marijuana Amendment, which was approved.
“I was a pretty integral part of its passage,” she said.
While a resident of Powell, Ohio, she ran for the House seat in District 67, “a district that hadn’t been ‘blue’ in many, many years,” she said. She was defeated by a 31 percent margin but won the most votes ever by a Democrat in that district.
“It showed me and the party that people were interested in what I had to say,” she said.
Breneman moved to northwest Ohio and was pursued by state Democrats to run again, this time against Hoops.
“They were pretty enthused that I was in this district, because the Republicans were pretty much running unopposed here,” she said. “They knew of my passion and my commitment and what I stood for.”
Once in office, “I pretty much will represent the constituents of Ohio” through committee work, Breneman said.
If elected, she plans to pursue affordable access to health care, advocate for Ohio’s struggling public education system, and help ease the effect of the country’s trade war with China by looking for sustainable crops in Ohio other than soybeans.
“The tariffs are going to hurt us,” Breneman. “They’re already seeing the contracts the U.S. had with China being canceled…It’s not an issue between right and left. It’s an issue between what’s right and what’s wrong.”
But a first order of business would be introducing a House bill to protect the the area Michindoh Aquifer and other natural water resources from privatization.
“That’s a natural resource for us in northwestern Ohio,” she said. “Allowing that to be tapped into and sold is wrong.”
Breneman also would push for a feasibility study of her plan to clear up Lake Erie. Derived from a method used in Germany and several other countries, algae growths are removed, and methane gas extracted from them is used to produce a renewable source of electricity.
She also wants to forego tax abatements for companies, using the money instead to develop workforce task forces to train people for industry jobs.
And though she’ll work to better Ohio’s future, Breneman’s focus will remain on her District 81 constituents.
“My goal is to represent the people and to be their voice in Columbus,” she said. “I’ve walked in their shoes. I know what it’s like to live in this community, and I worry about the same things they worry about. I’m just an ordinary person trying to do extraordinary things.”
She added, “People need to change, to wake up, to realize that if they don’t get out there and vote for what they believe and stand for, it’s just going to remain the same. They just don’t realize they can cross the party line and vote for the right person without turning them into a Democrat.”
Hoops, 59, is a Deshler, Ohio, native and a graduate of Patrick Henry High School. He attended Northwest State University of Louisiana and received a Bachelor degree in Business and Computer Programming. He previously worked for American Municipal Power and as vice president for Strategic Initiatives at Northwest State Community College.
Among his accomplishments in office is pending legislation that would dip into Ohio’s rainy day fund to create a Road and Bridge Fund to benefit municipalities across the state. The bill has passed the House and is currently in review in the Senate.
Hoops said constituents have lately voiced concern for the ecological troubles of Lake Erie, and for the resulting regulatory effects on the area farming community. He said while phosphorus entering the lake in runoff does affect the lake’s viability, he doesn’t want to saddle the state’s agricultural industry with more rules.
As a member of Ohio’s Clean Lakes Committee, made up of House and Senate members, he said, “We have to make sure we look at everything in a scientific manner – what’s creating the issue, and how do you control that. There are people out there that think it’s not being done quick enough, but we are working on it.”
Hoops also wants to help ease what many small business owners consider to be a stranglehold of state regulations.
“You want (employees) to be safe, but you wonder if there are ways to make the regulations more efficient,” he said, citing possible duplication.
And he takes exception to State Issue 1, which would make all drug offenses misdemeanors and offer prisoners a possible reduction in their sentences.
“It sounds nice, but it lowers the penalties for drugs, and there are issues there,” Hoops said. “These are ideas that are coming from states like California, and I have issue with that too.”
What people in District 81 generally want is the right to bear arms, fewer taxes, less regulation, and discussion on the right to life, all issues he supports, he said. “Those are the type of conservative values I want to take to Columbus,” he added.
Growing up in the area he represents gives him insight into the values of people in northwest Ohio and District 81, Hoops said. And with his experience he knows whom to call with constituents’ concerns.
“That’s one of the important things for a legislator, is to be available,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.