House District 47 State Representative Derek Merrin, who is seeking a second term, is being challenged by Monclova Township Trustee Barbara Lang in the May 8 primary. House District 47 encompasses parts of Fulton and Lucas counites, including Swanton, Harding, and Spencer townships and the Lucas County portion of the Village of Swanton.
The 32-year-old incumbent and Monclova Township resident came into his own politically in 2008 at age 21, as the mayor of Waterville. He was the youngest-sitting mayor in the state.
A real estate investor, Merrin was appointed to the Ohio House in 2016, replacing State Representative Barbara Sears, and is serving his first full term. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toledo and a Master of Public Administration from Bowling Green State University.
He was originally drawn in politics by his conservative principles. “I want our economy to do better. I believe in economic prosperity,” he said.
To that end, Merrin supports lower taxes and regulatory reforms. He successfully repealed the sales tax on prescription eyewear – legislation taking effect July 1, 2019 – that he says will save taxpayers nearly $30 million.
In fact, Merrin has had 13 bills or amendments approved by the Ohio House or a House committee. They include: Bill 371, which is designed to increase new housing construction by effectively freezing property taxes while a house is built; Bill 169, requiring state employees to pay a portion of their vision and dental insurance, a savings to the state of several million dollars; and Bill 101, which would allow pharmacists to substitute a generic version of epinephrine for a brand name.
If reelected, he would make jobs his first priority, along with economic growth in the region. He would advocate the elimination of the Commercial Activities Tax and the establishment of a flat income tax.
“The private sector manages money a lot better than the government, and it’s more efficient. We need to unleash small businesses and allow people to keep more of the money they earn,” Merrin said.
He would also work to produce more skilled laborers by supporting vocational training in schools. “There’s not as big of an emphasis as in the past,” he said.
And, as in the past, he would staunchly support pro-life and Second Amendment platforms.
A Monclova Township trustee for 12 years, Lang, 52, wants to use her political education to tend to the needs of District 47, not Columbus.
“”My 12 years of experience has helped make me the problem solver that I am. My experience will make me an excellent state representative,” she said.
The Swanton native received a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication from Miami University. After spending years raising her children on a farm, she worked for the United Way and Bowling Green State University before settling in as director of development at Mercy Health Foundation.
Lang pursued the District 47 seat in 2016 but was asked by the Republican Party to withdraw due to too many Republican candidates. This time, she’s in it for the duration.
“People said, ‘(Merrin) isn’t getting the job done. Would you throw your hat in the ring?’ So I stepped up,” she said.
She said the incumbent’s focus “is saying no. Instead of what impacts the families in the 47th every day, he’s focused on issues that are either important to him or are fringe.”
As an example, she cited House Bill 415 which Merrin voted against. The bill would give surplus funding to local governments for road repairs.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Lang said. “He can say it means saving taxpayer dollars but we’re not seeing any savings. He’s just saying no. You’re leaving (the 47th District) behind when you’re saying no. Unless you’re getting on board in getting our tax dollars back, you’re not making progress.”
Her roots in a farm community make her an excellent fit in the district, she said, adding, “ My personal background, my current life, makes me a great mix.”’
Her priorities in office would include making local government strong again, and battling the ever-increasing opioid scourge.
Lang said she wants to look for solutions to problems differently “than a typical Columbus insider. We have people on the frontline doing good work. We need to have conversations where we put experts with the proven techniques telling Columbus what to do. Having those conversations so we send the money to the right places. We need to do work that needs to get done rather than legislators tweeting sound bites.”
She also has her eye on jobs and the economy including workforce development. “As I talk to business leaders, they have the jobs, they don’t have the workers. When I hear that need…I’m going to respond to the need.”
Referencing Merrin, Lang said, “This is about getting things accomplished. When you say no to everything, how can you accomplish it? Some of these things can be done without legislation. Some of these things can be done by a catalyst that gets things going.”
A pro-life and Second Amendment advocate, Lang said she’ll concentrate on what works for District 47. She plans to attend township trustee and county commissioner meetings, attend district events, and shake hands.
“I’m going to be in the 47th all the time,” she said. “We like to talk about big issues…but that doesn’t affect your day-to-day. I want to represent the 47th families with what’s important to them. You’re going to hear a lot from me that’s different.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.