OEA Member Candidates Prepare for 2012 election
Recent elections have made clear the need for greater educator involvement in the political process. For a group of OEA members, personal involvement in the fight against Senate Bill 5 (SB 5), has encouraged them to enter the political arena as candidates for the Ohio House and Senate who will work to strengthen communities, the economy, public education and opportunities to build successful, secure futures for children.
This year, 10 OEA members are seeking election to the Ohio House and Senate. The majority are campaigning against incumbents who voted for Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 and launched the attack on the collective bargaining rights of Ohio’s public workers.
All member-candidates participated in OEA’s candidate screening process and have been endorsed by the Association.
“Ohio’s teachers and education support professionals understand the need for lawmakers who create and vote on legislation that values, respects and supports all Ohioans and sustains and supports a public education system where students learn and thrive,” said OEA President Patricia Frost-Brooks.
“In yesterday’s election, OEA members sent a message to the statehouse that we are committed to electing representatives who understand and support public education in Ohio,” she said. “OEA is proud to stand with these candidates who share our commitment to transforming our teaching profession and to the success of every child.”
Recent elections made clear the need for greater educator involvement in the political process. Personal involvement in the fight against Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) encouraged these OEA members to enter the political arena as candidates dedicated to strengthening communities, the economy, public education and opportunities for successful futures for Ohio children.
“Our member candidates have been leaders in their schools, unions and communities, and they will be leaders in Ohio’s Statehouse,” OEA’s Frost-Brooks said. “Please support these 10 OEA members as they continue their statehouse races and remember to vote for them on November 2.”
Most of the member-candidates are campaigning against those who voted for SB 5/Issue 2 and helped launch the attack on the collective bargaining rights of Ohio’s public workers. Judith Cross from Brunswick is taking on House Speaker Bill Batchelder in House District 69. Jim Drakeof St. Clairsville EA is challenging incumbent Andy Thompson for House District 95. And in Senate District 26, Elgin EA retiree Tanyce Addison is campaigning against incumbent David Burke. In all three cases, these members are challenging legislators who voted “yes” on SB 5.
To help prepare these members for elections, the OEA has been recruiting and training member-candidates for two years through a collaborative effort between the OEA, NEA, Wellstone Action and Progressive Majority. The most recent candidate training offered members a variety of simulation exercises. Members prepared and presented a sample stump speech, created a campaign plan, developed media responses concerning issues and crisis situations, and learned the fundamentals of door-to-door conversations with voters.
Upper Arlington teacher Maureen Reedy says the training was comprehensive—from laying out and studying all the components of building and running a successful campaign to hearing testimonials from experienced legislators including Representatives John Carney and Tracy Heard and former West Virginia Representative and OEA Labor Relations Consultant Tal Hutchins.She says the training provided candidates insight and understanding into how to develop a strong message, target voters for canvassing and be strategic and focused in fundraising efforts that are key to sustaining and building a winning campaign.
For Reedy the training was also inspirational, offering all of the teachers running for political office in Ohio the opportunity to meet each other and share their stories and motivation for making the decision to jump into the political arena.
“We learned that our commonalities outweighed our differences,” Reedy says, “and our commitment to public education, our students and the integrity of our profession is unwavering.”
Teacher, Model UN advisor and coach John Patterson (Jefferson Area TA) was instrumental in helping to defeat SB 5 in Ashtabula County. Now running as the Democratic candidate for House District 99 (now represented by Casey Kozlowski), Patterson says, “I was originally motivated to seek election because of SB 5/Issue 2,” Patterson says, “however, it has become so much more than that.
“Voter suppression, vouchers and, in our district, fracking, have become issues that need thoughtful and energetic leadership. We have neither currently in our district.”
A first-time candidate, Patterson says he chose to participate in the OEA candidate training so that he could as prepared as possible going into his campaign. “Like the good teacher who prepares in depth before any class,” he says, “I wanted to do my "homework" before the demands of the campaign really set in.”
Logan EA member Teresa Scarmack’s motivation to seek the Senate District 20 seat also stems from her involvement with Issue 2. She says found it “hard to believe that our governor would assume we would sit back and take the path he proposed.”
Although Scarmack has not run in an election before, she realizes the importance of standing up for her peers and for all Ohio public employees and is ready to fight back to restore the needs of Ohio’s poor and middle class citizens.
“It’s time for people who know the plight of others to be involved in the decision-making at the legislative level,” Scarmack says. She also believes it is time education gets the attention it deserves.
“Better and equal funding for all districts is crucial to meet the needs of all children in Ohio,” she notes. “It is time to lead the way, and with input from teachers, we can make it happen.”
Reedy says that after 29 years of teaching almost 1000 students, she is running for State Representative of the 24th Ohio House District because she is worried that “economic and public education opportunities are slipping away” for Ohio’s citizens and children.
“I am worried that our public education system and the foundation of our Democracy is in peril and facing the threat of extinction,” Reedy says. “I am worried that our expertise and commitment to our students and our profession will not be enough to stop the movement by the current leadership in the statehouse to privatize Ohio’s schools. I am worried that the complex world of teaching, inspiring and motivating students to become the best learners and citizens they can be will be reduced to the metrics of a business model.
“I am worried, that despite our hard work as parents and our lifelong investment in our homes and communities, we are struggling against more obstacles than ever before to achieve the same standard of living that we have had in the past.”
In 2010, Clyde Springs EA member Bill Young (Clyde Springs EA) sought election for a seat in the 81st Ohio House District (now House District 88). Although he lost the election, the experience proved the importance of educator involvement in the political process. Recent political and legislative actions have offered further proof.
“In my 38 years of teaching,” Young says, “I haven’t seen anything like the Kasich administration.
“We have seen firsthand the effects of this governor’s budget,” he says. “We were fortunate to win a very big battle in Issue 2 and it’s been a mobilizing force for many.” Young cautions, however, “we will continue to need teachers who are not afraid to stand up to such political actions because they are wrong.”
When Progressive Majority contacted Young— who had decided to seek the 88th House District seat in 2012—and mentioned the OEA training, he says the choice to participate was a no-brainer.
“I want to run a successful campaign, Young says. “And this training has given me the confidence that I can win this election.”
Young says the opportunity to write and practice presenting a stump speech, to be able to hear from others—from colleagues, trainers and candidates—what was good and what needed additional work, was invaluable.
To learn more about training opportunities to prepare for being a member candidate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.