John Russell is the Democratic candidate for the Ohio House 68th District seat being vacated by Margaret Ann Ruhl due to term limits. The Galena area resident is originally from Columbiana County and has a stump grinding business and raises farm produce at his 21-acre Fall Creek Farm on Gorsuch Road.
Russell spent 11 years as an active 4-H Club member – said he never missed a county fair – was his FFA Chapter Treasurer, and earned an agricultural degree from Cornell University.
“This is the first time I’ve run for public office, but I worked in the New York State Legislature before I came to Ohio,” Russell said. “I’m running for the state legislature because I’m concerned about financial security matters. My whole job and income hinges on people having money in their pockets. Long story short, we need better chances for people to make a living, and have money to spend and save.”
Asked about his top agenda items if he wins the Ohio House 68th District seat, Russell said education, the opiate addiction crisis, and improving economic opportunities for people living and working in his district.
“The biggest problem with education in Ohio is there is too much reliance on property tax as the largest part of school district’s budgets” Russell said. “Those dollars are the price of good schools, but that creates problems that local property owners and school districts have to deal with.”
Russell said even though school funding in Ohio has been deemed unconstitutional, good schools do increase property values, and that pays dividends down the road.
He did note that while he does not agree with local property taxes representing the lion’s share of school funding in Ohio, he does intend to vote for the Big Walnut Local School District 8.3-mil, $133.9 million Bond Issue that will also be on the November 8 ballot.
“Governor Kasich has made some positive steps on school funding,” Russell said. “I agree with struggling school districts that we need stability so districts can plan five-year forecasts, but stability doesn’t address the need to fix core funding. There’s no doubt that school funding in Ohio needs to be rebuilt.”
Russell said the current escalation in opiate addictions is a personal issue for him.
“I came from a small school district; there were 55 seniors in my graduating class,” Russell said. “Three students that I played football with in high school have died from opiates. We had a very small team, so that’s a big instance of opiate addiction, and that’s happening all over Ohio – in cities, suburban areas, and rural communities.”
Russell said the response to the drug crisis at the state level has to be much broader, with an emphasis on encouraging treatment and rehabilitation.
“The biggest thing we need to work on is prevention, and it’s important for parents, community leaders, legislators – everyone – to realize what’s available to our kids,” Russell said. “A decade ago we didn’t have the problems with addiction we have today. Nowadays if you get a wisdom tooth pulled you get a 30-day opiate prescription with a 30-day refill. That’s what happened with my high school football teammates – football injuries treated with heavy pain medications leading to opiate addictions.”
Russell said today’s drug trafficking is in smaller quantities, making it difficult for law enforcement to track drug dealers.
“New methods of drug trafficking, made easier because of instant communications with cell phones, means we’ve got to make sure law enforcement can target the right people,” Russell said.
Russell said one of his other major concerns is an educational system focused on STEM and preparing every child for a college career.
“It’s great when we send kids to college, but we also need to send kids into skilled trades,” Russell said. “Public schools need to develop a pipeline to get kids into trades. There are a lot of older workers in the skilled trades, and many of them are retiring, but fewer younger people are encouraged to go into skilled trades.”
Russell said the philosophy that every successful public school student needs to continue his or her education by attending college is a one-track focus.
“We need to be beware of the pendulum going too far in one direction with only STEM education,” Russell said. “College isn’t the answer to everyone when it comes to economic success. We need to help all the members of our communities earn and save more money. If you earn more money you can come to my business and shop – and that’s the same in Knox County and in Delaware County.”
Russell said one-third of American households have no money saved for retirement, and a state representative can help correct that problem by putting folks to work on infrastructure projects.
“The skilled trades need to be rebuilt,” Russell said. “We need to get a significant number of today’s students trained in high-paying skilled trade jobs – and that would help keep young people from becoming involved in the drug culture. That’s something that I’m convinced that legislators on both sides of the aisle could work on.”
Russell understands that he is running as a Democrat in a district that has a history of putting Conservatives in office, but that’s also one reason that he’s seeking the Ohio House 68th District seat. He believes that voters are ready for a change.
“The Conservatives representing this district have had their turn for 50 years, and I have an agenda that I believe everybody can work on,” Russell said. “I understand that the best a Democrat in my district has ever done in a house seat election is 37 percent. But if one party has a monopoly, that party’s candidate doesn’t have any negotiating power. Overall we need much more competitive elections because the solution to our problems – vigorous economic development, stable school funding, addressing the opiate addiction crisis – starts with competitive elections.”
For additional information about John Russell’s candidacy for the Ohio House of Representative’s 68th District seat go to johnrussell.info. To contact Russell call 740-936-3007 or email < email@example.com >.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.