October 20, 2014

Medina
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New district, new faces for county voters

Gibbs

Healy-Abrams

Medina County voters will see two new names when they cast their votes next month for U.S. representative.

That’s because the western portion of the county now is part of the 7th Congressional District, a result of redistricting following the 2010 census. Previously, almost all the county was part of the 16th District.

The new district pits incumbent Republican Bob Gibbs against newcomer and Democrat Joyce Healy-Abrams.

Gibbs now is serving as a representative for Ohio’s 18th District, which has been eliminated under new congressional districts approved by the state Legislature.

The new 7th District isn’t as large as the 18th, which included 17 counties. In addition to the western half of Medina County, the 7th District includes portions of Lorain, Huron, Richland, Stark and Tuscarawas, and all of Ashland, Knox, Holmes and Coshocton counties.

Because the new district is smaller than his old one, Gibbs, of Lakeville, in Holmes County, said it’s easier to visit voters.

“My district is cut by two-thirds, and in this one, I’m closer to the center of the district,” Gibbs said.

Before he was elected to Congress, Gibbs served Ohio’s 22nd Senate District, which includes Medina, Holmes and Wayne counties and parts of Ashland County. He also served as president of the Ohio Farm Bureau for two terms. He and his wife own and operate Hidden Hollow Farms, producing market hogs.

This is Healy-Abrams’ first try at elected office, but the Canton resident is not a political novice. Her father, William Healy, served as a state representative for 25 years and her brother, William Healy II, is the mayor of Canton.

Healy-Abrams, the owner and operator of a commercial records and management business, said the poor performance of Congress prompted her to run.

“The people in Congress have not done anything. It’s a very divisive process there,” she said. The people in Congress are really part of the problem.”

The issues

Healy-Abrams said one of her main reasons for seeking office is to protect Medicare and Medicaid. She blasted Gibbs’ support for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, saying it would turn Medicare into a voucher program that would be much more expensive for seniors.

“It’s privatizing Medicare and shifting the burden to the working class,” she said. “I will absolutely work to preserve Medicare and Social Security as it is.”

Gibbs defended the Ryan plan, arguing it has been misrepresented.

He stressed that the plan would give those younger than 55 the option to buy private insurance with a voucher or stay on the current system.

“Our plan is give them a choice to buy a plan that fits their needs,” Gibbs, 58, said. “The subsidization from the taxpayers could be based on need, too. If you’re really sick, you’ll probably get more subsidization than if you are not.”

Gibbs argued Ryan’s plan is part of common-sense reform to keep programs financially sound and to cut government spending.

Like most Republicans in Washington, Gibbs is against letting tax cuts for high earners expire and favors lower corporate tax rates. The cuts could be paid for by closing loopholes in the tax code.

He said he favors fewer regulations for companies who want to invest in new projects.

“Our top corporations are sitting on $2 billion in cash,” he said. “We have liquidity in the banks; it’s just our regulatory environment. We need to unleash the American spirit of innovation.”

Healy-Abrams, 52, said she would spur economic growth though tax incentives for companies that keep jobs in America and for small business startups.

She said those proposals should draw support from Republicans, as well as Democrats, in Congress.

“We need to be able to have bipartisan legislation,” she said. “I would think anyone Republican or Democrat would be interested in those things.”

Gibbs said the House has produced legislation, but blamed the Democratic-controlled Senate for not taking action.

“We’ve had about 40 bills to improve the business climate and two of them were mine,” he said, “but they’re just sitting in the Senate.”

Healy-Abrams said it’s time the two sides stop blaming each other.

“If our leaders and Congress can’t solve these problems, they really need to step aside and let someone come in who’s willing to work with them,” she said.

Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.