In what might be a tight race for a less than glamorous job, this November Zack Space will have an opportunity to do what no Democrat has done since 1994 – win an election to the Ohio Auditor of State office.
Space, a former U.S. Representative for the 18th Congressional District – which comprises 16 counties in rural southeastern Ohio – sees the Auditor’s office as an opportunity to influence some key issues in the coming years. The office might not be as glamorous as other statewide positions but its influence is huge now and will expand soon.
The Auditor’s office is one of five independently elected statewide offices under the Ohio constitution. The office has a staff of more than 800 auditors and other professionals and is responsible for auditing all public offices in Ohio – more than 5,000 in all – including cities, counties, villages, state universities, libraries along with state agencies, boards and commissions. The office investigates fraud and provides financial services to local governments.
Space sees the Auditor’s office as an opportunity to being an amount of reform to state government – ending corruption and serving as a watchdog for Ohio families, he says.
Space is a native of Dover, Ohio, a small eastern town. A graduate of The Ohio State University’s law school, Space returned to Dover to practice law serving as a public defender and as the city’s law director. He was elected to Congress in 2006 in the blue wave that carried Ted Strickland into the governor’s office and gave Democrats in the U.S. Congress a majority making Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House. The blue wave gave way to a red wave in 2010, sweeping out Strickland and Space. He then joined the firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease in Columbus to work with local governments, charitable organizations and the private sector to promote economic development in Ohio.
Now as he contemplates what he might accomplish in the Auditor’s office, Space sees three primary areas of concern in which in which he can make a huge difference for Ohioans, he told The Truth last week during a visit to Toledo.
First, with the new format for the state’s redistricting commission, the Auditor will be one of the three state officeholders in that group ( along with two legislators from each major party) “I’m going to do everything I can to end partisan gerrymandering,” says Space. That’s a practice, he calls, “empowering extremism.”
Secondly, he sees the Auditor’s office as a chance “to deal with the influence of wealth on policy.”
“Money has become the most important factor in politics,” says Space. Subjectivity has replaced what he says should be an objective process. Space mentions several key issues in which an Auditor can have a positive impact by eliminating abuses caused by financial greed. He mentions that Ohio’s public school system has been corrupted by the charter school scandals, particularly that of ECOT (Electronic Class Room of Tomorrow) to which his opponent Keith Faber lent his support. ECOT has been accused of taking $1 billion in state education funding over the course of 18 years. Faber has received more than $34,000 campaign donations from the company.
Space also is lending his voice to the pay day lending issue that has gained so much attention recently. Ohio is reputed to have the highest average pay day lending interest rates in the nation – as high as 591 percent. Ten years ago the legislature made a half-hearted attempt to rein the companies in, but they got around the laws by simply re-titling their businesses. The legislature is making another attempt now.
Space also believes that the Auditor’s office can have an impact on the way the state budget is drawn. During these Republican years, the state has decreased payments back to local governments through the budget.
The criminal justice system is another area of concern to Space as the state turns to privatization of prisons creating another source of wealth for such companies at the expense of the taxpayer.
The third major area in which Space feels the Auditor’s office can operate to the benefit of Ohio’s citizen is in its primary function – that of audits. “I intend to use those powers in a creative way,” he says, noting, for example, that auditing Medicaid operations can determine why state agencies have not been able to make headway against the devastating opioid epidemic.
Space is starting his campaign for the general election with some ground to make up. In the primary election, Space – unopposed for the Democratic nomination – garnered 508,131 votes. His Republican counterpart, Faber – a member of the House of Representatives from the Ohio 84th District for the past two years, who spent the previous eight years in the Ohio Senate – earned 611,729 votes.
Clearly Space will be hoping on the typical Democratic increased turnout in a general election, along with his ability to keep voters’ focused on his major issues and Faber’s huge ECOT blemish.
“We can move the needle in the right direction to restore confidence in the government,” he says.