MANSFIELD — Zack Space, former U.S. Rep. for Ohio's 18th congressional district, believes the Ohio auditor is uniquely positioned to effect positive change.
If elected this fall in the general election, the Democratic candidate for auditor of state said he hopes to help move Ohio forward by ensuring that public dollars are being spent in accordance with sound accounting principles and not subject to misappropriation or theft.
“I intend to do everything I can to work with those who receive state dollars, local governments in particular, local schools, to help provide the resources and training necessary to prevent problems before they happen,” he said.
Space, a native of Dover, graduated from law school at The Ohio State University. Thereafter he returned to Dover and practiced law for nearly 20 years, during which time he served as a public defender and as Dover’s city law director.
He was elected to serve as the congressman from Ohio’s 18th District in 2006. During his tenure in Congress, he said he was instrumental in bringing broadband technology, employment opportunities and infrastructure improvements to his district.
Upon leaving Congress in 2011, he joined the Columbus law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease where he worked with local governments, charitable organizations and the private sector to promote economic development across Ohio.
One of his main goals as auditor of state, he said, would be to do everything possible to develop communications and relationships with those that the auditor's office is auditing and to work with those entities to make sure that taxpayer dollars are being spent in accordance with sound principles and according to law.
“In addition to that, I want to use the powers of this office in a dynamic way to begin to restore faith and confidence in the institution of politics and government by ending gerrymandering and by shining a light on the corruptive influence of money on policy,” he said.
As it stands currently, he believes the state’s political process is “broken.”
“I think there are some very glaring examples of how it's broken — one of which is how we redistrict legislative seats every 10 years after the census through a process that’s been referred to as gerrymandering,” he said.
"Gerrymandering is a political process that draws lines based on how one party can obtain political advantage over the other with no regard for what it does to us as a state. And what it does to us as a state is it has disenfranchised millions of Ohioans on its face because we have politicians picking voters, not voters picking politicians.”
The state auditor is in a position to help remedy this issue, he said, noting that the auditor sits on the redistricting commission with the governor and the secretary of state.
“I've committed, I don't care if I'm the only Democrat or one of three Democrats at that table, to end gerrymandering, and what that means is to stop allowing political factors to determine how these districts get drawn and to draw as many competitive districts as possible,” he said.
A second way in which democracy has been compromised is through the influence of money on policy, he said.
"Any member of Congress, any member of the General Assembly that tells you that money has no impact on how business gets done in the legislature is lying to you. And we see it every day in our statehouse … We see public education corrupted by the influence of for-profit charter school operators. These charter schools that have for-profit management companies have given millions of dollars to legislators who in turn have created an enormously lucrative opportunity for these business owners. And the victims here are taxpayers who have paid billions into these for-profit management schools and the students who have been deprived a quality public education as a result.”
In light of this, Space said he intends to create the “Stop Charter Abuse and Malfeasance” Special Audit Unit on the first day of his administration.
The S.C.A.M. Unit, he said, "will deliver results and justice for Ohio taxpayers, who have been victimized by a broken political system in which powerful special interests, wealthy donors, and compromised politicians conspire to enrich themselves while ignoring the needs of ordinary Ohioans."
As part of his vision for the auditor's office, he wants to use the performance audit powers of the office aggressively, in ways that haven't been done in the past, he said.
"The auditor of state has an obligation to audit at least two state agencies every year through what's known as a performance audit, which measures not just financial issues, but efficiency,” he said.
“I'd like to do a performance audit on Medicaid, specifically with respect to what Medicaid is doing to combat the opioid epidemic.”
Space, who visited Mansfield on Aug. 13 to speak at a Richland County Democratic Women’s Caucus meeting, said Mansfield isn’t unlike many of the cities in eastern Ohio where he’s from.
“Places like Mansfield have been left behind,” he said. “They’ve been left behind by a modern day economy where we've seen jobs outsourced.
“And one of the things I intend to do is in this role as auditor is to conduct a performance audit on the impact of the loss of jobs to trade wars or to loss of jobs overseas on the ability of local governments to raise their own revenues.”
Space is challenged in the race for auditor of state by Republican nominee Keith Faber, State Rep. for Ohio’s 84th district.