For state auditor, Ohioans will choose between two small-town attorneys — one a veteran Statehouse insider, skilled in partisan politics and the other an idealist with limited political experience and views that aren’t easily categorized.
For the breath of fresh air that is desperately needed in state government, The Dispatch endorses Democrat Zack Space.
State Rep. Keith Faber, his Republican opponent, has long been at the center of a Statehouse culture that has put partisanship and political power ahead of the interests of most Ohioans.
A former two-term U.S. Congressman from Dover in Tuscarawas County, Space has re-entered politics after losing his congressional re-election race in the 2010 tea party wave because he hopes to counter what he sees as the destructive influence of money in who gets elected and how policies are set.
“There’s a loss of faith and confidence in government and it is justified,” Space declares. “It’s not fair, honest and rational, and everybody knows it.”
His decision not to accept campaign contributions from corporate political-action committees underscores his point. His funding comes instead mainly from Greek-American organizations (his grandfather, Zacharias, immigrated from Greece during WWI), small-dollar online donors and what he describes as “good-government groups.”
The state auditor doesn’t set state policy, but Space considers the office “uniquely positioned” to address corruption and inform policy-making, largely through performance audits — periodic examinations of state agencies with an eye toward efficiency and effectiveness.
His plan to increase the number of special audits is a good use of the auditor’s powers, for example to assess the full impact on the public of for-profit charter-school operating companies and the controversial embrace of private prisons.
Ohio badly needs someone like Space on the panel that in 2021 will draw new state election-district boundaries and, possibly, Congressional districts. Ohio’s gerrymandered districts, both for the state legislature and Congress, have effectively disenfranchised thousands of voters and favored candidates on the extreme ends of the political spectrum.
“The consequences are catastrophic,” Space said of the majority-dominated process. “Moderation has become obsolete.”
Traditionally, the auditor has served on the Apportionment Board — which drew boundaries only for Statehouse districts — along with the governor and secretary of state and an appointed lawmaker from each major party.
Thanks to reforms approved by voters in 2015 and earlier this year, the newly named Redistricting Commission will follow a process after the 2020 Census designed to foster compromise by requiring the majority party to win more votes from minority-party members than before for district changes.
Whether or not Democrats remain in the minority on the panel, the new rules will allow the fair-minded and reasonable Space to play an important and constructive role.
Space seems inclined to bridge the contentious gaps in our society rather than make them wider. Though no supporter of President Donald Trump, he recognizes that many of the people he has represented as a lawyer in Dover likely voted for Trump and that they did so “for a reason.”
Space’s focus on ordinary people over the powerful could help rebuild some faith in the idea that officeholders can put the good of the state before the will of their party.
Faber’s long career in the Statehouse includes nearly four terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate, serving as Senate President from 2012-2016. Term-limited in the Senate, he won election back to the House in 2016.
His work includes some wins for Ohioans, such as his support for a Court of Claims process to inexpensively adjudicate requests for public records and support for prison and sentencing reform in 2015.
On many important issues, though, he has served powerful interests rather than working Ohioans. While politicians of both parties bear blame for the blind eye that allowed the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow to rob taxpayers blind, Faber deserves a bigger share. In 2016 when some lawmakers were pushing for a tighter rein on ECOT and other charter schools, Faber argued in favor of delay.
When a Democratic senator proposed a bill to require greater attendance reporting by e-schools, Faber assigned it to the Finance Committee instead of the Education Committee — an apparent tactic to kill it.
That same year, President Faber did little to encourage the redistricting reform that eventually won despite his lack of enthusiasm.
Two of his priorities — opposing a reasonable tax on hydraulic fracking and stalling Ohio’s wind-energy industry in its tracks with unreasonable rules for turbine setbacks — favor the oil-and-gas industry over the general public.
His continued support for President Donald Trump, despite Trump’s destructively chaotic policies and utter lack of ethics, suggests that politics trumps all else in his worldview.
We urge Ohioans to cast a vote for integrity and ethical leadership by electing Zack Space as state auditor.