These first-time state legislators reflect the shifting politics of the Columbus suburbs.
In the prelude to the 2018 midterm elections, pundits speculated at length about the so-called blue wave that might sweep Democrats into office. But the sea change didn’t arrive on the scale Democrats hoped or Republicans feared—certainly not in Ohio, where every statewide office stayed red.
That isn’t to say the political landscape was unchanged. One of the blue-wave trends that did actually materialize across the country happened here, too: Democrats flipped state legislative districts in suburbs that had been Republican for years. In Franklin County, four of those General Assembly seats—three in the House and one in the Senate—went from red to blue. All the winners were first-time candidates, and all are women, also reflecting nationwide results.
The four districts nearly encircle Columbus, expanding the pool of blue territory at the center of a red state that’s been made redder by gerrymandering. Republicans still hold a 23-9 advantage in the Senate and a 60-38 lead in the House. Perhaps for that reason, as their first sessions were set to begin, the newly elected Democrats decided not to place emphasis on controversial issues like gun control and abortion but instead to focus on ones that are more likely to receive bipartisan support, such as health care, education and employment.
Rep. Beth Liston
District 21, Dublin
Concurrent job: internal medicine and pediatric physician
Issues of concern: health care, education, economic policy initiatives
On what she’s most passionate about accomplishing: “I would like to work on access to health care and having that perspective in all of our policies—making sure people have the opportunity to be well and care for their families and themselves.”
Sen. Tina Maharath
District 3, Canal Winchester
Previous job: workforce analyst at JP Morgan Chase
Issues of concern: the drug epidemic, starting an Asian-American commission, fighting for women
On dealing with the drug epidemic: “I ideally want to end the war on drugs. Although it sounds like a dream for right now, I want to do something different compared to what we’ve been doing these past couple years.”
Rep. Mary Lightbody
District 19, Westerville
Concurrent job: faculty member in OSU Newark’s College of Education
Issues of concern: education, health care, jobs
On offering high school classes other than college prep: “I think that if we can get rid of some of the stigma about vocational ed, that’s something I’d like to work on because people who are carpenters or plumbers or electricians or welders will earn six-figure salaries. And those are good jobs and can’t be exported overseas.”
Rep. Allison Russo
District 24, Upper Arlington
Concurrent job: health care policy consultant
Issues of concern: health care, public education, workforce readiness
On accomplishing goals from the minority party: “These are big, complex issues, and if we aren’t able to come to the table and understand others’ perspectives and try to find common ground, we’re not going to be able to tackle them.”
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