Wiggam Plans Run for Ohio House Seat

By MARC KOVAC Dix Capital Bureau Published: March 11, 2015 4:00AM

"COLUMBUS -- Republican Wayne County Commissioner Scott Wiggam plans to run for the Ohio House next year, following three terms in his current post.

Republicans With Opposing Agendas Face Off In Primary To Decide Amstutz's Successor

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A key primary to represent Wayne County and replace a longtime lawmaker is pitting two familiar opponents against one another in a race that will determine which Republican heads to the Statehouse.

Wayne County Commissioner Scott Wiggam and former Commissioner David Kiefer are squaring off to replace term-limited Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) and represent the 1st House District. No Democrat has filed to run for the solidly conservative seat, meaning the primary winner will get a free pass in the general election and be one of about 25 House candidates who will be the only major party candidate on their district's ballot this fall. (*Seeseparate story*)

Aside from their shared admiration for the current representative and their GOP affiliations, the candidates stand in stark contrast with one another,n particularly where government spending is concerned.

Mr. Wiggam, 44, who is currently serving his third term as commissioner, touted his efforts to cut spending and lower the county budget. Mr. Kiefer, 60, meanwhile said it's necessary to put funds toward initiatives that will improve the state for years to come - even if that means raising sales taxes.

"He's the exact opposite of me," Mr. Wiggam said. "When I speak to people I talk about the success we've had financially to reduce our spending and not raise taxes and his message is government needs to grow."

Government should be as small as possible and reduce costly mandates on businesses and local entities, he said. In particular, he'd like to see rolled back some mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency and those that could hamper school and developmental disabilities board budgets.

"They may be good ideas but they may be costly and maybe we could allow local boards to have some input," Mr. Wiggam said.

Working with House leadership to update the Ohio Revised Code, which he has "lived underneath the last several years" as a county commissioner, will also be a priority if elected, he said.

"I've got some ideas about how to make that more efficient and allow local entities to have as much flexibility as possible," he said.

"I want individuals and families to be able to save for the future and follow their dreams without waking up every morning thinking, 'What is Columbus going to do for me or against me?'" Mr. Wiggam added, saying he's already proven to constituents that he'll protect their tax dollars by searching for and finding county budget savings.

Mr. Kiefer, however, said the best way to ensure the state and its residents are prosperous is to invest in initiatives that will promote early childhood education and drug prevention and treatment, reduce recidivism and improve transportation options.

"I'm not going to go down to Columbus saying we're going to cut our way out of this situation no matter what because we might have to spend a little bit more money to get ourselves out of a situation," he said.

"If (Mr. Wiggam) thinks that he's saving money by cutting, it's costing money by not investing," he continued.

An active volunteer with the county's re-entry program that helps individuals recently released from prison find work, housing and other supports, Mr. Kiefer said he's seen first-hand that putting additional dollars toward drug treatment and reintegration efforts could save state and local judicial systems and children protective services millions of dollars.

Doing so could also help businesses that are currently struggling to find employees who can pass drug tests, he said.

"You can't ignore it that there is a drug problem across the country and somehow we have to address that because that is a big drain on the economy and if we can get these people back on their feet again and being taxpaying citizens, they not only feel better but obviously we're going to do better as a whole statewide," Mr. Kiefer said.

If voters send him to the Statehouse, he said he'd also like to pursue a sales tax on carry out and drive-thru meals from restaurants.

He recently told a lawmaker hosting regional meetings to examine pay-to-participate for school co-curricular activities that the tax could raise as much as $300 million annually and be earmarked for education.

"That would generate a lot of new money and you know what? If we don't have that earmarked for education or expanding education somehow or even helping offset some of the cuts, then (the administration) is going to figure out how to charge that tax and it's just going to get thrown into the general fund - that big black endless hole," Mr. Kiefer said.

Another area where the candidates differ is on how to campaign. While Mr. Wiggam said he's planning a major door-to-door effort along with mailing post cards and handing out yard signs, Mr. Kiefer said doesn't plan to spend more than $100 because he'll mostly be focused on attending local meetings.

The latter candidate said it's his frivolity and the belief that "it's either going to happen or it's not," that may have been behind three previous failed attempts to regain the county commissioner post he lost in 1992.

Mr. Wiggam said he has been able to maintain his seat because the county has weathered the economic downturn during his tenure. With the backing ofincumbent Rep. Amstutz, he plans to ride his record to a similar success in March.

"We've navigated financially the worst economic times that Wayne County and the state of Ohio have seen since the Depression. We did not raise taxes. We told everyone we needed to reduce spending. We worked with other officials to do that, we were successful in doing that," he said. "I've already displayed that I can do that here at the county level and I want to take those common sense measures down to Columbus."

Because he's campaigning on a broader slate of issues, Mr. Kiefer said he thinks he'll appeal to more voters. His volunteer work in the community, which has recently included lobbying the legislature for $6.5 million to support the Ralph Regula Economic Development region, also shows he's willing to put in the time and effort for his district.

"You'll never see me writing or reading a proclamation. I'd rather be down there in the trenches - No tie and sleeves rolled up, missing one leg, looking for a solution," he said. The candidate's leg was amputated nearly 40 years ago at the scene of a car crash that involved a drunk driver.

Mr. Kiefer, who has four children and six grandchildren, is a lifelong Wayne County resident, and previously devoted his time to bicycling, for which he was awarded a spot in the 1982 Guinness World Record Book for riding a bicycle one-legged from California to New York in 17 days.

Married to a Wayne County native, Mr. Wiggam has three children and has lived in the district since 2002. Prior to being elected a county commissioner, he served in the Air Force and briefly worked as a lobbyist for a Christian organization and owned a restaurant.

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