Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township), current member of the Ohio General Assembly, has announced his intentions to run for the House of Representatives seat left open by the departure of Steve Stivers.
The position represents those in Ohio’s 15th District, which encompasses all of Vinton County.
LaRe currently serves the 77th District of Ohio House of Representatives, an area covering those living southeast of the state capital of Columbus, and has been in the position for two years.
This position was his first in the political sphere, as his previous experience comes from law enforcement and private security.
LaRe spent time as the deputy sheriff in Fairfield County and is also the executive vice president of The Whitestone Group, a private security contracting company with clients that include the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S Department of the Interior, to name a few.
With his more than two decades in security experience, LaRe expressed his worry over the safety of the country, stating, “Watching what’s going on in the country right now is concerning. What’s going on at the border. What’s going on with our businesses on Main Street.”
He emphasized the need for safety as the economy and small businesses recover while we begin to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of that includes getting people back to work, according to LaRe.
“Self-reliance is an important thing for our business community and our economy,” explained LaRe.
The opioid epidemic is an issue that is near and dear to LaRe’s heart as he has seen the impact firsthand. He went on to say he doesn’t want anyone’s children to have to confront that issue. In order to combat this, LaRe stated that getting a handle on the border is the best option.
As the opioid problem in Vinton County has morphed into a methamphetamine problem in recent years, LaRe stated that the cartels have been pushing the drug as it is easier to produce, less labor intensive, and more profitable. According to a piece done by NPR in 2018, 17,846 pounds of methamphetamine was seized by law enforcement agents in the U.S. or at the border in 2012, according to U.S. Customs and Border Control. Within five years, that amount had tripled with a majority of the drugs coming from Mexico.
As for those living with addictions that began with prescription painkillers, LaRe hopes to improve support systems for them as they navigate their lives in recovery.
“We have to focus on making those people that have made the right lifestyle changes to become active members of society, because if they get a felony along the way now it’s hard to find a job and it’s hard to find a place to live. Putting matters in place to allow them to actually restart their life, start a new career. I think thats equally as important as making sure that the physicians aren’t over prescribing.”
LaRe has already spent time on the issue with legislation in the Ohio General Assembly to allow greater access to physical and occupational therapy treatments by making changes to the copay for those services.
In regards to the public safety portion of his platform, LaRe brought up the civil unrest in Ohio’s largest cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland that took place last summer following the murder of George Floyd.
“When folks create destruction and cause violence, I think the entire community suffers. I definitely agree that voices and should be heard but we need to get back to doing it in a peaceful manner,” explained LaRe.
With the lack of safe drinking water continuing to be an issue in Vinton County, if elected to the position, LaRe hopes to use funds from the American Jobs Plan laid out by the Biden Administration could be used to alleviate some of the pressure.
“I think that’s a great example of why this trillion dollar ‘infrastructure plan’ they’re talking about in D.C. needs to be focused on infrastructure projects,” LaRe stated. “If we are going to spend the money to help areas like Vinton, it needs to truly be investments in infrastructure.”
Beyond water infrastructure, LaRe is also interested in the expansion of broadband into more rural areas of the state. He is a cosponsor on House Bill 2 which is designed to help with the issue. LaRe stated that the pandemic made it even more apparent that the need is there for people.
“You can’t have the whole town sitting outside the public library trying to use the internet,” he explained.
LaRe has spent time working in legislation designed to bolster the “Safe At Home” program run by the Secretary of State Office. The legislation would make it possible for those who have survived physical, sexual and emotional abuse to protect their information from public records so they can safely purchase a home or prove residency for food pantries or schooling for their children.
“Right now, they’re basically forced into a position where they have to rent. They still don’t want to necessarily disclose that in case somebody works at the food pantry that is a friend of the person that’s hurting them,” explained LaRe. This way the Secretary of State’s Office could independently verify residency for those individuals in order to keep their information private.
The legislation LaRe is most proud of besides the Safe At Home piece is his time spent in the Statehouse COVID-19 task force where he worked on the Business Expansion and Safety Act which allowed businesses to extend their borders to allow serving food and alcohol to customers on sidewalks and parking lots.
Other Republicans who have launched campaigns for the seat, include state Sens. Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard); state Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville); and Fairfield County Commissioner Jeff Fix. A Democrat considering initiating a campaign, according to The Columbus Dispatch, is state Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester), an Ohio University graduate.
The primary for the special election to fill the vacant seat is set for Aug. 3 with the final vote taking place on Nov. 2.