Turning out voters in sufficient quantities in Ohio's 12th House District in order to overcome the power of incumbency, especially when the rate of voter drop-off in midterm elections can be 40 percent or more, is daunting even for seasoned politicos. But Jill Miller Zimon, who first took political flight at the local level as a Pepper Pike city councilmen, has good reason to believe she'll have engineered an upset victory next Tuesday over the incumbent Democrat incumbent who waltzed to victory in the last two elections without Republican opposition in the General Election.
The incumbent Democrat, John Barnes, Jr., who formerly served in the same seat for two terms from January 1999 to February 2002, has not received an endorsement from the Ohio Democratic Party. Zimon, an attorney and mother who advocates for more women in elected office, proudly displays that endorsement this year.
Rep. Barnes, 55- years old, from Cleveland, where his Alma mater Case Western Reserve University is located, has a race this year unlike the two previous campaigns: This year he has competition. And not just any competition, but a candidate who has come into the political process with eyes wide open, marshaling her knowhow about the new rules of navigating contemporary politics along the way. From understanding the power of modern online social media to what has brought home the bacon since the dawn of electoral politics, understanding the pulse of the community and crystallizing those pulse beats in a policy agenda that make sense for the community, Zimon has much to offer the constituents of her ten-community district in northeast Ohio.
Sources note that Barnes faced four opponents in the last Democratic primary, including the son of a representative who previously held the seat. The big legacy newspaper in the area, The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer, did not endorse Barnes, Jr., who went on to win the Democratic primary in the spring and cruised to a win in a strong Democratic district in 2012 without any Republican opposition. Likewise, in 2010, Rep. Barnes had no opposition.
In the Ohio House, Rep. Barnes serves on committees including Economic and Small Business Development, Health and Aging Committee, Ways and Means, and he is also a member of the Vehicle Management Commission.
"We’ve come so far in this State Representative, House District 12 campaign and remain focused on bringing voice, energy, engagement and tenacity to Columbus for our ten communities," Zimon blasted out in an email recently. I"’m personally going to door-to-door every day between now and May 6th," she said, adding, supporters can join her as she hits the trail to meet-up with potential voters on a personal basis.
Zimon, a licensed social worker who touts her passion for good government and says she knows how to engage people and build partnerships to get results, reminded her constituents that 40 Ohio elections were decided by one vote. "Please don’t let that be us ... We know the votes to win are out there."
Barnes Jr. has come under fire for voting for an abortion bill that he thought was unconstitutional. His rational, he said, was that "if the intent of legislation is to circumvent current law, it doesn't deserve to be passed."
Health care, higher education, labor, seniors, economic development and jobs, labor and voting rights top Zimon's focus for the district. She believes health care is a right not a privilege and wants to protect and expand Medicaid, an issue Ohio's Republican-led legislature refused to allow during the last two-year budget process, so much so that Gov. John Kasich, who like most every other GOP officeholder is no friend of the Affordable Care Act, skirted the legislative process when he got help from an administrative panel last year that accepted about $2.5 billion in federal funding for him.
Rep. Barnes, Jr. is the primary sponsor of a dozen bills, including one that would award $25,000 per year for a period of years to any survivor of abduction, to assist any survivor of abduction with educational and health care expenses. The bill is a response to the ten-year abduction of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus, who were taken off the streets of Cleveland by Ariel Castro, who held them as captives in a house he owned. Castro was arrested and later committed suicide in his cell. Other introduced bills include one that would create councils and commissions related to topics that include violence against women and children.
The son of a Cleveland city councilman, John Barnes Jr. served as chairman of the Ohio Commission on African American Males and as a Cabinet-Level Director in the Administration of Former Cleveland Mayor Jane L. Campbell.
So far Zimon has culled endorsements from EMILY's List, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Geauga County and Ohio Democratic Party, Ohio AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, among others.
Republicans reclaimed the Ohio House of Representatives in 2010, the year Tea Party advocates swept out Democrats and replaced many of them in Ohio and in Washington D.C. with Republicans whose main focus was to work against President Barack Obama's legislative goals. In 2012 Republicans added to their numbers in the Ohio, where they now enjoy a supermajority of 60-39 versus Democrats. In the Ohio Senate, which has been controlled without interruption by Republicans since 1984, Democrats only hold 10 of 33 seats.
Women represent only 23.5 percent of Ohio's 132 state lawmakers, with 23 in the House and eight in the Senate, respectively. There are only 11 out of 99 seats in the Ohio House held by Democratic women, while only five seats in the Ohio Senate are held by lady Democrats.