Door-to-door, grassroots campaign keeps local candidate front and center in race for statehouse –
By Patricia Beech –
Despite being subjected to a series of negative attack ads, Adams County Commissioner Brian Baldridge says he is still excited about his decision to run for State Representative of Ohio’s 90th District, an area that includes Adams, Scioto, and Lawrence Counties.
“It was the chance of a lifetime,” he says. “My wife Lori and I wake up every morning and ask ourselves, ‘Are we still having fun?’, and the answer is yes, because we love meeting people – it’s been amazing.”
While Baldridge may have begun the race with a geographic disadvantage, he is the only candidate not from Scioto County where most of the district’s voters live, he is nonetheless trending ahead in the polls, according to the Adams County candidate.
“I think that’s because we’ve run a very grass roots campaign,” says Baldridge. “We had to get our name out there. People here at home know me but not so much in the other counties. It’s been like a family event for us. Since mid- February, Lori and I have knocked on a lot of doors, our kids have knocked on a lot of doors, and we have been so encouraged by folks we’ve talked with.”
In a Republican primary season most notable for its unrestrained negativity, Baldridge is working to rise above the fray.
“Negative races are not the kind of races I like,” he says. “I like to be in races where candidates talk about candidates – and that’s what we’ve tried to do throughout this experience, talk about my experience, and the local government background I bring to this race.”
While his opponents – Gina Collinsworth, Justin Pizzulli, and Scottie Powell – all have the advantage of being from Scioto County, Baldridge has the advantage of being the only candidate to hold elected office.
“People are receiving our message very well because they like that local government experience,” he says. “You have to know how you effect townships, and villages, and counties when you cast a vote in Columbus. If you haven’t been there and done that, you might not understand the impact it will have here at home.”
Baldridge is certainly familiar with the twists-and-turns of state politics. Since DP&L announced it would close Adams County’s two coal-fired power generation plants, he has been a frequent visitor to Ohio’s statehouse acting as watchdog for Adams County’s interests.
He made multiple trips to Columbus to attend Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) meetings, including one in which he says DP&L was “trying to sneak the whole thing through without us even knowing about it.”
“I raised my hand and said, ‘I don’t know if we’re the largest stake holder (in DP&L), but we’re a huge stake holder because in our small county this closure is devastating,’” he says. “DP&L never reached out to us until the day we went up there and rattled the cage a little bit.”
But, negative campaign ads claim Baldridge did little to stop the planned June 2018 plant closings.
“Radio ads that say I didn’t lift a finger to keep DP&L from leaving,” he says. “They spun those ads to make it sound like I helped DP&L pack to leave. Unfortunately, it is a private company and even when we asked DP&L executives if it would make a difference if we supplied natural gas to them, they said no.”
Another attack ad accused him of driving up the county’s debt after the Board of Commissioners approved an overhaul of the 50-year-old heating and cooling system in the county courthouse.
Baldridge says it’s been difficult dealing with the negative attacks, but he doesn’t regret entering the race.
“I believe in government being smart with taxpayers money. That’s what I’ve always try to do, and will continue to do,” he says. “Even though my opponents have made it personal and inflammatory, I knew what I was getting into when I decided to enter this race, and it’s still been a truly wonderful experience.”
Primary Election Day in Ohio is Tuesday, May 8.