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Primary candidates for 85th Ohio seat square off

A quartet of Republican candidates seeking nomination to assume a local statehouse seat made some of their first pitches to prospective voters Thursday in a candidate forum staged at the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center.


FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Spectators watch Thursday during a candidate debate at the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, presented by the Top of Ohio Patriots, as fellow Republican candidates for the 85th Ohio House District seat, from the left, Robert Luckey, Dave Easton and Nino Vitale look on. ABOVE: Nino Vitale speaks to potential voters at Thursday’s candidate forum. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | NATE SMITH)


Here is a look at the four candidates who seek the Republican nomination for the 85th Ohio House District:


Robert Luckey — Worked on Jon Husted and Mitt Romney campaigns; member of Shelby County Republican Executive Committee; earned a business management degree from Edison Community College; 15 years’ retail management experience; on the Web:;


Doug Chamberlain — Former Logan County Family Court Judge and Logan County Prosecutor; has also worked in private practice; former village solicitor for Huntsville, DeGraff and Russells Point; also worked on Logan County Area Community Improvement Corporation; on the Web:;


Dave Easton — West Point graduate; served with 101st Airborne Division and 32nd Signal Battalion; worked as an engineer in manufacturing; and started two businesses;


Nino Vitale — 20 years of private business experience with corporations such as Apple Computer, Wendy’s International, currently manages family manufacturing business, Johnson Welded Products in Urbana; NRA pistol instructor; adjunct professor, college of business, Urbana University; on the Web:

Billed as a debate, the event was presented by the Top of Ohio Patriots 9-12 group, featuring candidates out to represent the 85th Ohio House District, encompassing all of Champaign and portions of Shelby and Logan counties.

Doug Chamberlain of Bellefontaine, Robert Luckey and Dave Easton, both of Sidney, and Nino Vitale of Urbana square off in a Republican primary on May 6, 2014. The winner advances to the November 2014 general election where he will face Democratic opposition in a race to fill the expiring seat left by current Rep. John Adams, R-Sidney.

Questions ranged from hypothetical scenarios about reconciling party affiliation with the will of the constituents in the 85th Ohio district, to broader issues like illegal immigration and gay marriage.

Legislatively, each candidate said he would support a Right to Work law in Ohio, that would prohibit union shops from forcing workers to join. And each took turns hammering common core education standards — efforts by the state and federal governments to make public education more uniform.

There wasn’t a lot of room for candidates to distance themselves from each other’s position. All four men consider themselves some variation of a conservative, socially and fiscally.

Indeed, Mr. Chamberlain acknowledged that fact.

“The challenge probably for us tonight is to distinguish ourselves as most conservative,” he said.

They all described themselves as dedicated, hard-working Christian men and each touted some level of private sector experience that they said would prove valuable when working in the Columbus Statehouse.

Mr. Luckey championed himself a middle-class fighter.

“I’ve realized getting out and talking to neighbors that they’re just like me. My struggles are their struggles,” he said. “The same worries that I have that keep me up at night are the same things that kept them up at night.

“I’m out to fight for the middle class and the people of west central Ohio.”

Mr. Chamberlain spotlighted his experience as a former Logan County Family Court Judge, and county prosecutor along with 34 years as an owner of a law firm.

“As a judge I often had to make difficult, unpopular decisions,” he said. “I knew that at least half the room wasn’t going to like whatever decision I made, but with my Christian faith I’m driven to do the right thing.

“I’ve served as a judge and prosecutor and now I’m asking for the opportunity to represent you in Columbus.”

Mr. Easton mentioned his West Point education and called himself a bridge builder between political and religious parties and factions.

“We need to be citizen legislators,” he said.

Mr. Vitale offered an intellectual case for conservatism, describing his support of subsidiarity — the theory of government that problems should be solved at the most local level possible.

“The more government funds, the more it controls,” he said. “We have to stop one-size-fits-all forms of government.”

Mr. Vitale managed to pry some daylight between himself and Mr. Easton, who committed an unforced error, wondering aloud about how practical it was to deport 11 million illegal immigrants as dozens in the crowd shook their heads in disagreement.

“If you take away their job and they can’t find anywhere to work, they’ll leave,” Mr. Vitale said, noting that his business takes great strides to verify the immigration status of each employee.

In the end, each candidate was emphatic that his allegiance, if elected, would be first and foremost to the constituents.

“A vote, if you elect me, will be a vote only for the people I represent in this district,” Mr. Easton said.

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