Election 2012: Retired teacher Bunck challenges Rep. SearsWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
State Rep. Barbara Sears, serving her second term, and Democrat Jeff Bunck, a retired teacher, crossed paths when she hosted his Anthony Wayne High School class on a House tour. Now the two are running against each other to represent the 47th District comprising western Lucas County and most of Fulton County.
Republican Sears currently represents the 46th District (redistricted in 2012) and previously served on Sylvania City Council for 10 years, along with her father. During her last four years on Council, she was president and chair of the finance committee.
Bunck, who has 35 years of experience teaching government and world studies, is a first-time candidate who says he’s been active in politics since 1972. He has also taught at Bowling Green State University.
Bunck said he was inspired to run after becoming involved in the campaign against Senate Bill 5, limiting collective-bargaining rights for unions.
“SB5 came about and it was sort of disturbing to me because the Republican party was attacking my opinion, the middle class,” he said.
After the bill was struck down with Issue 2, Bunck said, “I was still inspired to get involved politically and this opportunity sort of came across my desk because of the redistricting.”
Sears said, “He is focusing the majority of his campaign around a single issue and that’s the Senate Bill 5 issue. And that’s an issue where the voters came back, and said, ‘We think it’s an overreach.’”
Sears said she respected the voters’ decision in that case.
If re-elected, Sears said she would continue to look at how regulations affect employment.
“Instead of adding new rules and taking away ones that are no longer really necessary, we just keep stacking them up so you truly end up with competing rules that businesses have to deal with,” she said.
Evaluating workforce training is also important because trade employers are having a tough time finding workers with the right skills. This is due to the push toward bachelor’s and master’s degrees instead of trades, Sears added.
“Now we’ve lost this whole generation of our skilled trade folks and it’s starting to show as the average age for skilled trades gets well into the 50s,” she said.
She is also sponsoring workers’ compensation-related legislation.
“At a time when you’ve got an injury or an illness, you’re not always focused on doing the research necessary to find out really who you should be going to. So what this one bill says is if you are going 45 days and we’re not seeing improvement and you [aren’t] getting back to work, then we’re going to want you to have a guiding physician,” Sears said.
Her opponent disagreed.
“Her bill basically, it calls for an employer-chosen doctor,” he said.
If elected, Bunck said he would work to restore the $2.9 billion cut from education.
“We have to refund education; that’s the most passionate thing in my life,” he said.
He added that the projected billion surplus could be used to re-fund education in addition to local government funds.
“The governor keeps talking about a rainy day fund. Well, it’s raining,” he said. Although Bunck said he is opposed to fracking, if it does go through, he said he believes it should be taxed at a higher rate to further benefit schools and local government.
Bunck said he is a proponent of alternative energy and that wind farms are another way to bring revenue to the area. Each farm has the potential to create 1,000 permanent jobs, he added.
The educator criticized Sears for her take on House Bill 136, which would expand Ohio’s voucher program for schools.
“I believe that people have the right to send their child to some other form of education besides public schools, but I believe the parent should be responsible for paying for that,” he said.
“[Vouchers] would devastate hundreds of districts across the state because there’s no way to budget for that.”
Sears said the bill is not going anywhere this year.
“I know that Mr. Bunck continues to say that this bill is out there. Well, it is out there because legislatively the bill stays alive until it’s voted down or Dec. 31 at the end of the general assembly. You can’t kill a bill any other way,” she said. Sears added however, that parts of the bill, specifically those allowing low-income families who go to failing schools to use vouchers, would likely be “reborn” next year.
“If we’re ever going to break that cycle, we’ve got to have kids have a chance at a better opportunity,” she said.