Statehouse race in north, west Montgomery County has familiar foes

Oct. 5—Republican state Rep. Phil Plummer easily defeated Democratic challenger Leronda Jackson when they squared off two years ago, but their rematch next month could be a different story because of redrawn district lines.

Plummer, R-Dayton, and Jackson are vying to represent the newly redrawn 39th Ohio House District, which covers large sections of west and northwestern Montgomery County.

Plummer's current district is solidly Republican, but the new 39th District slightly favors Democrats, and he and Jackson believe it will be a competitive contest.

"It's a totally different landscape," Jackson said.

Plummer, 58, who lives in Butler Twp., served as the Montgomery County Sheriff for a decade, and he worked for the agency for 30 years.

Plummer also has been chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party for about eight years.

Plummer was first elected to represent Ohio's 40th district in 2018, replacing Republican Mike Henne, who maxed out his term limits.

The district leaned Republican.

Henne won the seat pretty easily in 2012 and he was reelected twice after that — and both times he received nearly two-thirds of the vote.

Plummer earned nearly 62% of the vote in 2018, defeating Democrat Ryan Taylor.

Plummer did even better when he ran for reelection in 2020, besting Jackson with about 65% of the vote.

But the redrawn map puts Plummer in the new 39th District, and Democrats in that district have a slight edge, according to research about the new Ohio House districts, based on voting trends.

The 39th District covers some or all of various communities in western and northwestern Montgomery County, including Trotwood, Englewood, Vandalia, Brookville, West Carrollton, New Lebanon, Farmersville and Drexel.

Plummer said this race is going to come down to voter turnout and he thinks people are fed up with sky-high inflation and gas prices.

He said Democrat's "failed policies" are hurting the middle class.

If elected to a third term, Plummer said he will work to cut Ohioans' taxes again, and his focus will be on creating "good schools, safe communities and good job opportunities."

"My goal is to put Dayton back on the map," he said. "I'm a community leader and I've got a proven track record to solve problems — being a legislator is about solving problems."

Plummer said he is proud of his legislative achievements in the last four years in office, which included passing a bill to reform the child protective services system that was inspired by the death of 10-year-old Takoda Collins.

Plummer said he also supported cutting income taxes, increasing funding to law enforcement and enhancing wrap-around services for students, such as those dealing with mental health.

Plummer said he is working on a new bill focused on excessive school absences and truancy to increase accountability to ensure kids are attending classes.

He said he also wants to increase funding for mental health services and expand programs that assist with workforce development and readiness.

"We have a bill pending where we may eliminate three years of state income tax if you go to college here and you stay here and work here," Plummer said. "So we're just trying to find incentives to keep our kids here: The brain drain is real."

Jackson, a 57-year-old Englewood resident who owns an insurance business, said people are tired of the status quo and are ready for a change.

Jackson said her top priorities include supporting women's rights, small businesses, public education and children.

Jackson noted that Plummer was one of the cosponsors of Ohio's fetal "heartbeat bill," which prohibits most abortions once a heartbeat can be detected.

"Given an opportunity, I would sponsor or cosponsor a bill that would protect a woman's right to choose — that's absolutely a priority," she said.

Jackson also said Plummer supported other harmful legislation, like the "stand your ground" law and a bill that allows Ohioans 21 and older to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

Gun violence is a very big problem, and loosening gun laws is a mistake that makes the community more like the "wild, wild west," she said.

Jackson said she decided to run for office because she believes that community members feel ignored by lawmakers and their voices are not heard.

Jackson said if she prevails on Nov. 8 she plans to pursue legislation to give small businesses new incentives to hire workers at livable wages and provide benefits.

She said she would like to expand access to affordable health care to small businesses, including entrepreneurs who do have employees.

Jackson said she opposes further expansion of the school voucher system and she will fight to increase funding to public schools.

"I consider myself a servant leader," she said. "I don't avoid people or the hard subjects. ... I believe that people come first, and I believe that you need to meet with people face-to-face."