By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
It's Frank versus Frank for the Ohio Senate's 27th District.
Democrat Frank Comunale and Republican Frank LaRose are competing to replace Sen. Kevin Coughlin, D-Cuyahoga Falls, who cannot run again because of term limits.
The two candidates share a first name, but that's about where the similarities end.
Comunale is 62. LaRose is 31.
LaRose works part time as an economic development director in Brecksville. Comunale is a vice president with S.A. Comunale, a fire protection company in Barberton.
Comunale is pushing his extensive volunteerism in the community, including time as president of the Akron-Summit County Public Library board of trustees. LaRose is highlighting his service as a Green Beret in the U.S. Army, which included traveling around the world and receiving a Bronze Star.
LaRose is married; Comunale is a bachelor.
One thing they do have in common is little legislative experience.
LaRose, in fact, has none, and this is his first run for political office. Comunale's experience is limited to four years on Summit County Council, although he has not been among the more active members when it comes to policy discussions or debate.
Comunale said he's interested in three main issues: regionalizing services, urging school districts to consolidate and growing the economy through job creation.
''I have a proven record of getting people working, and that's what we're going to need,'' he said, referring to his business development job at S.A. Comunale.
LaRose said he's not happy with the state leadership — Democrats and Republicans. The state needs to rework the tax code to help small businesses and in the long term study replacing the state income tax with a consumption tax, he said.
''As a state, we've been less competitive because of public policy that has stood in the way of our economic success,'' LaRose said.
Both know that figuring out how to deal with a projected $8 billion budget deficit will dominate discussion in Columbus next year.
''I'm convinced people don't want any more taxes,'' Comunale said. ''I'm not so certain what services they are willing to give up. That's the dilemma and the challenge.''
LaRose also is unsure how lawmakers will deal with that issue, although he said the state can't cut taxes now.
As for how to grow the economy, both have ideas.
''I don't think the government solves that,'' LaRose said. ''I think private enterprise solves that. I think that government sets the foundation: great public education; strong, solid infrastructure; a reasonable tax code; a reasonable regulatory environment. Government sort of builds the strong foundation and business prospers from there.''
Comunale said it's imperative to improve educational opportunities to build a better-educated work force.
The Comunale-LaRose race is one of the most competitive in the state for two reasons: the lack of an incumbent and the district's political makeup, said Stephen Brooks, associate director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.
Both Republican and Democratic voters there tend to be more moderate, he said.
The 27th District covers northern and western Summit County, including Fairlawn, Twinsburg, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson and Barberton. A Republican has held the seat since 1986.
Slightly more than half of the district's 238,237 voters are not enrolled with either party, while 35 percent are enrolled as Democrats and 14 percent are registered as Republicans.
Democrats consider the race their best chance to pick up a seat in the Senate, which Republicans control 21-12.
Both candidates are spending a lot of money. LaRose had raised $252,710 by June, while Comunale brought in $224,228, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Ohio secretary of state.
Updated filings are due Oct. 21.
Other state legislative races in Summit County are:
• 41st House District: Democratic incumbent Brian Williams of Akron against former county Prosecutor and Judge Lynn Slaby, a Republican from Copley Township, and Libertarian David Finley of Macedonia.
• 42nd House District: Democratic incumbent Mike Moran of Hudson against Hudson Councilwoman Kristina Daley Roegner, a Republican, and Libertarian John Hoover of Hudson.
• 43rd House District: Democratic incumbent Stephen Dyer of Green against New Franklin Councilman Todd McKenney, a Republican.
• 44th House District: Democratic incumbent Vernon Sykes of Akron against Republican Josh Sines of Akron and Libertarian Kurtis Liston of Akron.
• 45th House District: Democrat Zack Milkovich of Akron, who defeated incumbent John Otterman in the primary, against Republican Charles Lasher of Akron.
Additional information about local candidates is available on the Beacon Journal's online Voter Guide at http://ab8.thebeaconjournal.com/election/
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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