''Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.''
Roberto Clemente, Major League baseball star
Norwalk resident George Mays invokes the above quote to explain why he is running to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Paul. E. Gillmor to represent the 5th Congressional District. The 5th District includes all of Huron County and counties west.
Mays, a Democrat, who is one of nine people running, said his experiences owning a disc jockey and karaoke company for 12 years, holding positions in church and interacting with people will help him represent them in Congress.
Ask Mays to defend his lack of actual political experience, and he'll cite the following: gross overspending, pork barrel politics, the loss of 100,000 Ohio jobs in 15 years and failure to move quickly enough to establish alternative energy sources.
"That's been our experience with experienced people," Mays said. "I'm just a little fella of common means, but I hope to attack our lack of jobs in our district."
Mays said he would try to regain jobs in several ways: enlisting the help of a liaison to work with local entities; offering low leases for property to attract and jump-start businesses, offering tax abatements and establishing new sewer lines for new businesses.
Mays said a new sewer line helped friends of his establish a successful potato factory in Baltimore, Ohio near Columbus. He estimated the factory is now a $30 million business and owes its financial success, in part, to the sewer line's establishment.
"When they went in, it was nothing," Mays said.
Mays said the country needs to drain the fat out of its budget, by doing away with pork barrel projects. He cited, for example, a recent $63 billion transportation bill the government passed; only $8.5 billion of that was earmarked for transportation.
Instead, Mays said government officials need to use those extra funds for social programs to help people.
"I hope another voice in Congress that is sensible on fiscal issues will have some bearing on what is earmarked," Mays said.
The special election has officially drawn nine candidates six Republicans and three Democrats who met a Friday afternoon filing deadline.
Those seeking to run in the strongly Republican-leaning northwest Ohio district filed their documents with the board of elections in Wood County, which includes Bowling Green and is the most populous jurisdiction in the 5th. Wood County election officials have until Tuesday to certify the validity of the documents.
Wood County also is the home base of one of the leading Republican candidates: state Rep. Robert Latta, a former state senator and county commissioner whose father, Republican Delbert Latta, represented the district for 30 years (1959-89). The younger Latta ran in the 1988 election to succeed his father, but lost the primary to Gillmor by just 27 votes.
Joining Latta in the top tier of candidates for the Nov. 6 primary is state Sen. Steve Buehrer, a former state House member who hails from the western part of the 5th District.
The GOP field is rounded out by Mark Hollenbaugh, a high school teacher, along with Fred Pieper, Michael Reynolds and Michael Smitley, for whom biographical information was not immediately available following the filing deadline.
The winner of the Republican primary will be heavily favored to win the Dec. 11 special general election, given the typical Republican leanings of 5th District voters. President Bush took 61 percent of the district's votes in the 2004 election, and Gillmor easily won in each of his 10 general elections.
The best-known candidate on the Democratic side is Robin Weirauch, a former assistant director of the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University. She was the Democratic nominee against Gillmor in 2004 and 2006, taking 33 percent and 43 percent respectively.
Weirauch is joined in the Democratic primary by Earl Campbell, a retired professor, and Mays.
The winner of the general election will succeed Gillmor, who was found dead in his suburban Washington, D.C., residence on Sept. 5 from injuries suffered in a fall.
Ohio's 5th is one of two vacant districts in the House, where the Democrats hold 232 seats and the Republicans hold 201 seats. The vacancies are evenly divided between the major parties: The other is in Massachusetts' 5th District seat, which Democrat Martin T. Meehan vacated July 1 to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Democrat Niki Tsongas is favored over Republican Jim Ogonowski in the Oct. 16 special election in that district outside Boston.