Local union president challenges incumbent state representative in Lucas County

Erika White looks to unseat Rep. Derek Merrin, who is seeking a 4th term in the House
Democrat Erika White looks to unseat Republican Rep. Derek Merrin in the race for Ohio's 42nd House District
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 6:16 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Rep. Derek Merrin faces a tough reelection challenge from local union president Erika White in a newly-drawn Lucas County House of Representatives district. The new 42nd District features southwest Lucas County and stretches through Maumee to parts of south Toledo. See and read 13abc’s interviews with each candidate below.

Rep. Derek Merrin (R) is running for reelection in Ohio's 42nd House District against Democrat Erika White.
Democrat Erika White is challenging Republican Rep. Derek Merrin (R) in Ohio's 42nd House District.

13abc: You’re running for another term here. Why?

Rep. Derek Merrin: I’m so passionate about Ohio. I’m focused on pocketbook issues and to make everyone’s life better here in Ohio and get more money in all of our pockets and fight the inflation that we’re all dealing with.

13abc: How do you fight that inflation at the state level?

Rep. Merrin: It comes back to the fiscal responsibility. The federal government can’t balance its budget. At the state level, we have to push back against reckless spending, balance our budgets, live within our means, and do everything we can to reduce regulations to help drive down some of these prices.

13abc: Name some examples of things that you’ve accomplished that are top of mind.

Rep. Merrin: Number one, I was the leader in the House on the last income tax reduction. I voted to, supported, and led one the largest income tax cuts in Ohio History. I voted against the fuel tax increase, which is part of part of the reason why we have behind high gas prices and I’m continuing to fight for tax reform and try to get a tax code that encourages capital investment to come to the state.

13abc: I know there have been talks about our suspending the gas tax. The governor doesn’t want to do that. But is that something that you would support?

Rep. Merrin: I think we need to get really to people anyway we can. That would be a short-term issue. I think we need to invest more money into our infrastructure, but I’m not for increasing taxes further.

13abc: What do you think is going to happen with abortion legislation when the legislature comes back from the lame-duck session?

Rep. Merrin: A lot of it is still tied up and courts. I’ve been focused on economic issues: fighting inflation, lowering taxes and fighting for fiscal responsibility, focusing on providing support to our law enforcement. I believe we need to get more police on the streets, especially here in Toledo. We’ve got to do a better job of supporting our teachers and administrators in our schools. Every child deserves the best education we can provide. We’ve got to do a better job of supporting our education professionals and making sure every child’s equipped for the future.

13abc: So is abortion something you think will get addressed during the lame duck even if it is still tied up in the courts?

Rep. Merrin: No, I don’t I don’t think so.

13abc: Do you think the heartbeat law is adequate or do you want to see Ohio go a little further?

Rep. Merrin: I think it’s still tied up in court. I mean, I’m focused on focus on economic issues right now. I think that’s what the people care about the most right now.

13abc: You’re also focused on your reelection campaign. Is this the toughest one that you’ve had with your new district?

Rep. Merrin: It probably is. The index leans slightly Democrat. But you know, I think so many people are so tired of both parties. I have voted against my party when I disagree with them. I’m focused on issues, principles and policies on what works. If the Democrats have some policies that work, let’s take a look at them. If the Republicans have some policies that work, let’s take a look at them. We’ve got to get away from this polarization of two political parties. There’s over 300 million people in the United States. We all have a lot of different issues. We have to work together. We got to work across the aisle. And that’s what I’m committed on doing is real solutions that 80% of folks can agree on.

13abc: You have two competitive districts in Lucas County, yours being one of them. There’s a chance we get two Republican representatives from Lucas County. There’s also a chance we get four Democrats. But if it’s two Republicans, you and John Williams, how much would that mean in this area for Republicans in terms of representation?

Rep. Merrin: Josh is a great candidate. I think he’s going to win. I think we’re both going to win. We would have a greater voice for Lucas County. A lot of times, Toledo and Lucas County gets left out of statewide discussions. We need Toledo to be more on the map here, get more resources, and be in more of the discussions. I just want to see the economic development really take off in Lucas County where we’d have more jobs, higher paying jobs, and lift the standard of living for everyone in Lucas County. That’s my number one issue right now is economic development, job creation, fighting inflation, and increasing our quality of life.

13abc: You’d have even more seniority in Columbus going into a fourth term. What’s next? Have you thought about leadership roles?

Rep. Merrin: I am in the discussions to potentially be the next Speaker of the House. I have two more years remaining to potentially serve. But I want to tell you, honestly, I’ve had a great run in government but that’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. This may be the last time that I run. I’m always going to be involved in government but I’m not going to be a career politician. There are other things that I’m interested to do. But I’m giving my heart and soul right now to doing everything I can for my district and to make Lucas County the best it can be. kind of investing.

13abc: What would it mean to Lucas County to have the House Speaker from this area?

Rep. Merrin: We’ve never had a Speaker of the House from Lucas County. It would mean a lot because we could get a lot more resources here and make sure funding is more equitable throughout the state and get more jobs. I think we can really attract some of the biggest companies to our areas. I’d be able to have those conversations with a lot of them. I think it’d be a boom for our area.

13abc: What’s been your elevator pitch to the new voters in a new district that’s very different than how rural it once was? Not it’s only Lucas County. What’s your message to new people?

Rep. Merrin: My three issues: Fighting inflation, supporting law enforcement, helping our schools to be the best they can be. People care about the economic devastation that we’re all experiencing. It’s expensive to go out to eat, it’s expensive to fill up your car with gas, it’s expensive to do any type of medical procedures. People are hurting. They really are. We’ve got to turn that around. Number two, we’ve got to support a law enforcement. I don’t like how our police have been treated in the last couple of years all around the country. We have to have their back they have our back. They have our back. And third, we’ve got the schools to be the best they can be. We’ve got to support our teachers. We’ve got to support the school system. We’ve got to make sure they have proper funding. A lot of them don’t have proper funding through the state. It’s a mess of a formula and I’m dedicated to trying to fix that. I have been working on that. So it’s an inflation, crimes – supporting our police, and our schools and our kids.

13abc: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Rep. Merrin: I don’t think so, thanks.

13abc: Why are you running for office?

Erika White: I’m running because I believe we can do better. There’s not going to be an easy transition to change. No change takes time. But the way we get to change is knowing that we can start with doing better. Better how we treat workers, better for women’s rights, workers’ rights, civil rights and voting rights. And I do believe that just someone knowing and believing that we can do better.

13abc: What’s the top issue you’re hearing from voters when you go out and you’re talking on the campaign trail?

White: Crime and gun violence. People are concerned about inflation, but they really care about what’s happening right here at home when it comes to gun violence, and making sure that they can feel safe in their communities and in their homes. That is huge. That is the number one, believe it or not, topic I hear, followed by women’s rights. I will say 1-A and 1-B.

13abc: If you’re in the minority in the state legislature, which you’d likely would be, how do you address some of those issues?

White: You really have to know how to work with others. And that’s something that I’m able to do. You find people who have the same values. So, finding the values no matter if you’re in the minority or majority. It’s the same thing for myself when I’m going in and negotiating contracts. I don’t always have the upper hand also don’t have the money. I’m negotiating on how to get things done. You have to know how to work together. And you have to find those who have the same goals, the same values, and then you work toward those. We can have two different ways to get somewhere. But as long as we’re headed the same place, we can always work toward getting there together. And that’s where it’s going to have to be. You have to be very good at negotiating, knowing how to work with people and identifying who was most like you.

13abc: What would you like to see your future potential colleagues in the legislature do when it comes to abortion?

White: When it comes to abortion, we need to make sure that it is a right. That is a medical decision that sticks with a woman and her physician. The government should not be involved in that. The role of government is to laugh affordability and accessibility for anyone. I always say this, the government could follow you inside the building right to the point when it’s time to close the door and you can either close the door, or you can slam it shut because the government does not belong anywhere when it comes to women’s health care decisions and their physicians. I truly believe that.

13abc: What about gun rights? What do you want to see changed?

White: We have to have common sense gun laws. So making sure that, while we’re allowing the public to have the right to protect themselves, we also have to make sure that we continue to have those laws in place that protect people. And when I’m talking about people, I’m talking about also our public safety forces. We want to make sure that then when they are going up and they’re pulling someone over on a routine traffic stop, or a firefighter is going into a home, or a state trooper, we want to make sure that they know that the person what kind of firearm to him now. Do you have a firearm? So we have to make sure that while we’re protecting our community, that the people that are protecting our community are safe also. And making sure that gun laws are common sense gun laws. There’s nothing wrong with having a gun or owning a gun. I’m a gun owner, and making sure that I know how to operate the gun, making sure that I’m keeping my gun up safely from people in my home - children are those that may come by.

13abc: How do you tell people you can address a complex issue like inflation?

White: One way we guard against inflation, recessions, or even when the best part which we love, when the economy is booming, when people have regular people have family-sustaining wages, wages which allow you to take care of your family and take care of your home to work and retire with dignity - when we’re able to do that, that’s how we fight inflation. What we’re seeing with inflation is not a localized issue. It’s not a national issue. It’s a global issue. And we can’t control that. But we can control this right here locally, is how we take care of make sure that the economy works for everyone. It works for workers’ wages, it makes sure that we’re taking care of small business owners, and makes sure that we’re supporting the local economy. That’s how we make sure that we help with inflation. There’s a lot of things that are on the mind to be done. But unfortunately, at the state level, what we can do is allow tax credits to help people with prescription drug costs. We can help parents who have to drop their kids off to daycare. So there are credits we can give, but the problem was inflation is actually at the national level. So we have to look at the local level what we can do to take care of people and keep more money in their pockets.

13abc: There’s a chance that Lucas County gets four Democrats in Columbus for its house delegation, which would be a brand new delegation. There’s also a chance there are two Republicans and two Democrats representing this county. What would the impact of having four Democrats from Lucas County? What would your new delegation provide?

White: We really have to look at how each of us are a little different. So people just think Democrat, and this label of you must be liberal. You must be someone that has this agenda. When you look at what I stand for, it’s more of a moderate Democrat. I’m looking for how do we get to the places where people need to be which is what their wages, with their health care or prescription costs, with letting seniors stay in their home, with earned income credit, how do we get there? So what you have is four people that are able to work together, even though we’re all going to think the same all the time, but we’re able to take each part of this county and some of the districts – as you know, with Elgin Rogers, his district goes a little farther out to Genoa, so you’re talking about how do we bring in everything from around this area together and work together toward a common goal? You’re going to see some pretty outstanding things happening, being passed, being legislated, being sponsored and voted on that are from the voices of the people from here in Lucas County and also bringing resources back. There are a lot of House bills out there right now, House Bill 512, which right now my opponent has not supported at all, allows us to keep police and fire funding. So you’re talking about bringing money back to municipalities and also taking care of firefighters and police today and firefighters, police that are getting hired right now and those in the future. Those are some pretty exciting things that you will see happening that will really benefit the communities of Lucas County.

13abc Your opponent is running an ad on TV that says you’re that he’s running on TV says you support Nancy Pelosi’s tax and spend agenda --

White: I’ve never met her --

13abc: It says you stand for the defund police movement and the radical left. I wonder how you respond to that?

White When I decided to run, I figured that we’d be running on what we’ve done so far. As everyone knows, I work every day. I have never been to Columbus and cast a vote on anything. I’ve only been working so I’ve never ran for school board and never ran for public office. This is my first time. So what I expected was that we will be running off of our records. Instead, we’re running off of commercials that are on extremism. Where we are right now in this country, we had to run an ad back to counter that with facts with the House Bills that passed. House Bill 126 is one of them, which has been co-sponsored by my opponent which he hasn’t talked about, which is a six-week abortion ban. And then he voted against any extremes that for no extremes can you get an abortion and it was talking about incest and rape. And then to top that off, he also voted against any accommodations for women that are pregnant at work. So when you look at those things, when you look at what he’s sponsoring, instead of having you focus on that, we move people to extremes. And that’s not we are in Lucas County. We cannot do that. That puts myself, my family, my neighbors at risk when we talk about extremism. So again, when we talk about ‘we can do better,’ we’ve run ads in my campaign that are actually factual. We’ve made sure to focus on what my accomplishments are, and not bashing because I don’t want to move to extremes. I want to stay in the middle. We’re knocking on doors where I know people are. It is it is hard to watch many untruths told about yourself and people say, “Hey, that’s just politics.” But even as a politician, even running for office, you can have integrity, and you can tell the truth. You can stand on your values and what you do. You don’t have to go to the point of telling complete untruths for someone whose husband is a firefighter. Most people may not know that police and fire funding, they’re tied. I wouldn’t take money away from my family. So I’m not going to take money away from your family either. In fact, when we’re talking about House Bill 512, It takes care of firefighters. My opponent has not supported that bill. House Bill 265, and hope I got the right, there was one to protect workers at the refinery. And there was a horrible accident at our refinery. My opponent that could have voted for that bill long before now. So we’re talking about someone who’s saying untruths about me when we actually know - It diverts people from finding out what the truth is. I am not trying to get anyone to just listen to who I am. I want you to learn about more of who I am. And I hope people will do that.

13abc: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

White: I really want to encourage people to vote. It’s important. It is our democracy. It is who we are. This is the most impactful election of our time. This election will decide in this country where we go for workers’ rights, where we’re headed for women’s rights, where we’re headed for voters’ rights, and where we’re headed for civil rights. And each of us has the obligation to show up and cast a vote to make sure we’re the future of this country. Ohio, Toledo, Lucas County goes. I’m excited about that. And I’m excited to be your next state rep and work for the people and makes it fun for me. I’m excited about that.

Editors note: Some portions of the interview were edited for clarity.

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