McCullough will file the necessary paperwork with the Ohio State Board of Elections this week, making official his intention to run for the 74th District seat in the Ohio House of Representatives. At the tender age of 19, the political science major/philosophy minor at Wittenberg announced his decision during a rally Tuesday at Edon High School, where he served as class president for three years and earned his diploma less than nine months ago.
“I’m really pumped up about it,” McCullough said. “I want to give back to my community because the people there have done so much for me.”
McCullough will need to maintain that energy through a lengthy campaign process, starting with a bid to win the Democratic primary on May 2 and potentially concluding with a run toward the Nov. 7 election date against one of three Republican primary candidates. He has worked out most of the scheduling kinks with his professors and the academic services staff at Wittenberg, but he still faces a campaign as a political unknown in an area that has not had a Democratic state representative in more than 40 years. In addition, he will do most of his campaigning on the weekends, made more complicated by the three-hour driving distance between Springfield and his home district.
McCullough does not currently have an opponent in the primary, hardly a surprise considering the overwhelming Republican partisanship of his district, which includes all of Fulton and Williams counties and a large portion of Defiance County in extreme northwest Ohio. He is bidding for a seat representing approximately 100,000 constituents currently held by Steve Buehrer (R., Delta), who is running for state Senate in 2006 because he can’t run for the statehouse again due to term limits. Buehrer ran his last two races for state representative without Democratic opposition.
The freshman class vice president at Wittenberg and the former president of his high school’s National Honors Society, McCullough said he started thinking about a run for the statehouse after attending Buckeye Boys State in 2004. Sponsored annually by the American Legion, Buckeye Boys State is a nine-day, hands-on experience in the operation of Democratic government and the organization of political parties.
Founded in 1936, Buckeye Boys State is the largest Boys State program in the nation with an attendance of approximately 1,400 high school students annually. At Boys State, the students learn about city, county and state government through a non-partisan objective education approach, which clearly resonated with McCullough.
“I’ve always been interested in government and politics,” McCullough said. “When I attended Buckeye Boys State, I ran for and won the same position that I am running for now. I learned all about the position, and I learned how the legislative process works.”
McCullough is still in the process of developing a complete campaign platform, but he said that his top priority is education, a hot button issue in the state of Ohio – especially, ironically, in Wittenberg’s hometown of Springfield. McCullough said he plans a thorough study of the education crisis in Ohio – from elementary and secondary school funding that has been ruled unconstitutional four times by the state’s Supreme Court to higher education institutions, which have had state aid slashed in recent years. Then he hopes to offer a fresh perspective and potential solutions to these thorny issues.
“I plan to run a campaign that is focused on the future,” McCullough said. “Education is vital to Ohio’s future, and it has an impact on everything.
“Northwest Ohio – all of Ohio, really – is hurting for jobs. Young people are our future, and we can’t have them leaving the state because they can’t get the right education or find the right jobs here.”
Along with his experience at Buckeye Boys State and his personal interest in politics, McCullough said he was inspired to run for the statehouse by Derrick Seaver (R., Minster), who is in his third term representing the 78th District. Seaver became a state representative in 2000 as an 18-year-old Democrat after winning an election by just 242 votes. Still a student at Wright State University’s Lake Campus in Celina, Ohio, Seaver switched his party affiliation in 2004.
McCullough said that his experience at Wittenberg, however brief, has been exceptional and has helped prepare him for this momentous occasion. He has made several close friends, including David Donofrio, the freshman class president. who will serve as McCullough’s campaign manager.
“I love the atmosphere here,” McCullough said. “The students are really nice, and the teachers have been very encouraging. There is so much to do.”
McCullough hopes the constituents in Ohio’s 74th District will recognize his commitment come Nov. 7.
- Ryan Maurer
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