CIRCLEVILLE — If Republican Brian Stewart was ever worried about finding people who would back his run for the Ohio House of Representatives, he didn’t have very far to look to discover that might not be an issue.
More than 50 people turned out Wednesday nine months before the primary to hear the 36-year-old Pickaway County commissioner announce that he won’t seek re-election to that post in 2020, but instead compete to become the next person to represent Ohio’s 78th District in the Statehouse.
Leaders from around the state showed up at the Pickaway County Republican headquarters in Circleville to offer their support for Stewart. The seat he seeks is being vacated by Ohio Rep. Ron Hood (R-Ashville), who is prohibited by term limits from running for re-election.
Stewart, 36, spoke briefly during the announcement after being introduced by Michael Whitten chairman of the Pickaway County Republican Central Committee.
“I’ve spent my entire adult life serving my country and my community,” Stewart said. “After much prayer, I feel called to continue on that path.”
Stewart said when he first ran for commissioner in 2012, he made a promise to work hard every day to help create jobs and to employ fiscal responsibility with taxpayers’ money.
“It’s been my honor and privilege to work in and serve this community for the last seven years alongside great partners, commissioners [Jay Wippel] and [Harold “Champ” Henson],” he said. “In that time, we’ve passed a balanced budget every year with no deficit spending, we’ve helped created 2,700 new, good paying jobs, reduced the unemployment rate from 9 percent to 3 percent and we’ve built a new fairgrounds that this community can be proud of for decades to come.”
A U.S. Army veteran, Stewart said his service as an infantryman in Iraq following 9/11 and what he saw there reminded him that “America is the greatest country in the world.”
“During that time, I served with six men who made the ultimate sacrifice and didn’t make it home,” he said. “When I came back, I felt called to serve to do whatever I could to make the community a better place and to earn this extra chance at life I’d been given.”
Stewart outlined his platform and made pledges to those who attended the announcement.
“I look forward to working with [Ohio House Speaker Larry Housholder] to make Ohio the best state in America to raise a family,” he said. “I’ll fight for lower taxes, limited government and make sure the thousands of jobs we’ve created here in Pickaway County are just as possible in the district. I’ll be a partner for local governments across Pickaway County, Fairfield, Hocking, Morgan, Muskingham and Athens counties as we work to combat drug abuse, to improve our schools, to improve broadband internet access and to enhance the pride we all should feel as Ohioans.”
Stewart said he would “stand proudly” for issues that include pro-life protections for the unborn, Second Amendment rights, religious liberty, freedom of speech and ensuring Ohio does its part in providing a strong national defense, secure borders and American way of life.
Among the people who endorsed him were U.S. Reps. Troy Balderson and Steve Stivers. Stivers did not attend the event because of a family matter, but he did have a representative read a letter the congressman sent.
“It has been my privilege to work with Brian for many years, and I have come to know him as a strong conservative leader who always puts the needs of his constituents first,” Stivers wrote. “As a fellow veteran of the Iraq War, Brian put his life on the line for our country as an Army infantryman, and he brings that same toughness to the job of being an elected official. Brian has been living, working, and raising his family in Ohio’s 78th House District ever since he came home Iraq, and he shares the values of the families across Pickaway, Fairfield, Hocking, Morgan, Muskingum, and Athens counties. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he’s been walking the walk, by voting for balanced budgets, low taxes, job creation, and conservative principles.”
Witten called Stewart a “good, solid man.”
“I look at this as [Stewart] taking a new chapter for Ohio and for us as a county,” he said. “[Stewart] represents the things that I think I’m very proud about as a Republican. The conservative, sound fiscal management of a solid Republican who always believes you’re a caretaker of the taxpayers’ money and making sure you’re doing a good job with it.”