Two Republicans are vying May 8 for the GOP nomination to succeed Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel.
Sandra O'Brien, a former Ashtabula County auditor, and state Rep. Robert Sprague both seek to run an office that in fiscal 2017 managed more than $224 billion in financial assets, including more than $21.5 billion in state investments. They also want to continue and expand Mandel's "Online Checkbook"initiative designed to bring more transparency to government spending.
O'Brien, 66, a retired educator who's run unsuccessfully before for statewide office -- including for Ohio treasurer in 2006, when she lost to Democrat Richard Cordray -- emphasizes her 12 years' experience as a county auditor. She says she's also running to shore up the representation of women after what she said was a recent decline of elected Republican women in Ohio amid #MeToo issues raised by recent crude comments at a Statehouse roast from some male legislators about their female colleagues.
Sprague, 45, who has championed bipartisan approaches to the opioid crisis in the Ohio House, where he's served for seven years, previously was auditor and treasurer for the city of Findlay and has private sector experience, including as the principal of an investment company in Findlay and as an international business consultant.
One of his proposed innovations is to use social impact bonds to encourage private investors to create programs to tackle opioid addiction. The bond issue would be structured so that taxpayers would only pay out if the programs were successful, with a third party evaluating results.
O'Brien opposes the idea, saying she is for more limited government, and arguing that social impact bonds would invite cronyism.
Sprague is the superior choice in this race. His pragmatic bent, varied background in private and public-sector finance, and early leadership role in addressing the state's opioid crisis suggest he would be a wise and forward-looking guardian of Ohio's treasury.
Republican voters should mark their ballots for Robert Sprague. Early voting in the May 8 primary has begun.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Rob Richardson, a Cincinnati attorney, and write-in Green Party candidate Paul Curry, a Columbus financial adviser, in the fall.