Running in District 87 of Ohio, Lehart is facing a Republican stronghold. His chances are not statistically good. He is running because his potential constituents are neighbors, coworkers and friends. He knows his home district better than anyone else. He also knows their struggles first hand.
His story was a difficult one. After working for General Motors from 1994 to 2006, making a steady $75,000 a year, he lost his job. Facing difficulties providing for his family and just making it to the next week, his skills as a machine repair journeyman did not transfer well and he could only find minimum wage work. His family was forced to go on food stamps and Medicaid.
“This was heartbreaking,” Lehart said. In 2008, his wife went to work and he went to college, “We were able to get off both [food stamps and Medicaid].”
“We weren’t out of the woods because our house was foreclosed on,” he said. “We fought to keep it and were successful in that fight.”
Now an operations manager for a food manufacturer and making a decent living, he is pursuing a doctorate in public administration. He holds a B.S. in management and an MBA in specialization and organizational leadership. He knows what is at stake and understands what hardworking people face in a district and state and country where each day is a new struggle.
While this country is run by those safely confident in their place, the grassroots of both political parties are seeing now how the real world works. Lehart is running to show the state legislature what his district’s struggles are. He experienced the devastation of the financial and automobile crises. He understands the struggle of keeping his home. He understands the importance of affordable education.
“I plan to change the current path for Ohio and give everyone their chance to live their version of the American Dream,” Lehart wrote in a Facebook interview. “Don’t we all deserve that?”
He sees the leaders of Ohio as misguided and not realizing the daily problems Ohioans face. These issues, reflected across the nation, have not ended with the “recovery” of the economy. While the financial industry is whirring away again, the majority of America is still wading in the disaster’s discards. Lehart, an opponent of the new Ohio Budget, sees the faults in so many of its clauses. With a wife and two daughters, the slights against women’s rights in the bill “hit home.”
His opponent, Jeff McClain, co-sponsored the infamous Senate Bill 5 in Ohio, which attempted to restrict collective bargaining rights for 350,000 workers across Ohio. Senate Bill 5 was overturned in a mass grassroots effort on part of Ohioans—an example of how a common problem united a variety people. It was an even more illuminating example of the state leaders’ real intentions. “[McClain] has backed Kasich 100 percent, which is why he was in the picture where they are smiling after attacking the poor, and middle class, and women,” Lehart said of the recently passed state budget.
Unlike many aspiring political leaders, Lehart sees his work as a link to making a localized and individualized impact on his own community. “My inspiration came from being one step from homeless, on food stamps, and Medicaid before I went back to college and lifted myself back up,” he said.
Lehart is one of a rising coalition of local leaders who have experienced the effects of a government that caters to the privileged. After the Great Recession, many people are still recovering and the façade of the economy, the big banks, conceals the suffering of little people.
Lehart has decided to raise his voice for those still struggling or who have struggled and are weary of the right-wing’s deceitful and selfish tactics. “I plan to stop any bill that will help the rich, attack the poor, attack women, and attack worker’s rights,” he said.
Calling Kasich an uncaring governor who wants to stop people like himself from “bettering themselves,” Lehart is critical of today’s leadership. If he is elected is plan will focus on economic development, education, and a reworking of the budget. “I can’t sit by while those in my district who are neighbors and friends struggle with no help in Columbus,” Lehart wrote. “I have been there and will fight for those who can accomplish what I have.”
Ohio may be a swing state but for our own well-being, it is wise to find leadership who truly understand local problems and will fight for rights integral to local communities. Lehart is among them.