Mary Yeager or Mark Auer to Challenge Denise Driehaus

by Edward D. Hyde

Republican voters in the Ohio House of Representatives 31st district have a choice of two challengers to take on incumbent Denise Driehaus in the primary on May 6th: Norwood accountant Mary Yeager and St. Bernard teacher Mark Auer.

Mark Auer, who has a master’s degree in education administration from Xavier University, teaches elementary school in multiple subjects.  His goals, if elected, include lowering taxes, protecting religious freedom and other individual rights, and stopping Common Core.  He and his wife have three children.

Mary Yeager, a certified public accountant (CPA) with experience auditing government entities, says her priorities if elected would include stopping Common Core (“I’m very much against it”) and tax reform to bring more jobs to Ohio.

Mark Auer says that if elected, he would work to reduce the size of government and reduce the scope of its power over Ohioans.  He hopes to strengthen the sometimes forgotten Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, under which Ohio and the other states retain any powers not expressly delegated to the federal government.

Mr. Auer’s stated goals also include

  • protecting religious freedom,
  • protecting gun-ownership rights,
  • finding creative non-tax and non-toll solutions for the I-71-75 bridge,
  • stopping Common Core and returning control of education to the local level,
  • increasing the use of Ohio’s own energy resources, and
  • protecting the unborn from the point of development of fingerprints (at which point, he reasons, it is indisputable that they are unique individuals).

Mary Yeager started her accounting career with the “Big Four” firm of Ernst & Young, but has also worked for small CPA firms and been self-employed.  Moving with her husband as he worked on a master’s degree and then a Ph. D. in music history, she has worked in New Jersey, Indiana, and Ohio.  She is currently in the Internal Audit department at the University of Cincinnati.  Her husband teaches Latin for Cincinnati Public Schools, at Kilgour, and is the choir director at their church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Norwood.  They have five children.

“I guess I never really saw myself as a candidate or a politician,” Mrs. Yeager explains.  “I guess I tend to be a little more on the quiet side.

“But I also believe in—too many times people say, ‘Oh, well, I’m too busy.  And this needs to get done—somebody will get around to it.’  And I just made a personal decision a couple years ago that I’m going to make a focused effort not to do that.  I may be busy, but I’m not going to wait around for somebody else to do it.”

Mrs. Yeager describes getting involved in public policy and public service in 2010.  The Ohio Society of CPAs was looking for volunteers for its Ohio Budget Reform Speaker’s Bureau to educate the public about the $8-billion deficit that Ohio was facing and take action to fix it, and Mrs. Yeager agreed to join the effort.  As part of that work, she started going to Norwood City Council meetings, where people encouraged her to get more involved.

In 2011, when asked to do so at the eleventh hour, she ran for Norwood City Council in a field race:  Three Democrats and three Republicans competed for three seats.  Democrats took two of the three.  Mrs. Yeager came in sixth; on the other hand, she points out that all five of the others had a seven-month head start on her.

In 2013, she ran for Norwood Treasurer against a longtime incumbent and got 47% of the vote.

Asked why she is running in this race, Mrs. Yeager explains, “I live in the district; I wanted a choice!  I wanted somebody to vote for.  I didn’t want to be left with just Driehaus to be our representative.  So I thought, well, the people at least deserve a choice.”

Mary Yeager acknowledges that, if she is selected as the Republican nominee in next month’s primary, it will be “an extremely tough race”—“it’s a heavily Democratic district,” she explains—but she believes that she can earn support from both Republican and Democratic voters.  “I was told my odds for winning the treasurer seat were nearly impossible, because of his background and how long he had been in there, and I ran, and I ended up coming really close, which surprised a lot of people, how close I came.”

The incumbent state representative, Democrat Denise Driehaus, in 2012 beat Republican Michael Gabbard, also of Norwood, with 35,982 votes to his 14,412, or 71–29% (results here, linked from here).

One person who knows Mary Yeager and can recommend her is fellow Republican Tom Brinkman, himself locked in a primary battle with Representative Peter Stautberg in the 27th district.  “Her husband Travis was one of my son’s high school teachers,” Mr. Brinkman explains.  He also knows her and her family from past political campaigns, and from Mr. Brinkman’s work as an insurance agent.  Of Mrs. Yeager, he says, “Mary is a good person. . . . She would be better than most and with her head for numbers, that could be very valuable in Columbus.”

Mary Yeager is endorsed in this race by Citizens for Community Values (linked from here) and Cincinnati Right to Life and is the “preferred” candidate of Ohio Right to Life.

In addition to being a CPA, Mrs. Yeager is also a certified fraud examiner and a certified internal auditor.  Asked how her professional experience has prepared her to be a state representative, she explains, “I have a somewhat broad background; I think that helps.  I have worked Big Four, large clients.  I’ve also worked as a sole proprietor, doing consulting work and fraud work, and working with small businesses, which I think is very important as a state legislator, because small business employs so many people; we need to be able to understand their concerns and what they deal with, and I have experience with that.”

Mrs. Yeager is especially eager to fight tax increases and enact tax reform.  She points out that Governor Kasich has proposed raising the commercial-activity tax (or “CAT”) and lowering income taxes, “but businesses are saying, We’re going to have to pass it on to the consumer; so the consumer still ends up paying it somehow.  And if they can’t pass it on to the consumer, there’s of course the danger that if you keep increasing taxes, businesses are going to have to close, they’re going to have more people on unemployment; so it’s not very simple, ‘Oh well let’s raise one and lower the other,’ there’s a lot of ramifications with doing that.”

As to reform, she recalls that when she lived and worked in Indiana, filing income taxes was much easier than it is in Ohio.  She says that “it was a very simple, whatever county we lived in, this is the rate, we multiplied it out, added it to your state return, and it was very, very simple.  [In Ohio,] with all the different municipalities having all different rules—when I first came to Ohio, as a CPA, doing tax returns—it is very cumbersome. . . . Most people think it only affects businesses, but it affects individuals too, especially if you’re working—if you’re delivering pizza, or a consultant, or moving around from city to city—some of these are only one square mile, three square miles, two square miles, and you’re going in and out, and trying even as an individual to keep track of that, and stay compliant, takes a lot of resources.  And so I think there is a real need [for tax reform], so that it would attract businesses and jobs to Ohio.”

Asked to distinguish herself from Mrs. Driehaus and Mr. Auer, Mary Yeager is reluctant to say anything negative about her opponents, preferring to focus on positive statements about her own qualifications.  However, she does allude to the fact that the Ohio Chamber of Commerce does not consider Mrs. Driehaus reliably good for business and job creation.  The Chamber gives Mrs. Driehaus a 43% grade for the 2011-2012 legislative session and a 48% lifetime rating (linked from here).

Mark Auer, for his part, says, “I believe that myself or my fellow Republican candidate will be a much needed improvement over the present Democrat that has allowed our neighborhoods to struggle these past years.”