A Delaware County businesswoman with deep ties in Athens County is running for Congress in Ohio’s 12th District. This district was bitterly fought over in a nationally watched special election in August 2018, with the Republican candidate, Troy Balderson, winning by a tiny margin.
Alaina Shearer, a graduate of both Athens High School and Ohio University, is president and founder of Cement Marketing in downtown Columbus. She’s also responsible for launching “Together Digital,” a growing professional and social association to help women grow in their careers.
Shearer, who’s running for office for the first time, lives with her husband and four children in Liberty Township, located in southern Delaware County near Columbus.
In an email interview over the weekend, Shearer said she still feels a strong connection to Athens after so many years away.
“While I spent my early childhood in Delaware, Ohio, I am an Athens High School and Ohio University graduate,” she said. “My experiences within the community of Athens and OU gave me two parallel perspectives that shaped who I am today.”
Shearer lost her father, Raymond Shearer, an Emergency Department physician at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, to cancer in 1999. Her mother still lives in Athens County, just outside of Amesville.
After graduating from OU with a journalism degree in 2001, Shearer moved to Columbus where she became a reporter and news anchor for both 610 WTVN and the WNCI Morning Zoo.
Several years later, now a single mom, Shearer returned to Athens, where she served as communications coordinator for the Athens County Convention & Visitors Bureau in 2007.
While in Athens, both in high school and college, Shearer worked in different capacities for The Athens NEWS.
“My very first job, at the age of 16, was actually handing out copies of The Athens NEWS to incoming freshman on campus,” she recalled. “I took the job just for a chance to meet you (Editor Terry Smith) and to win the opportunity to become a contributing writer, which I did. I pitched you story ideas, and I believe my first published piece was documenting illegal drug use and experimentation by high school students.”
After Shearer graduated from Athens High School, then Athens NEWS Publisher and owner Bruce Mitchell “recruited me into a part-time position as a classified sales representative. That job paid my way through college, and I kept it from freshman to junior year at OU (1998-2000).”
Shearer said she “loved every minute at The Athens NEWS. You all taught me so much about the workings of the world and local politics.”
She also worked as a reporter and co-anchor for Athens radio stations WXTQ and WATH (FM and AM of the same company) from 1997-2001.”
Shearer said she’s already receiving ample support from Athens since announcing her congressional campaign on Oct. 23. “I have been overwhelmed by the support of my Athens network,” she said. “During these first months of my campaign, fundraising is the top priority, and I can say Athens donors have made a very big impact.”
THE 12TH CONGRESSIONAL District, in which Shearer is running, is similar to the 15th District (which includes most of Athens County), according to Shearer. Both districts are the ungainly spawn of politically motivated gerrymandering by Republicans in the Statehouse, with the 15th meandering south from Columbus toward Athens, and the 12th heading north from near the I-270 Outerbelt. U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican from Upper Arlington, represents the 15th District.
“If you look at our two districts, they are adjacent for approximately 60 miles,” Shearer said. “Our issues are very much the same in that both districts are comprised of urban, suburban and rural areas. So, yes, absolutely, whatever change I bring to Washington on behalf of my district will undoubtedly affect District 15 and Athens.”
She cited demographic changes in north Columbus and Delaware County as bolstering a strong Democratic candidate’s prospects in the 2020 congressional election. While Donald Trump won the 12th District by 11 points in 2016, Balderson, whom the president and national GOP actively promoted before the August 2018 special election, won by less than 1 percent. Balderson, who previously served as a state senator, prevailed by a wider margin over the same opponent, Democrat Danny O’Conner, in the general election a few months later, though it was still close.
“Between the two districts,” Shearer said, “the greatest difference, and something Republican state legislators didn’t count on during their unconstitutional gerrymandering, is the major population growth in the District 12 suburbs surrounding cities like Westerville and Delaware. While the population has changed, so has the voting demographic, and we feel there is a very good chance Democrats can flip District 12 in 2020.”
(At this early point, it’s uncertain whether Shearer will face another Democrat in the primary next spring.)
Shearer criticized Balderson for marching in lock-step behind President Trump.
“When you represent a district as diverse as ours, a very purple district comprised of nearly as many Democrats as Republicans, and independents caught in the middle, it is your obligation as a Congress person to represent as many sides of the argument as you can,” Shearer said. “In fact, compromise… is essential.”
During his first term, Shearer added, “Congressman Balderson has proven that he is a ‘yes’ man to the Trump Administration and has voted strictly along party lines on nearly every single issue. He has also betrayed his own people’s best interests in exchange for the special interests and corporations who fund his campaign war chest.”
As examples, Shearer cited Balderson’s against the MORE Health Education Act, “legislation that would have restored critical funding for targeted outreach to promote enrollment in health coverage in either the ACA or Medicare and Medicaid to the uninsured, underinsured and other disadvantaged communities.”
She laid out other issues she intends to campaign on.
“From voting against saving our climate, to voting against raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and even voting against a law to help level the playing field for women to be paid equally, Balderson is fundamentally opposed to issues that would greatly benefit the people within District 12,” Shearer said.
SHEARER ACKNOWLEDGED THAT HER campaign has not been talking much about the ongoing impeachment effort in Congress.
“Not being a sitting Congress person, I believe the focus of my campaign is exactly where it should be – on creating much needed change for the people of Ohio and my district,” she said. “So, yes, we’re deliberately staying out of the impeachment battle. With that said, I completely support the House Democrats for upholding the Constitution and certainly wish the president would do the same and cooperate with investigators.”
She slammed Balderson for failing to speak out against the actions of Trump, noting that he co-sponsored “a resolution that obstructs the critical investigations going on in the House.
“This astonishes me. No matter where you stand on this issue, as an American, we should all support upholding the constitutional process,” Shearer said.
She said she’s optimistic about Ohio Democratic candidates’ prospects in 2020. “This November we saw many gains for Democrats, and local elections are a key indicator of how we will fare in 2020. Many of those cities like Reynoldsburg and Delaware are in my district.”
Shearer concluded, “That’s why I believe so many across the state and the nation will be watching my race to closely. No pressure, right?”
Asked about some of Shearer's assertions, Erin Collins, a spokesperson for Rep. Balderson's campaign, said, "Every day Troy Balderson works to solve difficult problems, lift people up, and remove obstacles that prevent families from benefiting from this historic prosperity. We can’t afford to go back to the policies that brought economic despair to so many hard-working men and women."