Mark Hatch visits his old school in Kent to teach civic lesson

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Hatch was giving a state civics lesson for his favorite elementary teacher, Marty Wendell, who was his fifth grade teacher back in 1975-76. Wendell's students are getting ready for their state proficiency tests next week, and Hatch gave them the youngsters a personal example of what government is all about.

For many of the youngsters, government is pretty foreign to their immediate concerns. Most of them recognized the name George Bush but not George Voinovich.

A lot of what Hatch outlined about different branches of government and parts of the legislature was sailing right past the youngsters until he outlined how a legislative idea becomes law.

"Let's say I have an idea that every day be pizza day in every school in Ohio," Hatch said to an enthusiastic response from the class. "I could not do that by myself. I wouldn't have that power." Drawing on the chalk board, he outlined how bills are offered by either house of the state legislature, how agreement is reached, and how the bills are sent to the governor for approval or not, and how the state supreme court interprets laws according to the constitution.

The class also had a strong interest in the succession of the president, and what would happen if, say, the White House was disintegrated with the president and vice president inside. That question was the tip off that the students were taking their civics cues from movies such as "Independence Day."

Another question was why presidents and governors have bodyguards. Hatch explained government leaders are closely protected because of tragic circumstances in our history.

"I don't have bodyguards," Hatch said, "I have Ralph," indicating his campaign driver and friend, Ralph Recchie, in the back of the room. Recchie said he and Hatch have been friends since their days working for different state representatives.

For Hatch, his interest in politics was born right there in school.

"The first election that I was ever involved in was right here at Central Elementary _ I ran for first lieutenant of School Safety Patrol," he said. "That's where I learned about running for election _ how you talked to people and about ideas."

Since then, Hatch has been elected twice to the board of education of the Columbus Public Schools and served as board president.

Hatch has been picked as the lieutenant governor running mate of Bruce Douglas, a Columbus industrialist. They are seeking the state Democratic Party's nomination as candidates for the state's top two offices. And they are running on an education funding platform that says the proposed changes to how the state funds primary education.

Douglas and Hatch have called for a more thorough overhaul of state funding than is provided in plans offered by Governor Voinovich

Hatch brought his story and his campaign back to Kent Thursday afternoon. Hatch said he's been visiting schools across the state. Thursday's tour included a visit in Lima with a group of school superintendents, and then an evening stop in Barberton. In his discussions with school people, Hatch said, "they do not believe the reform package and ballot issue is enough."

Hatch said he believes the Douglas/Hatch campaign message is getting across.

"I think people are paying attention to our message," that the governor and legislature has not gone far enough to restructure school funding, he said.

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