The Ohio State University at Marion

Student politicians at OSUM "buck" the political norm

Mike Thomas has been a Marion City Council member longer than Tanner Hale has been alive. But the 19-year old Ohio State Marion student came very close to knocking Marion County’s Democratic Party chair out of his city government seat—and may, yet, when all of the provisional ballots are counted and the November third election results are certified.

Hale, who ran as a Republican in the heavily Democratic Third Ward, is a sophomore political science/economics major at The Ohio State University at Marion. He said he wasn’t given a chance by most people he knew when he decided to take on the long-time city councilman. “But I rolled up my sleeves and got to work,” he said. The young Republican said he visited every home in the third ward, knocking on doors five and six times during the campaign.

Unofficial results showed him losing to Thomas by only four votes, 546 for Thomas to 542 for Hale. The results remain unofficial until provisional ballots are reviewed by the Marion County Board of Elections. County Elections Director, John Meyer said there are enough provisional ballots in Marion’s Third Ward to determine the outcome of the Hale-Thomas race.

Regardless of the final outcome, Hale said he gained “a real understanding of change and how change works”--something he can apply to his classes at Ohio State Marion. His goal is to become a lawyer, perhaps running to become a county prosecutor.

Tanner Hale’s best friend is 20-year old sophomore Bryce Coder from Mount Gilead. Like Hale, Coder is a political science major at Ohio State Marion. In fact, the two met at their orientation a few days before classes started in August, 2014. Also, like Hale, Coder decided to run for political office in this year’s election. Unlike Hale, Coder is a Democrat. He ran for a seat on the Mount Gilead Village School Board, but lost by about 150 votes. Even so, Coder found the experience exhilarating.

“I come from a campaign background, said Coder. “I worked for the Obama campaign in 2012 and I just started knocking on doors and making phone calls with the local people who helped me so much. I ended up getting a job in 2014 as a campaign manager for a candidate for state representative.”

Coder felt his work with both campaigns was invaluable experience and great networking, which eventually led to him running for a spot on his local school board.

“I got to see that whole background of how campaigns are run,” Coder said.

Although he was hesitant to run, considering his age and experience, encouragement from others prompted him to throw his hat into the ring.

“I thought that I would have a unique perspective,” he explained. I could make the changes that I thought would be relevant, that would’ve helped my education as a student going through the same thing.”

Despite their differing political philosophies, the two young men have found they have much in common and can work together to effect change. Both are concerned about mental health issues—and now, following their campaigns, both have an appreciation for the work involved in the political process. Tanner Hale is involved in the College Republican Club at Ohio State Marion while Bryce Coder is involved in the College Democratic Club.

Through their friendship at Ohio State Marion, the two young politicians have found their favorite pastime. When they’re not campaigning, they’ve been known to spend hours sitting in the Ohio House of Representatives gallery, watching legislation being made in person.

Hale says attending Ohio State Marion has given him a perspective he can use as he realizes his political aspirations. “The diversity that the campus brings, it’s really an overall educational experience. It’s not just learning the material, but learning to really care for others and learning other peoples’ way of life. This campus is giving me a learning experience that will carry me for the rest of my life. And I thank Ohio State for that.”