Sunday, February 29, 2004

Endorsements in GOP legislative races


Unlike other election years, Tuesday's primary includes a number of contested races on the Republican side for Ohio General Assembly seats in our area. Here are our endorsements in four of those races.

14th Ohio Senate District

Two able second-term House members, Jean Schmidt of Loveland (66th District) and Tom Niehaus of New Richmond (88th District), are vying to fill the seat of term-limited Senate President Doug White. The district includes Clermont, Brown, Adams, Scioto and part of Lawrence County. We endorse Niehaus.

Schmidt can boast a superior legislative record in the number and quality of bills she's carried. She has the endorsements and campaign funds to make her the favorite. Niehaus has worked more behind the scenes in consensus-building roles; he has the kind of temperament and collaborative skills that are valuable assets in the Senate. Both have stressed constituent service and have been conscientious in advancing their areas' interests.

But the campaign has been marred recently by statements twisting the two candidates' voting records to Schmidt's advantage. A harsh attack ad against Niehaus was aired this week by the Ohio Taxpayers Association, which has endorsed Schmidt as the "most conservative" of the two, blasting Niehaus' votes in favor of higher sales, gas and other taxes. What it does not say is that Schmidt also supported many of the same measures. But when it came to the final tax-and-spend budget monstrosity that codified those tax hikes, Niehaus actually voted no, while Schmidt voted yes.

This unfortunate turn of events swings our support to Niehaus, who has few resources available to set the record straight. We hope he wins.

29th Ohio House District

The oddity in the race for this district, which includes Colerain Township, Mount Healthy and nearby communities, is that one of the three candidates already represents its residents in Columbus, but isn't its incumbent. Term-limited Sen. Lou Blessing wants to move into one of three House seats within his Senate district. Also running are educator John Waksmundski, Springfield Township clerk, and Keith Corman, Colerain Township trustee. We favor Blessing.

Waksmundski focuses on tax reduction, would like to work in education policy, and plans innovative efforts to inform his constituents about pending legislation. Corman speaks with insight on transportation issues, job development and regional planning, and would bring a valuable perspective on townships' needs.

But Blessing, who's represented the area in Columbus since 1983, has worked in Senate leadership and has a superior grasp of utility regulation, state finances, taxes and more. He possesses a clear vision of the long-term problems confronting the state, and of the political realities in dealing with them.

There's little doubt that Blessing's expertise and talent, if brought into full play, would benefit not only his district but the entire state. We support Lou Blessing's bid for a "demotion" to the House.

34th Ohio House District

Rep. Tom Brinkman of Mount Lookout and attorney-challenger Greg Delev of Anderson Township are rock-ribbed conservatives who agree on most fiscal and social issues. The issue here is Brinkman's lack of effectiveness, which makes us favor Delev.

Few lawmakers are as honest, principled and consistent as Brinkman. But he exhibits those qualities to a fault, coming off as stubborn, ideologically rigid and unwilling to compromise. He's made many enemies in Columbus by refusing to see anyone else's side of things. This has limited his ability to work with others and get things done.

To be fair, Brinkman has delivered on a number of initiatives, including some to help communities in his district. He's been a constant presence in local meetings. He's working on reforms he thinks are needed, and some of his stances (such as gun ownership) have been mischaracterized.

But the district indeed could benefit from more effective, collegial representation. Delev, who has worked in the party organization and has been a member of Hamilton County's mental health board, has the style and skills to make an impact on budget, tax and local control issues. He deserves a chance.

88th Ohio House District

The GOP contest for Niehaus' House seat includes economic development director Harry Snyder of Batavia, attorney and former common pleas judge Danny Bubp of Adams County, and attorney and Pierce Township trustee Curt Hartman. Bubp points to his service in the Marines, his appointive term as judge and his experience running his own law office, saying he'd be a decisive leader. Snyder says his work attracting business and creating jobs has given him experience and contacts with state officials. Hartman says the breadth of his naval, academic, legal and elective experience would make him an effective lawmaker. We endorse Hartman.

All four candidates are fiscal conservatives who scorch state tax policies for hurting rural areas. Snyder indeed would be skilled on rural infrastructure and business development; Bubp would forcefully present conservative views on social, tax and job issues. But Hartman, the only one with a track record in elective office, appears best attuned to the role of a legislator in balancing various interests and viewpoints, seeing the big picture and working effectively with a diverse group of lawmakers.

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