Saturday, October 30, 2004
Union activist big underdog
Niehaus seeks third term in Ohio Senate
By Reid Forgrave
Enquirer staff writer
As a union representative in Southwest Ohio, Paul Schwietering has fought long odds before.
And the odds don't appear to be in his favor against two-term Republican state Rep. Tom Niehaus of New Richmond in the race for the 14th District Ohio Senate seat.
But the Democratic challenger says don't bet against him.
"In an ordinary year in this district, no Democrat would have a chance," said Schwietering, 45, of Union Township. "But I'm hoping people are sick enough of the economic situation here to vote for a change."
The 14th District encompasses Clermont, Brown, Adams and Scioto counties, and part of Lawrence County. Nearly half the voters live in Clermont County.
Niehaus, 53, a former editor and publisher at the Community Press newspapers, says his news and legislative experience helps because he knows the legislators and has worked across party lines.
To stay in touch with his constituents, he pays monthly visits to county leaders and writes community newspaper columns.
"I'm accessible to all residents by phone, e-mail and letter," Niehaus said. "I get back with them - and not just during campaign season.
"And it doesn't make any difference whether you're a Republican or Democrat."
Schwietering has personally felt Ohio's economic downturn.
Like many electricians in the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, he was out of work for much of 2004.
"The last four years have been a disaster for Ohio because of the Republicans in the legislature," Schwietering said, citing decreasing manufacturing jobs and higher-education funding as casualties of Republican rule.
Schwietering finds the inequality in Ohio schools alarming.
"No one has been able to explain to me why one child should be worth $3.50 to another child's $1," Schwietering said.
For Neihaus, who lists public education, government spending and job growth as the big issues in this election, curbing state spending is a top priority.
"People are concerned the state government is living beyond its means," Niehaus said.
"We need to give people good value for their tax money. But you have to have priorities.
"You obviously can't increase education funding and decrease state spending unless you cut someplace."
To curb state spending, Niehaus wants to look for cuts in new state programs and in education bureaucracy.
"Aren't we better off putting dollars into the classroom instead of bureaucracy and administration?" Niehaus said.
Hometown: New Richmond.
Occupation: State representative, 88th District.
Quote: "We must control government spending. Ohio's spending has increased significantly more than the rate of inflation over the last decade. Some have suggested we need a Constitutional Amendment to restrain spending. There is another way. Elect individuals who will say no to huge spending increases."
Hometown: Union Township.
Occupation: Journeyman electrician.
Experience: Active in state Democratic party, union.
Quote: "The Supreme Court has declared (school funding) unconstitutional four times because the legislature has refused to do anything about it. It's unfair from the standpoint of raising funds, and it's unfair with expenditures, too. No one has been able to explain to me why one child should be worth $3.50 to another child's $1."