STEUBENVILLE - There is one issue Democrat incumbent state Sen. Lou Gentile of Steubenville and Republican challenger Shane Thompson of St. Clairsville can agree on in their spirited campaign for the 30th District state Senate seat Gentile now holds.
Neither man agrees with the Gov. John Kaisch's plans to tax the growing oil and gas drilling industry and distribute the taxes across all 88 counties in Ohio.
"I oppose the severance tax proposed by the Kasich administration. It calls for the redistribution of wealth from the oil and gas industry in Eastern Ohio and spread it across the state," said the 33-year-old Gentile.
"Gov. Kasich couldn't be more wrong about the severance tax. It is not a good idea to tax a single industry. It sends the wrong message," stated 42-year-old Thompson.
Beyond that issue the two candidates take different views on a variety of issues.
"I have been trying to focus on the issues during this campaign. I am proud of the work I have done. I have been in public service for several years now," said Gentile.
"The issues we face these days are not new to me. I come from a family background where I was taught to give back to my community. My commitment to the residents of Eastern Ohio is real and sincere. My background working for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and later in the Governor's Office of Appalachia has helped me to know and appreciate the people and issues of Eastern Ohio," said Gentile.
"I have been an effective legislator. I have been effective in working on a bi-partisan level in the Ohio General Assembly. As a member of the minority in the state Senate, I have been able to accomplish success by working with both Democrats and Republicans," he noted.
"I support the responsible use of our natural resources as well as renewable energy. I have encouraged out-of-state industries to hire local building and trades workers. And I won bi-partisan support for transparency on where the jobs in the growing drilling industry are going. I have also worked to make sure the energy industry benefits the local economy," continued Gentile.
"I have also called for the disclosure of the steel used on pipelines and oil rigs to make sure it is American made steel," Gentile said.
"I am someone who is not unwilling to stand up to the governor and his administration. The has now amassed reserves of cash that should go back to local governments who are now struggling financially. I work very hard to serve the constituents of the 30th District. I feel my background in state politics is an asset," remarked Gentile.
"We need more balance on the school funding issue. I also believe in a better redistricting of the state's congressional redistricting. We need competitive districts for the future," said Gentile.
Thompson is making his second bid for elected office.
He unsuccessfully ran for the 96th District House of Representatives seat in 2006.
"I'm passionate about the future of Eastern Ohio," Thompson said in a press release "This is where I grew up and where I'm now raising my family. I think every day about the quality of life we'll leave behind for our children, and I want to be a voice for them and the people of the 30th District in Columbus."
"A friend approached me about filling a vacancy on the ballot when Belmont resident Laura D. Groux left the race. It was an easy decision to run because of the opportunity to serve and make a difference," said Thompson.
"My overriding theme is getting Ohio competitive" to attract business, he said.
According to Thompson, that means streamlining regulatory processes to keep worthwhile protections and eliminate stumbling blocks, he said, as well as getting the country and the world to see that Ohio, particularly the eastern part of the state, is welcoming to new businesses, with valuable resources and a strong work force.
A former member of the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, Thompson is a father of two and vice president of California-based Kinsbursky Brothers and its affiliated company in Ohio, Toxco, which together form one of the largest battery recycling operations in North America.
He said his perspective from the business world is one of the strengths he brings as a candidate.
"I work in scenarios where you have to get results, you have to be successful, and I think politics could use a dose of that," Thompson said.
"The buzzword for me is competitiveness. Two factors that are under our control and those are regulatory atmosphere and the regulatory environment. Once we concede we all live with risk, there will be compromise. We need to change Ohio's competitiveness," stated Thompson.
"I can't create jobs but I can help create an atmosphere that will attract businesses. We need to look at our regulatory process. We have Ormet struggling because of high electric costs and they are literally sitting on top of a major energy source," noted Thompson.
"I have concerns about the funding of education in Ohio. It is not just a funding issue. We have to decide how we use education to empower our children and prepare them to live a better life. We have a system in place for vocational education. There is nothing wrong with training a student to be a welder. Vocational schools aren't always well liked because they take funding out of the total budget. We need to get the focus back on the kids and what our kids need to be more competitive," said Thompson.
On the issue of local government funding, Thompson said beyond government means "is simply not prudent."
My brother is a township trustee and he talks about the cut in local government funding. I believe over time we want to keep money at the local level. Oil and gas will benefit the entire state but I will make sure it definitely benefits our area first," Thompson said.
(Gossett can be contacted at email@example.com.)