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Candidates tout reasons why they should get job

Ohio Senate 17th District candidates Democrat Justin Fallon, at left, talks to his opponent Republican David Daniels before the 2010 Candidates Forum Tuesday night. The forum, held at Ohio University Southern, was sponsored by the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. THE TRIBUNE/BENITA HEATH

This year’s Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum opened with the hot button topic that has come close to dividing a nation: health care reform.

Candidates answered questions Tuesday night from a panel of journalists, Randy Yohe of WSAZ-TV, Michael Caldwell of The Tribune and David Malloy of the Herald-Dispatch, and from the audience.

In his opening statement of Republican Bill Johnson, whose is attempting to unseat Democrat Charlie Wilson for the Ohio Congressional Sixth District, went on the attack.

“My opponent has characterized himself as a fiscal conservative,” Johnson said. “But every time that Nancy Pelosi has asked for his vote for her liberal, job-killing policy, he has.”

It’s this race that has gotten on the national radar as a possible upset of incumbent Wilson because of the Democrat’s support of health care reform, the bailout and the Congressional adjournment before deciding on the Bush tax cut extensions.

Wilson countered with a strong defense on his record, including health care.

“Something had to be done,” he said about the reform legislation. “It is a key consumer protection. What we have is not perfect, but it is the first start.”

Wilson and Johnson were joined at the forum, held at Ohio University Southern’s Ironton Campus, by Martin Elsass, the Libertarian party candidate, and Constitutional candidate Richard Cadle. Only Wilson supported health care, with the other three saying they wanted it repealed.

This year’s forum focused exclusively on legislative races: the national 6th District race; the Ohio Senate 17th District; House 87th District; the House 89th District; and locally, the single commission race between incumbent Doug Malone and former commissioner Paul Herrell.

Throughout the evening candidates for each race addressed many of the same issues: taxes, jobs, aid to small business, budget reform and prescription drug abuse.

Gallia County Commissioner Justin Fallon is vying with current 86th House District Representative David Daniels for the Ohio Senate 17th District. Right now that seat is held by Wellston Republican John Carey, who is term limited. Carey wants to take the House 87th District seat.

Both Fallon and Daniels stated that changing the economic climate of their district was a top priority. Fallon said his focus would be to find answers from within the local community.

“How they can help us grow,” he said.

Daniels said reducing state government’s influence coupled with “sound fiscal policy” would be the answer to making “Ohio more attractive to businesses.”

In the May Republican primary Daniels defeated long-time local representative Clyde Evans, who term limited for the House seat had sought a win in the Senate race.

Daniels and Fallon addressed the $ 8 billion budget shortfall.

“We would look at services, what is working and we need to get back to working for families,” Fallon said.

The commissioner also stressed the need to reduce duplication of state-funded services.

“A lot of services, boards and commissions are no longer needed,” Daniels agreed addingz. “And I would reach out to the administration to provide some leadership.”

Current Senator Carey is facing Fred Deel, onetime Gallia Commissioner and current director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia.

“It is critical if you are going into the legislature that you can work with people and approach people in a reasonable manner,” Deel told the audience in his opening statement.

Carey said his years of success as a legislator has revolved around his listening to his constituents.

Both candidates agreed that education is the first step to job creation but differed on state funding to reduce discrepancy between the wealthy and economic disadvantaged school districts.

Last year’s funding proposal by Gov. Ted Strickland for schools, Carey contended, has set the state back.

“It increases funding to the rich districts,” he said. “And I would focus resources into the classroom.”

Deel countered that Strickland “is making strides,” he said. “It will take a lot of bipartisan support to continue to put a higher emphasis on education, educating our young people today for those jobs in the future.”

On the issue of prescription drug use Carey said he wants to see more tracking of pharmacy use and more treatment for addicts.

Deel wanted to balance penalties for abuse with education.

In the Ohio 89th District race Democrat and businessman Ron Hadsell was joined on stage with his Republican opponent Scioto County coroner Dr. Terry Johnson and Green party candidate Dennis Lambert.

“Ohio is the 47th worst state to do business,” Johnson said, contending that “fiscal sanity,” regulation reform and business tax cuts, were the ways to attract entrepreneurs to the state.

Hadsell said the race comes down to the candidate who can bring jobs into the district.

“A state representative who understands how jobs are developed,” he said, citing the investments the businesses he is associated with have done that.

Hadsell supports job creation tax incentives.

“If we get our jobs back, it will help our downtowns,” he said.

Johnson wants to see an overhaul of the tax system saying “Ohioans are overtaxed and over regulated.”

The only race to have only one candidate to participate was the race for Lawrence County Commissioner. Challenger Paul Herrell did not show up at the forum.

Malone cited a small laundry list of commission accomplishments since his tenure began in 2003.

“We have operated within the budget,” he said. “Since 2003, we have increased jobs.”

Malone also referred to the construction of a new emergency medical facility by St. Mary’s Medical Center.

“When we lost our hospital, it was one of the saddest days in Lawrence County,” he said. “Now we have a chance to replace what we have lost.”