By Linda Martz
Josh Mandel told Mansfield-area small-business owners they'll find stark contrasts between incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and himself on issues like shale energy extraction and health care.
The Republican, state treasurer since January 2011, hopes to unseat the first-term incumbent Nov. 6.
Extraction of oil and gas from underground shale has meant an economic bonanza for residents of Pennsylvania and some eastern Ohio counties -- and will help north central Ohio as well, Mandel told Mansfield Richland Area Chamber of Commerce members at a breakfast forum Monday.
Shale extraction will create jobs for pipe fitters, electricians and local small businesses; bring down energy costs; broaden the tax base for school districts and other local government entities; and increase national security by decreasing dependence on foreign oil, Mandel said.
He pointed to Lorain and Stark counties as areas benefiting from increased manufacturing business, making parts needed by the extraction industry.
"I have a vision for Richland County of leveraging on the great tradition of manufacturing here, of building new manufacturing, based on oil and gas," he said. "I believe they (shale oil and gas) are assets. He (Brown) seems to believe they are liabilities.
"I look forward to working across party lines to create an environment for responsible gas and oil exploration in Ohio."
Mandel positioned himself as a fiscal conservative who would preserve Social Security and Medicaid for baby boomers and older Americans by making cuts elsewhere in federal government. That would include inefficient agencies with mandates never found in the Constitution, he said.
The federal government "does not have a good track record in running businesses," he told listeners -- citing the U.S. Postal Service, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Amtrak as examples.
"Why are we in Richland County and Ohio subsidizing folks being able to go to work in Massachusetts and Delaware and New York?" he said of Amtrak. "If it was a good enough train system, if would probably stand up in the free market. It wouldn't need bolstering."
Mandel said he fully supports the military's C-27 cargo jet program, which has created jobs for Richland County, but would look at major cuts elsewhere in the defense budget, running afoul of some Republicans who want no military cuts at all.
"Look at all of the bases overseas ... We need to have a conversation about trimming down and even shutting down all those bases in Germany and Italy and other (European) countries," he said. "Our enemy is no longer the Nazis. If we could identify one, it's probably radical Islam."
Mandel advocated a simplified federal tax system with a lower rate of taxation but a broader base of payment -- including elimination of "carve-outs" which allow many corporations like GE to escape paying taxes altogether.
"A lot of Republicans will shoot arrows at me when I say that," he told chamber members.
The Republican advocated repealing almost all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, calling it a government takeover of health care.
"It is a good idea to allow kids to stay on their parents' health care plans until age 26, and to make sure Americans with pre-existing medical conditions have access to coverage," Mandel said.
The rest of health care reform is "an economic mess and a boondoggle," he said.
Mandel said he went from being 17 points behind Brown, to neck and neck with the incumbent in a recently released Rasmussen poll which shows each man tied at 44 percent.