The campaign for Senate has been underway quietly for some time, but the key statewide race on the ballot is starting to heat up. Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports the two candidates are talking about their differences on an issue that’s likely to be huge – fracking.
For months, state treasurer Josh Mandel has been quietly campaigning and fundraising to secure the Republican nomination for US Senate. But the former Cleveland area state representative has rarely directly taken on incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown publicly. Now Mandel says he thinks he’s found an issue that will be critical in the campaign.
“I believe we should be exploring for oil and gas in a responsible and aggressive way. And it’s a win-win-win. It’s a win for Ohioans because it means new jobs for our state. It’s a win for Ohioans because it means affordable energy for Ohio families and senior citizens. And it’s a win because it means national security for our country.”
And for Mandel – that means the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. He says he’s confident the technology has advanced to the point that it can be used to explore for oil and gas in a responsible way. And this is appears to be a point of agreement between Mandel and Sherrod Brown.
“If this is done right, if it’s done safely, if they disclose what chemicals they’re using, if local people are hired working with training of local people in community colleges and local officials like in Athens are consulted when it could be a threat to ground water, then it’s something that likely will move forward.”
But Brown does admit to more concerns about fracking than Mandel has. And the two split very dramatically over fracking – or any type of exploration – in the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio. Its supervisor has withdrawn more than 3,300 acres of the US Forest Service land from a natural gas and oil lease sale planned for December 7. Oil and gas wells have been drilled in the forest for years, and with the possibility of a huge find in the Utica shale that runs through that land, Mandel wants the decision to close the land reversed. And he’s calling on Brown to demand that as well.
“If there are folks who are going to take the position of these Washington bureaucrats who are out of touch with what’s going on in Ohio and take their side, then they’re taking the side against jobs for Ohio, plain and simple.”
Mandel says he feels anyone who can’t support drilling and fracking in this case is against jobs. But Brown says good environmental policy is good jobs policy, and he says he supports the decision, which he says was made with input from Athens city officials, the president of Ohio University and local business leaders.
“Unlike what some say, this was not a Washington bureaucrat who made this decision. this decision. These are local people living and working in southeast Ohio who know more about southeast Ohio than some politician out of Cleveland knows about southeast Ohio.”
Brown is likely to be unopposed in the March Democratic primary. Mandel could still face competition in the Republican primary, but his best-known opponent, former state senator Kevin Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls, dropped out of the race in late October.