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Niehaus seeking re-election in 14th

Jobs and education were named as the top issues facing Ohio now and in the coming years, according to two of the people running for Ohio’s 14th Senate district.

Incumbent Republican Tom Niehaus and Democrat Gregory Napolitano both listed these issues as their chief concerns. Independent candidate M. Ann Leech was contacted for inclusion in this story, but was not available for comment.

Niehaus, 57, of New Richmond, said he has a proven track record of serving the 14th district and he would like another term in office to continue some of the work that has been started.

In regards to education, Niehaus said he wants to continue work to align the curriculum of vocational and technical schools to meet the needs of the workplace and make sure kids in elementary and high school today leave with a solid education, a “strong foundation on which to build careers,” he said.

In regards to the economy, Niehaus pointed to the state’s 21 percent personal income tax cut as one of the efforts made by state lawmakers to put more money back into the pockets of families, stimulate the economy and create jobs. He said he is particularly supportive of small business and legislation that creates an environment conducive to small business.

“Most jobs are created by small business and it is essential to help them succeed,” Niehaus said. He said the economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year was designed to create more than 50,000 jobs.

Niehaus also said he wants to improve access to affordable health care. He said he was one of two senators appointed by Strickland to a state healthcare coverage initiative. That committee has complied a report on its findings and recommendations and Niehaus said he hopes to see some element of that report in the governor’s budget proposal next year.

On his Web site, Niehaus said during the budget deliberations in 2007 he helped craft the provision to expand health care to more children. As part of this expansion he said he insisted on a fiscally responsible approach to the issue and supported a requirement that parents who are able to help pay for their child’s health care coverage.

“I believe people who spend some of their own money on health care are more likely to be more judicious in using the health care system than those who do not pay for some portion of that care,” Niehaus said.

Napolitano, 36, of Batavia, said he decided to run after fellow Democrat Holly Stutz withdrew from the race, leaving Niehaus unopposed. This is his first attempt at public office. On his Web site, he described himself as an advocate for worker’s rights, a man with working class roots and pledges to be a champion of the middle class.

“This year, of all years, I didn’t think it was a good thing for this seat to go uncontested,” Napolitano said. “We’ve got people coming out to vote in record numbers and I didn’t want the people in this district faced with an uncontested race is an election year as important as this one.”

Napolitano said he sees jobs and the economy as two issues that are intertwined. A well-educated, well-prepared workforce is part of the answer to job creation.

Napolitano said he wants to address the inequity in funding the state’s public school districts. He pointed out that the Ohio Supreme Court has four times declared the current funding method unconstitutional and yet the issue has not been addressed on the legislative level. He said he anticipates a new study to be released in January will identify some of the state’s educational needs.

“We need to go back to the drawing board,” Napolitano said. “We have a funding system that begins and ends with property taxes and it is wrought with problems and difficulty.”

Napolitano said he would like to see schools become more flexible in how they approach education, noting that the needs and issues facing urban districts may be different from those in rural areas.

“We need to address things as they are and allow schools to serve the needs of kids in their communities,” he said.

Like Niehaus, Napolitano sees small business as a key part of the state’s economic future.

“Businesses that start in Ohio tend to stay in Ohio,” Napolitano said. “We need to return to community based economics and we need policies that foster that.”’