Joel Mowbray: Will this man save the Ohio GOP?

Our occasional correspondent Joel Mowbray (jdmowbra@erols.com) reports:

Republicans in the Buckeye State have been pinning their hopes on two GOP heavyweights to help the party regain its swagger in 2010: former Reps. John Kasich and Rob Portman. And while the men, running respectively for governor and U.S. Senator, are formidable candidates, it’s hard to see either generating unbridled enthusiasm among the grassroots.

Just a notch below them on the ballot, however, is the Ohio GOP’s best shot at conjuring up some magic at the polls next year. State Rep. Josh Mandel, about whom I’ve written for Power Line before, today is announcing his candidacy for Treasurer via Web video, which you can see below or on JoshMandel.com.

In just a few years, Mandel has gone from a political curiosity — he actually knocked on voters’ doors! — to a rising star with an ever-expanding roster of passionate supporters. Belying his young age and even younger-looking appearance, Mandel has compiled an impressive resume:law degree, three election victories, substantial legislative achievements at the state and local levels, and certainly not least, two tours as a
Marine in Iraq.

While Mandel to date is best known for successfully pushing Ohio’s pension funds to divest from Iran and for voluntarily returning for a second tour in Iraq after being elected to the legislature — for which he was attacked in his last campaign as “going AWOL” on constituents — he actually has solid credentials as a fiscal hawk.

When he was a city councilman, he single-handedly led the fight to cut property taxes. He got ordinary citizens from the community to show up at city council meetings and express their desire for lower property taxes.

The gambit worked. He lost the first vote for rolling back property taxes six-to-one. After the voters he personally recruited made their voices heard, the council voted to cut property taxes six-to-one. Making this even more impressive is that this was one of a relative few municipal property tax reductions in state history.

Early last year, before Republicans started finding religion on spending, Mandel was a ringleader among a small group of conservative Ohio lawmakers that defied party leaders on a bloated bipartisan “stimulus” bill. Mandel lost that fight — the bill still passed comfortably — but it was the party that lost the war. GOP leaders pitched the stimulus bill as a way to win votes, yet the party belly flopped at the polls, losing their majority in the State house. Mandel, on the other hand, increased his share of the vote in 2008, despite being targeted by a nasty campaign — in a Democratic district that Obama won easily.

Though he wasn’t available to comment for this story, Mandel is likely announcing this early in order to raise enough money to stave off any possible GOP opponents. If he can avoid a primary, Mandel would have to be considered the odds-on favorite in the general election. Not only would he excite conservatives looking for a fresh face married to old-fashioned fiscal discipline, but he has a proven track record of winning Democratic
votes.

While Mandel has certainly irked party leaders when he’s refused to take marching orders that violate his basic principles, it is precisely that independence that delights conservatives — and will likely also help him with plenty of fed-up Democrats.

With a battered state party, that’s something many Ohio Republicans think can’t happen soon enough.

UPDATE: Commenter Paul McConnell makes a good point:

It was very nice to read and learn about Josh and I wish him well now and in the future. I don’t think, however, it was necessary to build him up at the expense of John Kasich…

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