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Ohio voters will decide Tuesday whether to send Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown back for a second term in the U.S. Senate or usher in the next phase of the rocketing political career of Republican Josh Mandel.
The bitter political fight between Mr. Brown, Ohio's senior U.S. senator who knocked off Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in 2006, and Mr. Mandel, Ohio's treasurer, has been fought in live debates, a constant stream of news releases from the Brown campaign, and in millions of dollars worth of negative TV commercials.
Mr. Brown, 59, a rumpled politician with a gravelly voice, has positioned himself as the champion of Ohio manufacturing and an arch-critic of international trade agreements with countries that have an unfair advantage. He is a former state representative, Ohio secretary of state, and U.S. representative.
A resident of Avon, Ohio, Mr. Brown has accused his opponent of being a creature of shadowy special interests who, combined, have plunged more than $25 million in television ads.
"I don’t think this would be a race without that kind of money," Mr. Brown said.
The negative ads accuse Mr. Brown of voting for big deficit spending, wage increases for himself. He also is accused of voting against the coal industry and of voting to send jobs to China - a claim that the Mandel campaign attributes to his vote for the 2009 "stimulus" bill but which flies in the face of Mr. Brown's outspoken criticism of U.S. trade policy with China.
He said the policies he has supported - auto industry rescue and trade-law enforcement - have benefited steelworkers in Cleveland, tire makers in Findlay, auto workers in Defiance, Toledo, and Lordstown, and parts manufacturers in Crestline and Carey.
"The contrast is so clear on a number of issues - clear on the auto rescue, clear on the fact that the state’s unemployment rate was over 10.5 percent and is now under 7 percent," Mr. Brown said.
Mr. Mandel, on the other hand, refused for months to state a position on the auto rescue, until at a debate in Cleveland on Oct. 15, when he said he would have opposed the $80billion taxpayer funded bailout of Chrysler and General Motors that saved the two companies from a potentially disastrous liquidation.
“I will do everything I can in Washington to grow the economy with strong manufacturing policies, strong auto manufacturing policies, but I’m not a bailout senator," Mr. Mandel said. "He’s the bailout senator."
Mr. Brown said the bailout "was about real people, with real families, and real problems and real goals and dreams. And yet Josh Mandel called my vote for the auto rescue ‘un-American.’ I call that vote doing my job to fight for their jobs. To vote against the auto rescue boggles the mind.”
Mr. Mandel, 35, formerly a two-term city councilman in the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst who now lives in Beachwood, served two terms as a state representative - achievements that attracted the attention of Republican political backers because both of those communities are predominantly Democratic.
He also served two tours of duty as a Marine Corps reservist in Iraq.
In 2010, he knocked off incumbent Democratic state Treasurer Kevin Boyce.
He mocks his own youthful appearance, telling political audiences one of his goals for when he turned 35 was to be shaving.
He said he was brought up in a home that voted both Democratic and Republican and that his conservative views evolved during college, law school, and the Marine Corps.
"I did a lot of reading and came to realize that the principles of economic freedom and peace through strength I believe are best for America and came also to appreciate the importance of individual decision-making over government control," Mr. Mandel said. "I would say my time in Iraq made me appreciate even more the values of freedom and democracy, and how fortunate we are to live in this country."
The Brown campaign has battered Mr. Mandel with attacks accusing him of violating a pledge to serve his full term as state treasurer, of hiring unqualified cronies on the state payroll, and of skipping 14 straight monthly meetings of the Ohio Board of Deposit that he chairs - sometimes to go out of state to raise money for his Senate race.
All of Mr. Brown's attacks on Mr. Mandel include some variation of the line, "Josh Mandel, he's just a politician we can't trust."
Mr. Mandel portrays Mr. Brown as a career politician whose voting record over the years has driven up the national debt while failing to boost the U.S. economy.
Mr. Mandel likes to tell audiences that "Washington is broken," and, "We can't change Washington by sending Sherrod Brown back there.”
Contact Tom Troy at: email@example.com or 419-724-6058.