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Published: Thursday, 9/30/2010

Mandel for treasurer

Ohio's treasurer is the state's chief financial officer, overseeing billions of tax dollars. Although elections for state treasurer generally spark scant interest among voters, the position is important. On this year's ballot, Republican JOSH MANDEL makes the best case for the job.

At age 33, Mr. Mandel is completing his second term in the Ohio House. Despite his GOP label, he represents a heavily Democratic district in suburban Cleveland.

That suggests Mr. Mandel's ability and willingness to cross party lines. This term, he bucked other Republican lawmakers by supporting a moratorium on home foreclosures - a decision he said was right, even though it cost him campaign contributions.

Mr. Mandel's campaign offers intriguing ideas, such as a plan to provide tax credits to college students who pledge to stay in Ohio for five years after graduation. To provide jobs for these graduates, Mr. Mandel says the state treasurer should act as a conduit for businesses, connecting them with sources of capital.

Mr. Mandel's resume includes experience on the Lyndhurst City Council. His eight years of service with the Marine Corps Reserves included two tours in Iraq as an intelligence specialist.

He is a graduate of Ohio State University, where he was student body president, and Case Western Reserve University's law school.

The incumbent treasurer, Democrat Kevin Boyce, was appointed in 2008 by Gov. Ted Strickland. Then a member of Columbus City Council, Mr. Boyce succeeded Richard Cordray, who won a special election that year to clean up the mess in the Ohio Attorney General's office left by Marc Dann.

Mr. Boyce has done some good work as treasurer. Most notable was his decision to solicit bids from banks and other investment firms that wanted to manage Ohio tax dollars. Previously, these contracts were awarded at the treasurer's discretion. Switching to a bidding process has saved taxpayers almost $20 million, Mr. Boyce says.

But it also created controversy: State Street Bank of Boston was awarded contracts worth $1.27 million only months after hiring the husband of a treasurer's office employee to lobby Mr. Boyce's office. That created at least the perception of a conflict of interest. There also have been troubling questions about the number of his friends and relatives of important Democrats Mr. Boyce has hired.

Such issues suggest the need for change in the office. Libertarian Matthew Cantrell also is on the ballot. But JOSH MANDEL offers Ohio voters the best hope of electing a state treasurer who will put public service ahead of personal or partisan advantage.



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