Do you know who the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is?
If you don’t, you’re likely not alone.
Sharen Neuhardt knows you may not have heard of her and hopes to change that.
“I hope people understand what they see is what they get,” Neuhardt said in an interview Friday with the Beacon Journal. “I want nothing more than to be a good public servant for the people of Ohio and to do the right thing.”
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald chose Neuhardt, a business lawyer from the Dayton area who has run for but never held office, after dropping state Sen. Eric Kearney from his ticket when it was revealed that Kearney, his wife, and their publishing business owed $800,000 in taxes and penalties.
Neuhardt, 62, of Miami Township near Yellow Springs, talked to the Beacon Journal about her background, her thoughts on key issues facing the state and how she and FitzGerald will attempt to overcome the name recognition and fundraising hurdles they face in challenging Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in the Nov. 4 election. She was in Northeast Ohio for a luncheon Friday with Summit County Democrats and an event today with Ohio’s other prominent female candidates.
Q: What would make you a good lieutenant governor?
A: I get my paychecks from my law firm — not from the public sector. It gives me a different perspective. Working with businesses helps me to understand what they need to grow and develop. That has to be our No. 1 priority.
Q: Is a disadvantage that you’ve never held office?
A: At the federal level, people are fed up with career politicians … A lot of them should just pack up their bags and go home. At this time in Ohio, it’s a good thing when you look at Ed and me and see we are not career politicians.
Q: How do you feel about being FitzGerald’s second (or third) choice?
A: I’m honored. There were any number of exceptional candidates who would make a good lieutenant governor. I laugh when they talk about whether I was the second or third pick … I think it’s just silly political talk.
Q: What issues will the campaign emphasize?
A: The state of the economy. The fact is, when it comes down to it, voters will decide who they trust to protect the middle class … They are living paycheck to paycheck and trying to figure out how to make ends meet. It is our job to tell them they are not alone.
Q: You’ve talked a lot to other media about women’s health issues. What is your stance on abortion?
A: I am pro-choice and always have been. I use the phrase ‘abortion should remain legal, safe and rare.’ I’d like to find ways so we don’t need it anymore.
Q: Kasich told the Plain Dealer Thursday that he’d like to get Ohio’s income tax rate below 4 percent. What do you think of this?
A: You just can’t keep cutting income taxes and say it will make it all better. The upper brackets will benefit a lot. The low brackets not at all. It takes money out of the coffers that could go to schools, job training and helping companies grow and expand.
Q: Though Kasich is saying Right to Work isn’t on his agenda, do you think he would likely pursue it if he was re-elected?
A: I don’t know why anybody should take that chance … There is an expression, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ I don’t think the people will be fooled twice.
Q: Would you support National Guard members using state military benefits for educational expenses other than tuition?
A: I think we need to do more to make sure the people of this state, including the National Guard, get the education they deserve.
Q: What do you think of the idea of the Ohio Turnpike selling naming rights as a funding source other than toll hikes?
A: Do we want it to be the Ohio State capital … whatever — and we sell the naming rights to that? These are just quick fixes. They aren’t the right thing to do.
Q: How will you overcome the large name recognition and funding disadvantages the campaign has to the Kasich camp?
A: We never planned to out-fundraise him. We plan to outrun him.
Q: How important is Summit County to your campaign?
A: Summit County will be really important. You have lots of voters here. I think of Akron like the Dayton area … I feel right at home in Akron.
Q: Kasich will hold his State of the State address in Medina Feb. 24. If you and FitzGerald were elected, would you take the speech on the road or have it in Columbus?
A: That is something Ed will decide. We believe where you hold it isn’t as important as what the State of the State is … I kind of think what he is doing is distracting voters by creating a road show … Every-day Ohioans need to be told what’s going on at the State of the State and how you’re going to make it better.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.