by Jeremy Nobile | Reporter
Jim Mueller (D-Novelty) faces incumbent John Eklund (R-Chardon) this November in the race to represent voters in the redesigned Ohio Senate District 18.
Eklund, 57, was appointed to his current seat as senator for Ohio's 18th Senate District in November 2011 to replace Timothy Grendall (R).
Ohio General Assembly and Congressional districts are redrawn every ten years to reflect changes in population identified in the decennial census. While Ohio Senate District 18 will retain its district number, the boundaries will change slightly when new lines take effect Jan. 1, 2013.
The new 18th Senate District will comprise all of Portage County, most of Geauga County and about half of Lake County. Portions of the east side of Tallmadge are located in Portage County.
Eklund, a lawyer running in his first election, said his three decades of experience in the legal system coupled with a novel perspective of government unaffected by a background in politics qualifies him as the best and most unique candidate to serve Ohio's 18th Senate District.
"The largest and most important thing a lawyer does is to listen and understand problems and help other people come up with solutions to those problems, and that's fundamentally what I've done for the last 32 years," he said. "I'm also not encumbered by a history of public life, which basically ossifies itself ... I feel like I can bring a perspective to this job that's not constrained by a past history of how government works."
Mueller, 68, a chemical engineer and former Ohio state representative (1971-74) with a long history of political and public service, said his experience in his career and in government qualify him as the best candidate to serve constituents as a state senator.
"I have worked literally my entire adult life in part-time elected positions, and I have a great deal of knowledge of how government works," said Mueller. "But in the end, as an engineer, I want things to work, and I am going to do whatever I can to correct problems in a very fact-finding way and contribute to solutions to make things work and work well."
Eklund said the top issue facing both his district and the state is fostering job growth by creating an "atmosphere in Ohio that I call sustainable economic development."
Eklund explained he will approach that plan by looking to lower the tax burden "on everybody," scrutinizing the cost benefits of business regulation, and providing local schools and governments the "tools they need" to run efficiently so they become less dependent on state funds.
"Whomever controls the money, controls you, and if the state is funneling funds to local political subdivisions, they become beholden to the state," he said, "and that's not the way I think people want it to be."
Eklund said he wants to push for an ongoing dialogue with local governments and school districts across the state to help identify ways to enable communities to flourish without so much of the state's financial support.
Mueller summarized the top issue in Senate District 18 and across the state as "trying to get as many people back to work as possible."
He referenced his political past as a Geauga County commissioner and his efforts there that helped create a revolving loan still active today that he said has helped small and midsize businesses create "4,000 good-paying" jobs over the last 25 years.
Mueller said he would push for a similar funding mechanism in Ohio to support smaller companies because that will, in turn, bolster the economy and create jobs.
"A leveraged loan program should go into place [in the state] to make loans to small and midsize companies at low interest rates because a revolving-loan fund has the advantage that people pay it back," said Mueller. "That's the direction we need to go. If elected to a full term, Eklund said he will continue to promote his values and beliefs that "hard work and persistence can lead to success."
Mueller said, if elected, he will use his office to help communities and create jobs in the same ways he benefited local entities during his terms in government offices at the state, county and township levels.
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