Blasdel gives Valley a chance to get fair share from state

When state Rep. Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool was tapped this week for the second most important post in the House of Representatives, we were reminded of a statement he made to The Vindicator's editorial board last month: "I'm one of the more conservative members of the Legislature, but I have worked with the other side, especially local legislators, on issues affecting the [Mahoning] Valley."
To be sure, Blasdel, who was named speaker pro tem by the House Republican Caucus, was vying for the newspaper's endorsement in his re-election bid Nov. 2, but an objective review of his record does show a willingness to work with Democrats at the state and local levels.
Indeed, we recall his public appeal to area governments, mostly dominated by Democrats, to submit projects for state grants under the Clean Ohio Fund law, which he was responsible for shepherding through the General Assembly.
Blasdel, whom we endorsed for a third term and who won last week's general election in a surprisingly close contest with Democrat Frank E. Rayl Jr., a political novice, may have a political motive for emphasizing his bipartisan bent. His name has surfaced as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination for the 6th Congressional District seat.
The 6th District includes portions of Mahoning County, all of Columbiana County and several other counties along the Ohio River. The seat is now held by Democrat Ted Strickland, who has expressed an interest in running for governor in 2006. The district has a 51 percent to 49 percent Republican advantage, but Mahoning, Columbiana, Jefferson and Belmont counties account for most of the votes.
But whatever the new speaker pro tem's motivation for reaching across the political divide, the Mahoning Valley should take him up on his pledge to look out for the region's best interests in the Legislature.
Fill-in for speaker
Being the man who will fill in for Speaker Jon Husted when need be and will help manage the Republican caucus gives Blasdel access to the power center in the House. He will have enormous influence with the majority, which is why he needs to be nurtured not only by local government officials and community leaders, but by members of the Valley's legislative delegation.
In that regard, state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown will be in an ideal position to form an alliance with Blasdel, seeing as how the Democratic caucus has named him to the position of assistant minority whip.
We urge cooperation because of the challenge the Valley faces in competing for limited state dollars. Given the projected $4 billion general fund shortfall in the next biennium, money for nonmandated programs will be hard to secure.
Having Blasdel leading the charge, with Hagan and other area legislators lending their support, we stand a good chance of having state government pay attention to us.
For too long, the Mahoning Valley has had to settle for financial crumbs from the state. That's because in recent years, Republicans have controlled the governor's office and the Ohio House and Senate, while the Valley's legislative delegation has been dominated by Democrats.
Now, the region not only has someone at the table, but a representative who sits at the right of the speaker. We had better take advantage of this gift from the political gods.

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