For Congress: Two easy choices; one not-so-easy

That old -- or not so old -- gang of ours in Congress is being broken up. While two of the three members of the Mahoning Valley's congressional delegation are seeking another term this year, the third has set his sights on the governor's mansion. And if the polls are to be believed, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland of Lisbon, D-6th, is a hands-down favorite to defeat his Republican rival, J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's secretary of state.
Even if Strickland does not win, the Valley's congressional delegation will have a new member. For this reason, it is essential that Reps. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and Steven LaTourette of Painesville, R-14th, are re-elected Nov. 7.
Ryan and LaTourette have not only demonstrated the ability and willingness to work with each other for the betterment of the Valley -- evidence of this is their successful effort to keep the Youngstown Air Reserve Station from being closed by the Pentagon -- but they have won recognition within their respective caucuses on Capitol Hill.
Voters in the 17th and 14th districts would be doing the region a disservice by not giving these two congressmen another term in office. Hard work and dedication should be rewarded with re-election.
While LaTourette's district includes the northern tier of Trumbull County, Ryan's district takes in most of Trumbull County, a part of Mahoning County and portions of Portage and Summit counties.
He thus has emerged as the go-to representative for this region -- and has taken to that assignment like a duck to water. Indeed, Ryan has shown great political instincts, which account for his being quoted by the national press on issues such as Iraq and abortion.
Indeed, his willingness to go to the floor of the House and argue the caucus' position or to criticize the Republican majority and the Bush administration's policies has endeared him to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Ryan stands a good chance of being appointed to the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the next session.
LaTourette, with 12 years in Congress, has used his majority status to secure hundreds of millions of dollars for roads, water and sewer projects and has won Economic Development Administration grants for the development of industrial parks. He also led the fight to save more than 1,100 jobs in the Defense Finance and Accounting Services offices in Cleveland.
The re-election of Ryan and LaTourette is an easy call.
Open seat
The choice of a successor for Strickland, whose 6th District includes portions of Mahoning County, all of Columbiana County and several other counties along the Ohio River, is not so clear-cut.
The two individuals we endorsed in the Democratic and Republican primary elections -- with some trepidation, we'll admit -- are on the Nov. 7 ballot. The choice is between state Sen. Charlie Wilson, D-St. Clairsville, and state Rep. Chuck Blasdel, R-East Liverpool.
Members of The Vindicator's editorial board interviewed the two candidates separately, studied their r & eacute;sum & eacute;s, reviewed their answers to questions contained in the candidate's questionnaire, and considered the political environment in Washington, D.C.
It is our belief that Wilson, a successful businessman, would be more willing to challenge the status quo in Congress and to stand up for his beliefs.
While both candidates have a firm grasp of the issues that are important to the 6th District -- the list includes jobs, jobs and jobs -- we find that Wilson's first-hand knowledge of the challenges confronting small businesses, especially in this region, is a definite plus.
For instance, he has personally experienced the drain that health care costs have on a company's bottom line and believes Congress has a moral and economic obligation to tackle this exceedingly important issue.
War in Iraq
On the crucial issue of the war in Iraq, both candidates agree that tough questions must be asked, but not surprisingly Blasdel is less critical of the Bush administration's handling of the conflict than Wilson.
As for the overriding issue of Homeland Security, Blasdel, president of Blasdel Financial Group and speaker pro tempore of the House, is of the opinion that the administration is on the right track because "we have not had an attack since 9/11."
By contrast, Wilson, president of Wilson Funeral and Furniture Co. and owner of Wilson Realty Co., state senator from the 30th District since 2005 and a former member of the Ohio House, contends that all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission must be enacted in order for the homeland to be secure.
"These crucial bipartisan recommendations that aim to protect that American people are being ignored," he says. "It seems many politicians in Washington are more interested in scoring points than working towards real solutions. That must change."
Our support of Wilson is also predicated on his relationship with Congressman Ryan and his ties to Strickland, who, as governor, would certainly give this region the attention it has long craved.
The Vindicator endorses Ryan and LaTourette for re-election and Wilson for election to the 6th District congressional seat.

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