Who is Sharen Neuhardt?

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Munroe retains seat: The Mahoning County Republican Party voted to reappoint Mark Munroe, its chairman for the past four years, to another term on the county board of elections. Because of a change in state law to make election board selections in odd years, Munroe’s new term, which starts March 1, will be for three years. After that, the term returns to four years.

Munroe has served on the board since 1998, and previously served from 1991 to 1996. The job pays about $15,000 annually.

Munroe plans to seek re-election to a second four-year term as chairman at a party meeting likely in June.

Meanwhile, the county GOP is searching for candidates to run for county commissioner, county auditor and for the state Legislature. The filing deadline for the May primary is Feb. 5.

Paul Mitchell, 28, of Canfield, says he will run for the Republican nomination for the 59th Ohio House District seat against longtime incumbent state Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry, a Democrat from Austintown. It is Mitchell’s first run for political office.

The party has some interest from candidates for commissioner and auditor, but not for the 58th Ohio House District or the 33rd Ohio Senate District, Munroe said.

When I first learned that Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat running for governor, had selected Sharen Neuhardt, soundly defeated in 2008 and 2012 when she ran for Congress, as his running mate, I wondered why.

What does the Yellow Springs attorney bring to the ticket besides geographic balance, which is highly overrated?

During a 30-minute-plus phone interview I conducted with her a few days ago, I asked her that question.

“I’m a tested campaigner,” she said. “I have a lot of support from people who gave their time and money” for the two failed political bids.

“People will relate to me,” Neuhardt said. “I’m a successful business attorney.” She later said she’s also “a strong advocate for women.”

She’s also a critic of Republican-backed abortion restrictions and women’s health issues, a former board member of Planned Parenthood, and was involved in President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

I asked if it’s an issue that she’s never been elected to political office and while FitzGerald was elected four years ago as Cuyahoga County’s first executive, all his other political experience was in Lakewood as a councilman and mayor.

“Ed has been elected before. Voters today are looking for change and are pleased they aren’t seeing two other politicians” on the ballot, she said. “I have a lot of real-world experience.”

Is a lieutenant governor running mate important to voters?

“It depends,” she said. “They’ll vote for Ed FitzGerald or [Republican incumbent Gov.] John Kasich. For most Ohioans, they’re going to vote their interests and who will best protect those interests. A lieutenant governor can help with that message. There’s a second person to help spread that message, and I will be all over the state.”

Neuhardt said she’s pro-choice, but wants “abortions to be legal, safe and rare.” She added: “I don’t think you should be able to walk in five days before giving birth and get an abortion on demand. Abortion is one part of the whole spectrum of women issues.”

Neuhardt replaces state Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati, who quit the ticket last month because of backlash to large tax debts owed by him, his wife and his businesses.

Neuhardt, who first met FitzGerald two years ago, said she wasn’t on his initial short list of running mates.

Chris Schrimpf, state Republican Party spokesman, called her “the third-string backup to his original choice.”

Neuhardt said during a Dec. 12 fundraiser for his gubernatorial bid in the Dayton area, FitzGerald asked her questions about what would make a good lieutenant governor and that “people were talking me up” for the post.

A short time later, Neuhardt said she starting getting calls from people telling her FitzGerald was interested in her as his running mate and a “vetting questionnaire” arrived a week or two after the Dec. 12 conversation. Background checks, including her last 10 years of tax returns, were done.

The two met Jan. 4 at a Panera in Lakewood to further discuss the matter.

“He and I are on the same page that this election will be about helping the middle class,” Neuhardt said.

The two later agreed to be a team and made an official announcement on Jan. 17.

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