GOP picks St. C. man for Ohio Senate race

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A businessman and veteran who serves as a Republican analyst on a local radio show has been tapped to run for the Senate seat representing Ohio’s reconfigured 30th District.

The selection of Shane Thompson, 42, of St. Clairsville, was made last week by the GOP’s 30th District Central Committee and announced Wednesday in an email from Ohio Senate Republicans. He’ll face current Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, in the November general election.

“I’m passionate about the future of eastern Ohio,” Thompson said in the email. “This is where I grew up and where I’m now raising my family. I think every day about the quality of life we’ll leave behind for our children, and I want to be a voice for them and the people of the 30th district in Columbus.”

It will be Thompson’s second campaign. He ran unsuccessfully for the 96th District House of Representatives seat in 2006.

While he has stayed involved in politics since, Thompson said in an interview Wednesday that he didn’t have “much of an appetite” for running again himself. But when a friend approached him about filling a vacancy on the ballot with Belmont resident Laura D. Groux exiting the race, Thompson said he found the decision easier than he expected because of the opportunity to serve and make a difference.

“I think my overriding theme is getting Ohio competitive” to attract business, he said.

That means streamlining regulatory processes to keep worthwhile protections and eliminate stumbling blocks, he said, as well as getting the country and the world to see that Ohio, particularly the eastern part of the state, is welcoming to new businesses, with valuable resources and a strong workforce.

Thompson was selected over two Washington County residents who applied – Waterford resident Victor Smith, who lost in the March U.S. House of Representatives primary to incumbent Bill Johnson, and Jim Falter, chairman of the Department of Business and Economics at Marietta College.

A former member of the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, Thompson is a father of two and vice president of California-based Kinsbursky Brothers and its affiliated company in Ohio, Toxco, which together form one of the largest battery recycling operations in North America. He said his perspective from the business world is one of the strengths he brings as a candidate.

“I work in scenarios where you have to get results, you have to be successful, and I think politics could use a dose of that,” he said.

For the last four years, Thompson has been the Republican analyst for the “Political Paparazzi” segment of the “Bloomdaddy” radio program on Wheeling, W.Va.-based WWVA.

Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, offered Thompson a vote of confidence in the email announcing his appointment.

“Shane … served his nation in the military, and now he’s fighting every day to make his district a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Niehaus said. “I’m confident he’ll wage an aggressive campaign for jobs and economic development.”

Jim Huggins, chairman of the Washington County Republican Central Committee, noted Thompson’s last campaign involved only two of the 10 counties in the 30th Senate District as it will take shape in 2013 following redistricting in the wake of the latest census.

“He is unknown in the other eight. Normally, that would be a killer, but Mr. Gentile is a stranger,” Huggins said. “I think we have two unknown candidates, so the power of the incumbency is not as strong as it normally would be.”

Gentile was appointed to the seat in December and currently represents five counties, only three of which will be in the new district. He’s been working to get his name out in the area, most recently appearing at a campaign event Monday with state Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, and former Gov. Ted Strickland, for whom Gentile worked when Strickland was a Congressman.

Molly Varner, chairwoman of the Washington County Democratic Party, said that experience, plus Gentile’s work as assistant director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, has brought him to this part of the state before he was ever campaigning.

“He’s familiar with the area,” she said.

Thompson said he’ll take advantage of advertisements and media opportunities to help people in the district learn his name, but he believes the most effective way to get them to know him is in person.

“I think there’s no substitute for knocking on a door, going to a parade, going to a hog roast and … looking people in the eye,” he said.