SHERROD BROWN and Josh Mandel are hooked up in a hotly contested U.S. Senate race in Ohio.
Brown is the veteran Democrat lawmaker and sitting as the incumbent. Mandel is the baby-faced challenger, an ex-Marine and current state treasurer.
The race is one that has drawn national focus, as it will help shape the next partisan breakdown in the Senate. It also has spawned massive spending.
Prior to outside spending, the two Senate campaigns have raised a record-setting $25 million: $15 million for Brown and $10 million for Mandel. That's more than the entire amount spent in each of the state's last two Senate races.
Mandel's war chest is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, business and conservative groups. Brown, meanwhile, is gaining much financial support from labor and environmental groups.
I had the opportunity last week to have Brown in my office for a face-to-face discussion.
Whether you like him or not, Brown, in one word, is "captivating."
Once he found out I was a St. John Central graduate, he immediately said "Allan Hornyak."
"He scored 100 points in a high school game (actually 86). I remember him being one of the greatest shooters in Ohio State history," Brown lamented. "He was so fun to watch play."
I never expected that from a U.S. senator.
A few years back former Times Leader staffer Mike Schuler and I had the chance to sit down with then-Sen. George Voinovich in our offices. I thought Voinovich was one of the most down-to-earth and sensible politicians I had ever met. He was such a genuine guy.
The same can be said of Brown. He is a down-to-earth guy who is easy to shoot the bull with.
Brown currently holds a slight lead in the latest polling in a race which will be impacted greatly by the presidential race.
Brown is a Mansfield native and a blue-collar guy when it comes to issues. He realizes the need and importance of coal to not just our region but to the entire nation.
"Coal is big in the Ohio Valley but it could also solve a lot of our national energy issues," he said. "It's a shame to see the steel industry in the shape it is in. We need to embrace the use of coal and ensure it doesn't meet the same fate as steel."
BELMONT COUNTY Auditor Andy Sutak was the featured speaker at Tuesday's Martins Ferry Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Sutak updated chamber members on the impact shale oil is having in Belmont County.
Sutak said the positive impact is starting to be felt but the major thrust is still to come. Sutak said the county could hit it real big if it could land a refinery.
Councilman Chris Cleary delivered the city's report. He said the city's new website is proving quite popular with some 6,000 visitors already, with hits from as far as Texas and Oklahoma. Cleary also said diagonal parking is being considered as well as a Meet the Candidates Night.
Chamber Director Dorothy Powell said the chamber's sausage-stand booth at the Betty Zane Days Festival was again a success. She added that Wednesday an energy coalition program will be held at the Ferry recreation center. Powell also said the chamber is mapping plans for a "Night At The Races," possibly in November.
Attorney Bill Thomas was welcomed as the chamber's newest member.
I MUST thank the quality writing Karen Vargo has done for the Times Leader over the course of the last several months. She has been a big plus to our Saturday's op-ed page twice a month. She has highlighted Yorkville-Tiltonsville-Rayland (YTR) like no one else in my newspaper lifetime. She has opted to cease writing for personal reasons. I thank her for her passionate work and extend her an open invitation to resume writing for us whenever she wishes.
JOHN MAGISTRO continues to build Westerville Central into an up-and-coming power. The St. John Central grad and former Bellaire High coaching legend led the fledgling program to an 8-2 mark last fall and a state Division I playoff berth. His squad opened the 2012 campaign Friday night with a 27-0 pasting of Sunbury Big Walnut. Central hosts New Albany this Friday.
FORMER MARTINS Ferry High grid great Tony Collette is lending his expertise to the Amherst Steele High grid program in northern Ohio. The former all-Ohio running back is the defensive coordinator/secondary coach for the frosh squad. Collette owns and operates his own personal training business: Collette Strength and Conditioning. He resides in Rocky River with his new bride, the former Ashley Moyers. They exchanged wedding vows July 27. Collette, whose dad was a longtime Purple Riders' grid assistant, was also a standout sprinter in track for the Purple.
SOAP BOX Derby Queen Kallie Myers is featured in the Aug. 20 edition of Sports Illustrated. She is among six people pictured in Faces In The Crowd. The St. Clairsville resident and Bridgeport High senior was cited for winning the 75th Annual All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron recently.
THE INAUGURAL Martins Ferry High School Alumni Weekend will take place Friday and Saturday. On Friday, the alumni will attend the Martins Ferry versus Shenandoah football game at 7 p.m. Featured will be the Martins Ferry Alumni Band. On Saturday the alumni steak fry will be held at Redman Park, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $20 per person and are available at the Martins Ferry Chamber of Commerce office.
Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleader online.com