Editorial - Belmont County Needs Hoagland in Ohio Senate

06/27/2016 - 11/09/2016

Imagine what a simple pin can tell you about someone.

Consider Ohio's 30th Senate District race. Challenger Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, vs. incumbent Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville. When people ask me about this race, I typically respond: I believe the difference is found in the pins they wear.

What do I mean, you ask? Well, Sen. Gentile typically displays his Ohio Senate Pin, which identifies him as a sitting state senator. Frank Hoagland, meanwhile, wears a SEAL Trident pin, symbol of his service as a former Navy SEAL. Two pins, representing two honorable institutions, worn by two very different men, with two very different life experiences behind them.

Both pins indicate lengthy government service. In fact, Sen. Gentile has never held a job outside government. He went from Ted Strickland's intern/driver, to congressional office aide, to state official when Strickland became Governor to the Ohio House and now the Ohio Senate. Frank Hoagland spent 21 years in the United States Navy, 19 of those years as a member of the SEALs before becoming an entrepreneur in the private sector.

Sen. Gentile has never started a business, met a payroll or hired a single private sector employee. In contrast, Frank has created multiple jobs, operating several security-related businesses (here in Ohio) after his retirement from the Navy.

Sen. Gentile's pin reminds us that he is part of the Democratic establishment as a member of their leadership team. Today, there are only 10 Democrats out of 33 senators in the Ohio Senate, and four of those ten are in 'leadership.' So, fully 40% of all democrat senators are considered 'leadership,' which rank as follows: Minority Leader, Assistant Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Assistant Minority Whip (Gentile's position). (Whether two people are really needed to count the eight other votes in the Democratic Caucus, I leave for you to decide.) Still, there is no question Sen. Gentile is a liberal leader within Ohio's Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the Trident tells you Frank Hoagland is a leader regardless of political affiliation. The Trident represents Frank's SEAL training as a team leader, team player, team planner and a man for whom failure is not an option. The Trident tells you Frank had the courage, commitment, honor and intelligence to become a SEAL, where the (unofficial) motto is, "The only easy day was yesterday." While Frank can't talk about a lot of his SEAL missions, the Trident tells you Frank's creed requires him to earn the right to wear that pin each and every day.

Two simple pins. Two separate symbols. Two vastly different life experiences. Now, I think you understand why I answer people: The difference is in the pins they wear.

None of this means Sen. Gentile is a bad person. Indeed, I've heard many a Republican say, "Yeah, I know he's a Democrat, but he's a nice guy." While I agree it's important for both Republicans and Democrats to remember that policy disputes do not require personal hatred, this type of statement misses the point. Personality is not the issue. Policy is. I have little doubt President Obama is a 'nice guy,' too. But, for Belmont County residents, a 'good guy' is no reason to accept bad policies that hurt our economy and damage our communities.

For instance, during a 2012 campaign stop in Belmont County, when Sen. Gentile and former Gov. Strickland were urging President Obama's re-election, the Wheeling Intelligencer reported (Sept. 11, 2012) the following:

"And while Strickland didn't touch on the president's policies on coal, Gentile did. He said eastern Ohio is blessed with an abundance of coal, oil and natural gas and that the Obama campaign supports the responsible development of those resources."

'We support those natural resources and so does President Obama,' Gentile said. 'He believes with the responsible development of oil, gas and coal, we can create sustainable, living wage jobs and that's what he's done.'"

Raise your hand if you honestly believe President Obama ever really wanted the responsible development of any fossil fuel, let alone (and most of all) coal? Anyone?! Does the 'War on Coal' ring any bells? Until this Valley elects leaders strong enough to speak an unvarnished truth, all voters must engage in critical listening to discern when career politicians like Sen. Gentile engage a cloak of pandering to hide a difficult political truth.

It goes back to the differences in pins. I believe, given statements like those above, Sen. Gentile's Senate pin says that he will tell you exactly what you want to hear to secure re-election, even when that statement is at odds with reality. On the other hand, I believe the Trident tells you that you will hear the truth from Frank Hoagland. You may not like it, or always agree with it, but the Trident tells you that the man wearing it has enough courage, and respects you enough, to speak it.

Two simple pins. Two vastly different men. You be the judge, but I believe their difference truly is found in the pins they wear.

Gagin is a local attorney and president of Illumination Financial Group. He was selected as chairman of the Belmont County Republican Party this year.