State Sen. Jimmy Stewart, R-Albany, is receiving encouragement from both local and national Republicans to challenge U.S. Rep. Zack Space, D-Dover, in 2010 for representation of Ohio's 18th Congressional District. But Stewart says he hasn't yet made a decision.
Stewart said he met with the National Republican Congressional Committee earlier this year. He told Roll Call, a Washington-based political news source, that he will make a final decision about the race this month.
"For anybody, I don't think this is an easy decision and certainly not anything I'm taking lightly," Stewart said. "I didn't focus intently on it while the [state budget process] was going on. And since we've got the budget out of the Senate, I've started to focus on it more, but have not reached a decision."
The 18th District includes a long stretch of eastern and southeast Ohio, including the northern part of Athens County. Space hails from Tuscarawas County, south of Canton.
Space's vote in favor of the "cap-and-trade" energy legislation passed earlier this summer in the U.S. House, Stewart has acknowledged, makes his possible bid for the seat more appealing. He told Roll Call he was "flabbergasted that a congressman from the district would actually vote for that bill in any form."
The amount of money that's going to be spent on cap-and-trade, Stewart said, would be better spent in areas such as improving water and sewer systems.
"It's not as exciting of an issue as carbon capture and things like that, but I think there would be a health benefit, as well as an economic stimulus and an economic-development benefit," Stewart said. "My personal belief is that focusing on the nation's antiquated water and sewer infrastructure, as well as new development of water and sewer, is at the most basic-level environmentally friendly as well as good for public health."
Stewart said that he thinks the "cap-and-trade" legislation misses the larger point of energy efficiency.
"Ultimately, I think it would be a lot more efficient to focus all of our energies on weatherization, energy efficiencies in terms of our electricity grid... [and] cogeneration," Stewart said. "I think, as a general rule, that's usually the best money spent."
Stewart cited a rental property of his where he said the insulation of the walls in the attic and a couple new storm windows cut natural-gas use by 50 percent. "I really believe our money would be best spent focusing on the energy-efficiency side," he said.
Gabby Adler, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, defended Space's vote, saying he is fighting to get the economy back on track, create jobs and invest in Ohio's future.
"Part of this effort was supporting landmark energy legislation that will enable Ohio to become the leader in clean-coal technology and production for years to come, expand Ohio's manufacturing base to create new jobs, end the practice of sending billions of dollars to foreign countries for sources of energy, and enhance our national security," Adler said. "Anyone who wouldn't support these goals clearly does not have the district's best interest at heart and lacks the type of leadership necessary to tackle the challenges facing Ohio families."
Stewart said he has come to learn, with regard to clean coal and carbon sequestration, that existing technology is inefficient.
"Even if you could just drill a hole in the ground underneath every coal-fired power plant and sequester [carbon], it would take probably about 25 percent of the energy that the plant produces to start with," Stewart said. "Which just means that we would have to burn that much more coal and have that many more power plants to do it. The existing technology just isn't there... I think ultimately we would be far better served just focusing on the efficiency side of things."
Jeanette Moll, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2008 GOP primary for the 18th District seat, is an announced candidate for the seat in 2010. A former magistrate judge in Guernsey County, Moll now has a private law practice in Zanesvlle. She has been sending out regular e-mail press releases attacking Rep. Space and the Democratic leadership in Congress.