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Sharen Neuhardt was selected to be the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald; the candidates will run against incumbent John Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor in November. The campaign kicked off last Saturday in Dayton. (News archives photo)

Sharen Neuhardt was selected to be the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald; the candidates will run against incumbent John Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor in November. The campaign kicked off last Saturday in Dayton. (News archives photo)

Neuhardt in lieutenant governor bid

This year’s Ohio gubernatorial race recently became more interesting for many villagers, as Sharen Neuhardt of Yellow Springs was selected to be the running mate of Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald, who will challenge Governor John Kasich in November.

“I’m honored and thrilled,” Neuhardt said in an interview last Friday, the day the announcement was made. “I hope this gives some excitement to the people of Yellow Springs.”

This is Neuhardt’s third campaign for public office. She ran for Congress twice, once against former Congressman Steve Austria in 2008 and against Congressman Mike Turner in 2012. While she lost, she was credited in both races with running strong campaigns against incumbent Republicans in largely Republican districts.

Neuhardt has taken a leave of absence from her job as partner in the Dayton law firm of Thompson Hine, where she works in the firm’s corporate transactions and securities practice group, to campaign fulltime, she said.

On Friday, Neuhardt said she sees the economy as the main issue of the race for the governor’s seat.

“I think that the issue when voters vote next fall will be, who do you trust to protect the middle class?” she said. “In Ohio the rank and file middle class has been seeing job losses, seeing their buying power erode.” Neuhardt cited Ohio’s standing of 46th in the nation in job growth, with more unemployed in 2014 than in 2013. The Kasich administration has contributed to the middle class financial struggle with its cuts to municipal governments and school budgets, she said, “balancing the state budget on the backs of middle-class Ohioans.”

Neuhardt is also a strong proponent of women’s issues, and she plans to challenge the Kasich administration’s record of closing women’s health clinics and cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, where, she said, about 100,000 lower-income Ohio women receive basic healthcare annually.

“Women in need have been cut off from getting their health services. That’s wrong,” she said.

On Monday’s Cleveland.com Web site, Neuhardt was credited with helping FitzGerald “change the conversation” in his campaign, after his previous running mate, Eric Kearney, was found to owe more than $700,000 in back taxes and dropped out of the race. With the new ticket, FitzGerald is seen as having an issues-oriented campaign once again, with the economy and women’s issues taking center stage.

At their kick-off event in downtown Dayton Saturday, Neuhardt faced the question of women’s issues head-on.

“John Kasich and a lot of Republicans say that Ed picked me, basically, because I have ovaries,” Neuhardt said at the event. “Ed FitzGerald picked me because I have a brain. Women in this state have brains, we have memories and we vote. Memo to John Kasich: You’re going to be really sorry that you messed with women come November.”

On Friday, Neuhardt said that she met FitzGerald in mid-December at a Democratic event, where the two discussed possible replacements for Kearney. She offered to do whatever she could to help, but didn’t expect that would mean she’d be the candidate. But, when FitzGerald asked her to be his running mate, it didn’t take long to say yes.

“I respect him so much,” she said. “It was an easy decision.”

FitzGerald, an attorney who is a former FBI agent and prosecutor for Cuyahoga County, is currently the county executive of Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland. In his position, which is a newly created one that he assumed in 2010 after the previous government was dissolved due to corruption, he is credited with instituting a range of reforms, including community policing and the enforcement of a strict code of ethics, Neuhardt said.

Before working at Thompson Hine, Neuhardt was the general counsel and vice president of Mead Data Central. The daughter of a Dayton policeman, Neuhardt was the first in her family to attend college. She received a bachelors from Northwestern University and a law degree from Georgetown University.

In Yellow Springs, Neuhardt and her husband, David, also an attorney at Thompson Hine, are known as the “angels” who, with the help of almost $1 million raised by villagers, took a significant financial risk to save Whitehall Farm in 1999. The couple, who live in the historic Whitehall Farm home just north of the village, bid $3.2 million to save the farm at an auction, then put most of the land under conservation easement and rented it to farmers.


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