Monday, January 30, 2012

Josh Mandel's quick but quiet climb up political ladder offers clues about his senatorial prospects

Written and reported with Joe Guillen

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It might be difficult to believe, but there was a time -- not all that long ago, really -- when Josh Mandel begged off a career in politics.

The year was 1999, and Mandel, an undergrad from Cleveland's suburbs, had just won a second term as president of the student government at Ohio State University.

"I don't enjoy the political part of the job," he told a reporter at the time, rejecting the notion that he had cemented himself a nice little steppingstone into public office.

Today, after three years on the Lyndhurst City Council and two terms as a state legislator, Mandel serves as Ohio's treasurer. He also is the leading Republican candidate this year for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Sherrod Brown of Avon.

But because of his quick rise up a ladder he once said he had no intention of climbing, Mandel, 34, has yet to establish much of a political identity.

In four years at the Statehouse he introduced four bills, none of which made it to a vote. In his Senate campaign, which Mandel began preparing three months into his first year as treasurer, he embraces hard-line views on topics such as the Second Amendment and Occupy Wall Street, yet he decries "hyper-partisan" rhetoric.

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