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Council Seat No. 2: Lemhouse

Race 2 is the most interesting race for city council this year, even if both candidates have flaws that in a more competitive election would cost them.

Eric Navickas, a fixture on the local environmental scene, is running against Greg Lemhouse, police officer and family man. Two very different people with very different priorities are presented for voters to choose.

Navickas has tried to shape the race around these different priorities. Of course he would, since a character debate exposes his greatest flaws. Despite the spin coming from Navickas backers now, the council candidate's past antics are relevant in this election.

Navickas ran and lost in 2002 and was among 15 candidates who asked to be appointed to fill the seat vacated by Attorney Chris Hearn in 2005. Navickas failed to draw support even from those on council who now ardently support him.

The problem with Navickas' candidacy now has more to do with the unwillingness of other leaders to appoint him to one of the many volunteer posts for which he has applied. Navickas clearly wants to participate but remains uninvited into the leadership of the city. But he needs to prove he can be more open-minded, more inclusive and more respectful of those with whom he disagrees.

The city council is not the place to prove that.

Past leaders have made a mistake not giving him the chance to serve on commissions, but the fact, and the uncertainty about his conduct, remains.

Greg Lemhouse is not dogged by these character attacks, but he too lacks experience working within the city.

If you're keeping score at home, Lemhouse wins on character, Navickas on commitment. We'll call it a draw on relevant experience.

This finally, thankfully, leads us back to the issues and the contrasting priorities these two candidates offer.

Navickas articulates a reasonable approach to diversifying the economy through tax incentives, bolstering the supply of affordable housing through a real estate transfer tax and through working to offer local residents better jobs.

Lemhouse touts, first and foremost, fiscal responsibility by lobbying to reduce the city's budget, shore up its excessive spending on projects that can pay for themselves and to work independently to find compromise among the diverse opinions at play in Ashland politics.

We believe the city as a whole may be better served with a council four years down the line with both of these men holding a seat. But right now, the council's greatest need is leadership. Greg Lemhouse is not the token all-looks and no-substance candidate his detractors try to paint. He's a clear thinking, articulate candidate with proven leadership skills, strong character and respect for others. Most importantly, rather than pie-in-the-sky plans that could cost taxpayers a fortune in the coming years, Lemhouse is ready to do the steady work of reducing the city's debt and budget, something that is long overdue.

We respect Eric Navickas, his passion, his dedication and his love for this city. But in this race, we support his opponent, Greg Lemhouse.