The Battle is Joined in the Buckeye State
With fewer and fewer contested elections each cycle, today's primary in Ohio is an embarrassment of riches for political junkies.
Not only will the state's voters pick the Republican nominee for governor, they'll also choose candidates in five contested House races. Below The Fix provides a cheat sheet on the races; use it to impress your friends and vanquish your enemies or, at the very least, to help you follow the results tomorrow night.
Check this blog again this evening and tomorrow morning for updates on winners and losers; raw vote totals are available at the Ohio Secretary of State's Web site.
Let's start with the two most controversial races on today's ballot -- the open-seat contest in Ohio's 6th District and embattled GOP Rep. Bob Ney's primary challenge in the 18th District.
GOP Aims for Early Knockout in the 6th
In this southeastern Ohio district, the question is whether state Sen. Charlie Wilson (D) can win his party's nomination as a write-in candidate (after he failed to collect enough signatures to get his name on the ballot). The National Republican Congressional Committee is working hard to keep Wilson from winning the nomination, going so far as running television ads and sending direct mail pieces that attack his little-known opponents (Bob Carr and John Stephen Luchansky). The NRCC's theory is that by attacking Wilson's opponents as being "too liberal" for the district, Democratic activists may be convinced to support them fearing that Wilson is "too conservative" for their tastes.
Insiders predict that Wilson, who has the unanimous support of state and local party organizations, will win the nomination. Should Wilson advance he is likely to face off against state Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R) this fall in one of the most competitive districts -- by the numbers -- in the country. President Bush carried the 6th by 49 percent to 47 percent over John Kerry in 2004, but Rep. Ted Strickland, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, has held the seat since 1996.
A Slam Dunk For the Democratic Nominee?
While Rep. Bob Ney's Jack Abramoff problem appears to be mounting, he should easily survive today's GOP primary challenge from financial analyst James Harris. Ney has won the unanimous support of county chairmen in the 18th District and continues to raise solid money -- $474,000 in the bank of of April 12.
The Democratic race for the right to take on Ney in the fall is between attorney Zack Space and Chillicothe Mayor Joe Sulzer. Sulzer was the early favorite in the contest, but Space has run a surprisingly strong campaign, and national Democratic strategists describe the primary race as a pure toss up. Sulzer has had a financial edge in the campaign's final days; he had $172,000 on hand as of April 12 compared to Space's $76,000. Whoever winds up as the Democratic nominee, this is a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats due to Ney's potential legal problems.
The Taft Factor
The other main event today is in the gubernatorial race, where Secretary of State Ken Blackwell appears to be pulling away from state Attorney General (and former Auditor) Jim Petro in the Republican primary. Several polls released in the final days of the race pegged Blackwell as the frontrunner, with leads ranging from 12 to 21 points. Blackwell, who is African American, would be the second black Republican to win a gubernatorial nomination this year(former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann won the GOP nod in Pennsylvania).
While a Blackwell victory would make national news, he would still start the general election behind Ted Strickland, a deficit due in no small part to the ethical problems surrounding outgoing Gov. Bob Taft (R). Blackwell used television ads to link Petro and Taft in the primary and is likely to stay as far from the incumbent as possible in the fall. Nonetheless, Blackwell will not be able to erase the "R" after his name, which could seal his fate among the state's disgruntled voters. The Fix ranked the Ohio governor's race as the second most likely gubernatorial seat to change parties this year in out most recent Friday Line on governors races.
Here's a quick look at the other action in the state today:
*Ohio's 2nd District: Former Rep. Bob McEwen (R) is hoping for an upset over Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) in a rematch of their 2005 special-election clash to replace Rep. Rob Portman, the newly nominated head of the White House budget office. Schmidt took 31 percent of the Republican primary vote, edging out McEwen who received 26 percent.
McEwen argues that he only lost that race because the conservative vote was split among several candidates, a division that allowed Schmidt to sneak through. This time he is the lone challenger to Schmidt and -- in theory -- will unite the conservative base behind him. But beating an incumbent -- even one who has struggled like Schmidt -- is no easy task. McEwen has, however, stayed financially competitive with Schmidt thanks to more than $130,000 in personal donations.
Although Democrat Paul Hackett nearly upset Schmidt in last year's special election, he turned down entreaties from party leaders to run again after deciding to drop from the Senate primary. As a result, the Republican victor today will have little trouble holding the seat in the fall.
*Ohio's 4th District: What started as a cakewalk for state Sen Jim Jordan has turned into a battle royale as free-spending businessman Frank Guglielmi has pulled into a dead-heat with the Republican frontrunner. Guglielmi has poured $1.5 million into his campaign -- a massive total for a House race, and one that has put Jordan, who had raised $672,000 as of April 14, back on his heels. This district, which is being vacated by Rep. MIke Oxley, went for President Bush by 25 points in 2004 and will not be seriously contested in the fall.
*Ohio's 13th District: The Democratic primary to replace Rep. Sherrod Brown -- the party's nominee against Sen. Mike DeWine (R) this fall -- features four legitimate candidates: former Rep. Tom Sawyer, 2004 14th district nominee Capri Cafaro, attorney Betty Sutton and former Cleveland city councilman Gary Kucinich (brother of Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio's 10th District).
Democratic strategists say the race has come down to Sawyer, who held a seat in Congress from 1986 until 2002, and Sutton, who has been bolstered by the strong involvement of EMILY's List. While Sawyer began the race with a considerable name identification edge over Sutton, he has raised just over $50,000 -- a platry sum compared with the $420,000 Sutton has raised. The X-factor is Cafaro, who has donated more than $1 million of her own money to the campaign. Republicans believe that if the controversial Cafaro manages to win the nomination they have a very good chance of taking the seat in the fall, despite the fact that Kerry won there by 12 points in 2004. Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin is the likely Republican nominee.
May 2, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Governors , House
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