Following the break is a complete roundup and ranking of Ohio races for the U.S. House of Representatives. I have separated them into Republican-held and Democratic-held seats and divided each into tiers. Within each tier they are ranked in order of likelihood of changing parties.
Democrats were very successful in 2006 in winning a U.S. Senate seat, four out of five statewide offices, and a net gain of seven seats in the Ohio House of Representatives, but the U.S. House races were a relative disappointment. The party gained only one seat and watched two promising races end in narrow losses after recounts. In this cycle Ohio has three open GOP seats and perhaps four or five races altogether that already look very promising, with another two or three that could be added to that list. The DCCC has already added three races to their “Red to Blue” program and is likely to take an interest in at least two more. In other words, Ohio is once again a critical congressional battleground.
Tier One: Toss-Up
15th District Central Ohio (includes part of Columbus and west and northwest suburbs, Hilliard, Marysville). Cook PVI R+1.1. Bush won 50% in 2004. In 2006 retiring incumbent Deborah Pryce (R) defeated Mary Jo Kilroy (D) by just over 1,000 votes. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 62.1% Democratic. DCCC Red-to-Blue program.
County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus) is running almost like an incumbent after her photo finish in 2006 and the retirement of her opponent. She has raised an impressive amount of money and has strong support from labor, womens’ groups (including Emily’s List) and among students, who are very numerous in this district. She is an energetic campaigner although not the most polished of public speakers. Opponent State Sen. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington), an Iraq veteran and former bank lobbyist, is a strong adversary with big support from the business community. Independent candidate Don Elijah Eckhart (I-Galloway) figures to take a few votes away from Stivers.
16th District NE Ohio (includes Canton, Massillon, Alliance, Wadsworth, Medina, Wooster, Ashland). Cook PVI R+3.6. Bush won 54% in 2004. In 2006 incumbent Ralph Regula (R), who is retiring, fared poorly in the GOP primary (58% to 43% over conservative Matt Miller (R-Ashland)) and defeated political novice Rev. Tom Shaw (D-Wooster) by the surprisingly narrow margin of 59% to 41% in the general election. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 60.8% Democratic. DCCC Red-to-Blue program.
Iraq veteran and former collegiate baseball star State Sen. John Boccieri (D-New Middletown) is a terrific candidate and is adored in his state legislative district. This congressional district unfortunately includes only a tiny slice of his home turf, but Boccieri is working very hard to build name recognition here and he has the energy and political talent to make it work. Opponent State Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), a moderate, is strong in vote-rich Stark County but barely escaped a three-way primary against two more conservative opponents. The keys to this election are whether the Republican base turns out for Schuring and whether Boccieri can hold down Schuring’s advantage in blue-trending Stark County while gaining big vote totals elsewhere.
Tier Two: Leans Republican
1st District SW Ohio (includes part of Cincinnati and western suburbs). Cook PVI R+1. Bush won 50% of the vote in 2004. In 2006 incumbent Steve Chabot (R) defeated second-time challenger Councilman John Cranley (D) by 53% to 47%. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 55.4% Democratic. DCCC Red-to-Blue program.
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) defied pundits and polls by holding off a hard-charging challenger last cycle. State Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill) is thought to be a stronger opponent because his base is in the suburbs rather than the city, and like Cranley before him he has moderate-to-conservative positions on social issues that should have cross-over appeal in this swing district. Chabot was the target of independent attack ads over his votes against expanding SCHIP during the past year. Independent Rich Stevenson (I) is also in the race.
2nd District SW Ohio (includes part of Cincinnati and eastern suburbs, Lebanon, Portsmouth). Cook PVI R+13. Bush won 64% in 2004. Incumbent Jean Schmidt (R) defeated Dr. Victoria Wulsin (D) by less than 3,000 votes (51% to 49%) in 2006. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 57.2% Democratic.
Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) has embarrassed herself on the floor of the House with her assault on Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) and by plagiarism in a constituent newsletter and exaggerating her credentials, but she is probably in a stronger position now than 2006 because she has completed a full term in office. Dr. Victoria Wells Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) emerged victorious from a bruising primary in which she endured withering (and unsubstantiated) attacks on her medical ethics. Wulsin takes heart from having outgained Schmidt in their respective primaries (54,965 to 40,891) and from having gained more Democratic votes and coming closer to winning in 2006 than any previous Democratic candidate since 1980. She is an experienced campaigner after two previous outings. Independent David Krikorian (I) is reportedly gathering signatures to join the race.
Tier Three: Likely Republican
14th District NE Ohio (includes northeast suburbs of Akron, Willoughby, Mentor, Ashtabula). Cook PVI R+2. Bush won 52% in 2004. Incumbent Steve LaTourette (R) defeated law professor Lew Katz (D) by 58% to 39% in 2006. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 64.9% Democratic.
Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Chagrin Falls) has his toughest opponent since he defeated incumbent Eric Fingerhut (D) 14 years ago. Vietnam veteran and former appellate judge William O’Neill (D-South Russell) has good name recognition from his appellate judicial races and 2006 Ohio Supreme Court bid, has raised serious money (although he is still far behind LaTourette), and has a direct, plain-spoken personality (softened by his remarkable second career as a pediatric ER nurse) that should serve him well in this suburban-to-rural swing district. LaTourette’s biggest assets have been his ability to bring home federal dollars, which is blunted by being in the minority, and his reputation as a moderate, which is questionable. LaTourette is somewhat tainted by links to Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney, breaking a promise to vote against CAFTA, and his divorce and affair with a staffer whom he latter married. Unfortunately O’Neill underwent heart bypass surgery recently that will slow him down for another month or so, but he is a determined and formidable candidate who could elevate this to a top tier race.
Tier Four: High Probability Republican
7th District. South Central Ohio (includes southwest suburbs of Columbus, Lancaster, Xenia, Circleville, Springfield). Cook PVI R+6.0. Bush won 57% in 2004. Retiring incumbent Dave Hobson defeated repeat challenger Bill Conner (D) by 61% to 39% in 2006. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 52.9% Democratic.
This race has upside potential because it is an open seat. Corporate attorney Sharen Neuhardt (D-Yellow Springs) emerged from a six-way primary through hard work and a skillful direct mailing campaign. She is a first-time candidate but she has displayed excellent potential for fund-raising, has brought aboard first-rate campaign staff, and is dedicated to taking the necessary steps to run a seriously competitive campaign. I am hoping that she will work on displaying more passion in her public speaking, which on the occasion I heard her was somewhat low-key. State Sen. Steve Austria (R-Beavercreek) is photogenic and has the support of the incumbent but hasn’t particularly distinguished himself as a state legislator.
3rd District. SW Ohio (includes Dayton and southern suburbs, Kettering, Miamisburg). Cook PVI R+3. Bush won 54% in 2004. Incumbent Michael Turner (R) defeated former federal prosecutor Richard Chema (D) by 59% to 41% in 2006. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 60.2% Democratic.
This should be a swing district based on the strong performance here by Gov. Ted Strickland in 2006. It was held by Democrat Tony Hall from 1981 to 2003. Unfortunately, incumbent Rep. Michael Turner (R-Centerville) benefits from having been Mayor of Dayton, where most of the Democratic votes are located. Nevertheless, business woman and long-time political activist Jane Mitakides (D) gave Turner a fairly stiff challenge in 2004 (gaining 37.7% of the vote) and figures to improve in her second campaign and with an electorate yearning for change. Questions have been raised about Turner’s ethics, including a no-bid contract that benefited his spouse, and this could give Mitakides something of an opening if she is willing to exploit it.
12th District Central Ohio (includes part of Columbus and northeast suburbs, Dublin, Delaware). Cook PVI R+0.7. Bush won 51% in 2004. Incumbent Pat Tiberi (R) defeated former Congressman Bob Shamansky (D) by 58% to 42% in 2006. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 56.6% Democratic.
Businessman and political novice David W. Robinson (D) won a tough primary and is an intriguing candidate with possible crossover appeal. He has interesting credentials like a Ph.D. in theology and philosophy, a cross-country bicycle fund-raising trek for Alzheimers research, and working as a Presenter for Al Gore’s Climate Project initiative.
If he had the benefit of political experience I’d move this race up to the next tier.[After some reflection I decdied that this race belongs in Tier Four because of the relatively even PVI and the challenger’s strong showing in a tough primary.] Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Westerville) is not a distinguished member of the House but held onto his seat in 2006 with nasty attack ads against his challenger.
Tier Five: Safe Republican
4th District West Central Ohio (includes Mansfield, Findlay, Marion, Lima, Bellefontaine, Sidney). Cook PVI R+14. Bush won 64% in 2004. Freshman Jim Jordan (R) defeated attorney Richard Siferd (D) by 60% to 40% in 2006.
Steelworker and labor union activist Mike Carroll (D-Mansfield) deserves a lot of credit for taking on freshman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), and this district has the second highest percentage of blue collar workers in Ohio, but it is the reddest district in the state and hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1936.
8th District. West Ohio includes northern Dayton suburbs, Troy, Hamilton, Fairfield). Cook PVI R+12. Bush won 64% in 2004. Incumbent (and House Speaker) John Boehner defeated political novice Morton Meier (D) by 64% to 36% in 2006.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) has enormous campaign resources. Political activist and USAF veteran Nick Von Stein (D-Mason) is a personable and promising young candidate but this hill looks too steep to climb.
5th District. North Central Ohio (includes Norwalk, Bucyrus, Tiffin, Defiance, Bowling Green, Fremont). Cook PVI R+10.1. Bush won 61% in 2004. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R), who defeated repeat challenger Robin Weirauch by 57% to 43% in 2006, died in September 2007 and State Rep. Bob Latta (R) defeated Weirauch by the same margin in a special election in December.
There are no open Democratic seats and at this point there aren’t any Democratic incumbents seriously at risk.
Tier One: Leans Democratic
18th District East Central Ohio (includes Chillicothe, Zanesville, Mt. Vernon, Newark and New Philadelphia). Cook PVI R+6.1. Bush won 57% in 2004. In 2006, disgraced incumbent Bob Ney (R-Heath) resigned late in the campaign and Dover Law Director Zack Space (D) defeated replacement candidate State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton) by 62% to 38%. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 72.5% Democratic.
Just about a year ago this was considered the NRCC’s number one target nationwide. Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) has greatly increased his chances of holding this seat by raising over a million dollars and engaging in a remarkable series of high-visibility events throughout this far-flung district. He gets great local press and does strong case work through three district offices. He has staked out relatively conservative (and infuriating) positions on guns and immigration that help him with conservative voters and buttress his claim to be a political independent. His opponent, former Ohio Director of Agriculture Fred Dailey (R-Mt Vernon), is not a top-notch challenger. He got 39% of the vote in a four-way GOP primary, is not considered an exciting personality or hard-working campaigner, and has lingering problems with some farmers for giving environment-damaging factory farms a free pass while running the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The NRCC and 527’s will probably pour resources into this race to try to take Space out, but he nevertheless seems to be in fairly good shape.
Tier Two: High Probability Democratic
6th District. SE Ohio (includes Athens, Marietta, Steubenville, East Liverpool). Cook PVI D+0.4. Bush won 50% in 2004. In 2006 State Sen. Charlie Wilson (D) won the Democratic primary as a write-in candidate (he had filed defective nominating petitions) and cruised to an easy general election win over former Ohio House Speaker Charles Blasdel (R) by 62% to 38% to replace Gov. Ted Strickland in this Appalachian district. 2008 congressional primary turnout was 74.6% Democratic.
Popular Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville) should prevail easily over Deputy County Recorder Richard Stobbs (R-Dillonvale) in a district that has trended strongly blue due to the popularity of Gov Strickland.
10th District. NE Ohio (includes part of Cleveland and southern and western suburbs). Cook PVI D+6. Kerry won 58% in 2004. In 2006 incumbent Dennis Kucinich (D) defeated former U.S. government official Mike Dovilla (R) by 66% to 34%.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) would have had a serious primary challenge from rising political force Joe Cimperman (D) if there hadn’t been three other Democrats in the race, but he should be fine against former state representative Jim Trakas (R-Independence) and independent candidate Paul Visokaj (I). [After some reflection I decided that this race belongs in Tier Two because the challenger has campaign experience, the primary revealed significant (although not over powering) dissatisfaction with the incumbent, and the PVI is not as strong as in most of the safer districts.]
Tier Three: Safe Democratic
13th District. NE Ohio (includes part of Akron and eastern suburbs, Cuyahoga Falls, Lorain, Elyria, Brnswick, Strongsville). Cook PVI D+6. Kerry won 56% in 2004. In 2006 former state representative and labor attorney Betty Sutton (D) won a close Democratic primary and handily defeated Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin (R) by 61% to 39% in the general election to replace Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon).
9th District North Central Ohio (includes Toledo, Sylvania, Sandusky). Cook PVI D+9. Kerry won 58% in 2004. In 2006 incumbent Marcy Kaptur (D) defeated electrician Bradley Leavitt (R) by 74% to 26%.
17th District NE Ohio (includes Youngstown, Niles, Warren, Kent). Cook PVI D+14. Kerry won 63% in 2004. In 2006 incumbent Tim Ryan (D) defeated Don Manning (R) by 80% to 20%.
11th District NE Ohio (includes part of Cleveland and eastern suburbs). Cook PVI D+33. Kerry won 81.39% in 2004. In 2006 incumbent Stephanie Tubbs Jones demolished car salesman Lindsey String by 83% to 17%.
No sweat for Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) over political unknown Thomas Pekarek (R) in Ohio’s bluest congressional district.
Cross-posted at Ohio Daily Blog