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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Ohio -- 16

GOP Leads In Regula Seat

In a landscape in which Democrats seem to find new House targets on a daily basis, Republicans look for any good news they can find. The GOP got some today in a suburban and rural Ohio district south of Cleveland and Akron many once believed was as good as gone to Democrats. According to a new poll, not only are Democrats not running away with the seat, the Republican State Senator is leading.

The Tarrance Group survey, conducted for State Senator Kurt Schuring's campaign, surveyed 400 likely voters between 7/8-9 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Schuring, the Republican nominee, and State Senator John Boccieri, the Democratic nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Schuring............40
Boccieri.............34

Sure, it's a Republican poll, but the fact that Schuring is ahead of Boccieri, a widely-touted candidate who made the party's Red to Blue list of top challengers, is a big plus for the GOP. Given so many undecided voters, though, and the fact that Schuring is well below the critical 50% marker, there is little question that both parties will target the seat heavily.

The Sixteenth District, represented by Republican Ralph Regula for the last 36 years, includes Canton, as well as three counties to the West, in Wayne, Medina and most of Ashland Counties. The third-ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, Regula is stepping down this year, giving Schuring and Boccieri shots at representing the seat.

The district voted for President Bush with 53% in 2000 and 54% in 2004, though Regula managed only 58% in both his Republican primary and in the general election in November. Recent Democratic candidates including Governor Ted Strickland and Senator Sherrod Brown have won Stark County, where Canton is, indicating the district's growing Democratic population.

Still, the seat remains fundamentally Republican. Schuring has a very good chance of keeping the seat in GOP hands, but Boccieri should not be counted out. Watch for both parties to make the seat a top priority this Fall.

Previewing Ohio Primaries

While Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battle for the Democratic nomination in Ohio on March 4, several congressional primaries are raging in the background. With three open seats, one filled by special election, and a few vulnerable incumbents, the make-up of the state's congressional delegation in 2009 is up in the air.

Republican Reps. David Hobson, Deborah Pryce and Ralph Regula are retiring at the end of the 110th Congress, leaving a couple competitive seats the GOP will need to fight to retain. In the 5th District, Rep. Paul Gillmor's death in September brought on what was thought to be a competitive special election, though Republican Bob Latta easily won the seat.

In the 2nd District, Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, even though President Bush carried the district with 64% in 2004. Since coming to Congress through a 2005 special election, Schmidt has yet to carry an election by more than 5 points. Schmidt defeated Democrat Paul Hackett in 2005 by 4,000 votes. In 2006 she won the Republican primary by a similar margin, and then defeated Democrat Victoria Wulsin in the general election by just 2,500 votes, despite outspending her 2-to-1.

Schmidt caught a huge break a month ago when former Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich dropped his bid for the Republican nomination. By the end of 2007 Heimlich had more than $250,000 cash on hand, twice that of Schmidt. But the recent entrance to the race by State Rep. Tom Brinkman forced Heimlich to reconsider his chances due to the likelihood of a splintered vote.

However, if Schmidt wins the nomination, she will certainly face a tough and well-financed challenger in the general election. Wulsin, who also lost to Hackett in the 2005 Democratic special primary, is running again and in a heated primary race with attorney Steve Black, who last week loaned his campaign $195,000. Wulsin had raised $500,000 by the end of 2007 and had about $350,000 in the bank.

In the 16th District, no one under 35 years old was around when anyone but Regula represented them in Congress. State Senator Kirk Schuring is the favored candidate in the GOP primary in the district, just south of Cleveland, having received the incumbent's endorsement and a host of other local and state officials. Schuring, who has spent by far the most money of the Republican candidates, is in a three-person battle for the nomination.

The Republican winner will face the well-financed State Senator John Boccieri in the general election. Boccieri does not live in the district, and while he reportedly plans to move within district lines when the school year ends, he can expect to hear carpet-bagging attacks. The district leans Republican, as President Bush won 54% here in 2004, though in 2006 Regula garnered his lowest winning percentage since first coming to Congress in 1972. National Democrats are excited by Boccieri's chances, and they believe they have a real shot at the seat.

In the sprawling 7th District, Hobson has thrown his support behind state Senator Steve Austria, who raised about $300,000 more than any of the three other Republicans running for the nomination. The safely Republican district, which stretches from the southwest to the southeast of Columbus, gave President Bush 14-point margins in both his elections, and Democrats do not appear to be seriously contesting the seat. None of the six Democrats running were able to raise more than $10,000. The winner of the GOP primary figures to keep this traditionally Republican district in GOP hands.

Among the open Republican seats, Pryce's 15th District, just north of Hobson's and west of Columbus, is the most vulnerable to a Democratic challenge. President Bush won here in 2004 by some 2,000 votes, and in 2006 Pryce won by an even smaller margin against Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy.

A number of potential Republican candidates had declined to run following Pryce's August 2007 retirement announcement until State Senator Steve Stivers stepped into the ring in November. Kilroy had announced her candidacy almost immediately after conceding the close 2006 race.

Both candidates raised large sums of money through the end of 2007, with Kilroy topping $600,000 cash on hand. Stivers reported having $400,000 in the bank. Neither candidate will face a competitive primary, so both are already looking ahead to November.

Keep an eye on 1st District Republican Steve Chabot, whose district is based largely around Cincinnati. Chabot held off a well-financed challenge in 2006, and will face another tough general election race this year against State Rep. Steve Driehaus, who had some $400,000 cash on hand at the end of last year. Chabot, however, is in good shape financially, with $1 million in the bank.

6th District Democrat Charlie Wilson, whose massive district spans from Youngstown along the border with Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the southern reaches of the state, could also face a difficult election. The freshman congressman won a write-in contest in the 2006 primary after a snafu kept him off the ballot.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Another Ohio GOP Retirement

After a week in which they managed to snag some top recruits, the NRCC took a hit today when word leaked that long-time Ohio Rep. Ralph Regula will announce his retirement. Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz and David Drucker report the announcement could come as early as tomorrow.

Regula, first elected in 1972, has had little trouble holding on to his district, in Northeast Ohio just south of Cleveland. Still, the district is close. President Bush won just 53% of the vote in 2000, and beat Kerry only 54%-46% in 2004. Democrats are excited about their candidate, State Sen. John Boccieri, while Republicans hope to recruit State Sens. Kirk Schuring and Ron Amstutz, Toeplitz and Drucker write.

Regula did get a scare last year, when Ashland County Commissioner Matt Miller took almost 42% of the vote in the Republican primary to Regula's 58%. Miller has already declared he will try for the seat again.

The seat should favor Republicans, at least initially, but if Democrats invest in the race, Boccieri would be another strong pickup opportunity. Again, as Republicans are forced to defend more seats from retirement, their resources become less effective as they are spread more thinly.