Last week the Butler County Republican Party gathered to decided if they would be handing out an endorsement in the race to replace Congressman John Boehner in Ohio’s 8th Congressional District. With a crowded field of seven candidates, it is hardly a surprise that none managed to convinced over 60% (as required for an endorsement) that they were the best candidate in the race. With that said, one candidate did manage to convince ALMOST 60% (an impressive 59%) that they were the best suited for the job.
Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds came within 1% of receiving the endorsement that night, which would have surely resulted in several of his six contenders dropping out.
Auditor Roger Reynolds was not the first to enter the race to replace Boehner, but his entrance was expected by many as soon as it became clear the seat would be open. Since Butler County alone makes up more than half of the population of the 8th district, his strong base in Butler him a prime candidate. Add to his popularity with both the mainstream party and those further on the right, and it becomes very easy to see why he has done so well in this race.
After multiple rounds of voting the last two candidates left were State Rep Tim Derickson and Auditor Reynolds. The end result was Reynolds with an impressive 59% and Derickson at 39%, with the remainder voting for no endorsement. In comparison, the next most serious candidate, State Senator Bill Beagle, only received 4 votes in the first round during the endorsement process and did not make it near the final round. At this point there is no need to really discuss any candidates other than Reynolds and Derickson. If the party faithful in the most populous county of the district are not behind them, their campaigns are negligible.
What does this all mean? Who has the edge in this race?
Right now this race is in the grasp of either Reynolds or Derickson. The competition of Reynolds versus Derickson is a great example of Columbus money and power going up against an extremely popular local official who is no slouch to fundraising himself. Derickson and staff have been spending a great deal of time and energy fundraising in Columbus, while Reynolds has been working the home turf with both fundraising and building his coalition of support. There is no doubt that each candidate will raise campaign funds into the 6th digit. Even with the importance of funds, primaries are often put over the edge by the grassroots support. The vote in Butler County last week showed the scale tipped heavily in Reynolds’ favor.
Can Columbus money overcome in-district money and grassroots? Southwest Ohio is a different beast all its own: conservative activists in that part of the state view themselves as desperate from the rest of Ohio and often resent attempts by those in Columbus to meddle in their backyard. And party faithful don’t generally enjoy a candidate who came to their meeting seeking an endorsement to change his tune after not receiving it.
After the meeting concluded Derickson stated:
“The ballot shouldn’t be dictated by a small group of people”.
That’s easy to say after you tried to receive an endorsement and were not successful.
A striking opposite to Derickson’s statement, Reynolds is quoted as saying:
“A strong majority is what we were looking for,” Reynolds said. “Fifty-nine percent is a solid majority.”
A candidate concerned about attacking a process he had just lost, as opposed to a candidate concerned about building a coalition with a strong majority. I know what team I would want to be on.