Guest post by Van Wilder
With the Ohio Supreme Court ruling that gives the green-light to the Ohio Democrat Party to continue their quest to challenge Governor Kasich and the GOP-led General Assembly at every turn via referendum, it is at least somewhat likely that Ohio’s Congressional primaries, let alone the general, could be a colossal mess. Since it could be over a year from now until we know exactly where the lines will fall, we simply have to look ahead making a few assumptions based on what we know to be rock-solid truth.
First of all, regardless of who is running for Congress and in which district they choose to run, Ohio Republican candidates outpaced their Democrat counterparts in the third quarter. Secondly, we know that at least two current Congressmen still will not be going back to represent Ohio come January 2013. Also, we know that at there will be at least two (maybe three) cases where sitting members of Congress will be running against each other in a primary or general election, and likely many more that contain former members trying to reclaim old seats along the new lines. Finally, the third quarter was undoubtedly the toughest in which to raise money so far this cycle, and is notorious for being a slow quarter in off-year Congressional fundraising historically.
Two of the members likely to be running against each other in a primary come next March are Democrats Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich. FEC reports show that neither raised an eye-popping amount in the quarter between July 1 and September 30, but that Kucinich did double up Kaptur, $86k to $42k. That only tells half of the story, as Kaptur is sitting on over $604k going into their matchup, while Kucinich’s sky-high burn rate left him with just over $90k on hand. The winner will face the winner of what looks like a GOP primary between likely candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher and former Cuyahoga County GOP Chairman Rob Frost. Wurzelbacher says he will announce a decision by October 25, while Frost has stacked up an impressive total of just under $250k on hand since entering the race. If the district stands, candidates will need hefty bank accounts to buy airtime in the expensive Cleveland market as well as in Toledo.
On the Republican side of the aisle, a primary matchup between second term Rep. Steve Austria and veteran Rep. Mike Turner seems unavoidable, and it highly unlikely to change due to a retirement from either. This one looks like a dead heat if only money is taken into account, as Austria and Turner finished the quarter with $412k and $422k on hand, respectively. No credible Democrat challenger has filed in the seat yet, but historically there have been attempts to field competitive challengers to both Congressmen in their old seats. The new makeup of the seat seems to slightly favor Austria, and in a tight primary, the gloves will come off.
The other seat likely to feature two members squaring off is the seat currently held by freshman GOP Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth, who Democrat Rep. Betty Sutton (of Cash for Clunkers fame) has been drawn together with. While he may face an even tougher test than 2010, Renacci will be strong heading into 2012. His cash on hand and contributions for the quarter were both roughly double that of Sutton’s, with Renacci bringing in $325k to finish with $782k in his coffers. It will help that the majority of the newly-drawn seat comes from the territory he currently represents, but Sutton will have the resources to keep his team on their toes.
Down in Southwest Ohio, embattled GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt is getting another primary challenge, this time from former candidate for Cincinnati Mayor, Dr. Brad Wenstrup. Schmidt has fended off challengers from the right and the left since winning her seat in the 2005 special election, and she will start defense of her seat with $240k on hand after raising a respectable $145k since July. Wenstrup appears to be more organized out of the gate than any of her previous Republican challengers and has a compelling personal story to tell. However, while he only entered the race at the end of June, his first two filings together barely equal $100k, and he has just over $70k in his account as of the deadline. If Wenstrup is going to knock off an incumbent in the primary, his finance operation will have to play catch up in the next quarter, or his pitch to donors will get increasingly tougher come crunch time.
Two freshman Republicans likely to draw serious challengers are Rep. Bob Gibbs and Rep. Bill Johnson. Democrats see both seats as losses due merely to the wave of 2010, which could prove a positive for both. The latest buzz has a combination of Democrat Congressmen exploring another run, including John Boccieri, Charlie Wilson, and Zack Space. Boccieri isn’t going to take on incumbent Democrat Tim Ryan, and Sutton being drawn in with Renacci means a rematch there is unlikely. Comments from Boccieri indicate he is serious about running somewhere, but he would start with just $18k in the bank and did not report raising a single dollar in the 3rd quarter. Space could be the odd man out between the three, and would start any race with just $12k on hand. Wilson is definitely running for his old seat, and he turned in a solid first quarter back in the saddle, pulling in $150k to have $154k in the bank. The good news beyond facing failed candidates for Cong. Gibbs and Johnson is that they both have healthy cash reserves. Bill Johnson raised $221k and finished with $326k on hand, while Bob Gibbs brought in $169k and has a solid $482k on hand.
Other Republican members of the delegation had solid showings as well. Speaker John Boehner’s campaign committee brought in $1.4 million and has $3.82 million to spend, while RSC Chairman Jim Jordan raked in $264k to bring his warchest to a respectable $1.1 million. Rep. Pat Tiberi brought in the biggest haul other than Boehner at $374k, leaving him with $1.7 million in the bank. Congressman Bob Latta raised $180k for the 3rd quarter, bringing his account to $346k. The dean of the Ohio delegation, Rep. Steve LaTourette, raised $110k and has $563k toward his re-election bid. Rep. Steve Chabot may get a challenge from Democrat state Rep. Connie Pillich, who has about $70k to start her campaign after raising just over $77k in the third quarter. Chabot brought in over $155k, doubling up Pillich’s numbers while also building a cash advantage that sees him with just under $375k on hand. Fellow freshman Steve Stivers continued his run of impressive fundraising, too, with a very solid $326k in the quarter, bringing his total to $853k.
If these numbers keep up throughout the next year, it portends very well for Ohio’s Republican delegation. No matter what the lines end up being, our Congressmen will have the resources they need to wage winning campaigns and get their message out to voters.