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DCCC Targeting Chabot in Ohio

Correction Appended

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put a bull’s-eye on the back of Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Monday that party leaders are trying to persuade state Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) to take on the seven-term incumbent.

But Chabot is not the only Buckeye Congressman who should be wary of what Van Hollen has in his quiver.

GOP Reps. Deborah Pryce and Jean Schmidt — two top Democratic targets last year — can expect the DCCC to again come after them aggressively.

More surprisingly, Ohio Democrats believe that if recruiting goes well, GOP Reps. Patrick Tiberi, Ralph Regula and Steven LaTourette could be in danger of losing their jobs, too.

“I’m just excited about the prospects for 2008,” said Randy Borntrager, acting executive director of the Ohio Democratic Party.

Chabot spent $3 million in his Cincinnati-based 1st district to dispatch with Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley (D) 53 percent to 47 percent. Cranley, who was a member of the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program, and had run for the seat in 2000, spent $2 million.

This time, Democrats think they have found an even better challenger in Driehaus.

“He would be a terrific candidate,” Van Hollen said. “He’s a fiscal conservative and a proven vote-getter.”

Driehaus, who cannot seek a fifth term to the state House because of term limits, said “a lot of people have been calling me” about taking on Chabot.

“A number of people have asked me to consider [the race] and it looks quite likely that I may jump in,” Driehaus said. “I imagine I will establish a federal account soon and start fundraising.”

The Ohio House Minority Whip said his father, Don Driehaus, sought the same seat in 1968, but he lost.

Driehaus, who is 40, said even though the district was drawn by Republicans to help Chabot, it is pretty evenly split between the parties now.

President Bush edged out Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) there 51 percent to 49 percent in the 2004 presidential election.

Van Hollen said that the Democratic base, particularly in the black community, did not turn out proportional to their numbers last year. He believes that next year, with a presidential election on the line, that will be remedied and create a boost in Democratic performance that could put Driehaus over the top.

Driehaus said Chabot does not have much to show for his 12 years in Washington, D.C.

“If you look around the district, one can ask the question: ‘Have I received adequate representation?’ I fully expect to field those questions when I’m running for re-election.”

Looking past his potential race, Driehaus said he sees numerous opportunities for Democrats.

“I think Ohio is going to be extremely competitive again,” he said. “Ohio is certainly purple if not blue.”

Borntrager was very optimistic as well.

Victoria Wulsin, who lost to Schmidt 51 percent to 49 percent in the reliably Republican 2nd district despite being outspent by $1 million, is looking for a mulligan.

Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D) also is eyeing a rematch with Pryce.

Pryce’s 15th district has become more Democratic — Kerry did 6 points better there in 2004 than then-Vice President Al Gore did in 2000.

Pryce squeaked past Kilroy by 1,055 votes despite spending $4.7 million to Kilroy’s $2.8 million.

But the Democrats’ ability to take out Pryce could be complicated by a primary.

Both Pryce and Chabot are part of the GOP’s Retain Our Majority Program, which helps the most vulnerable incumbents.

Paula Brooks, who sits on the Franklin County Commission with Kilroy, is talking about seeking the party nomination as well.

The National Republican Congressional Committee said that if Democratic challengers were unable to win in Ohio last year, when Republicans were mired in scandal, they will not fare any better in the Buckeye State next year.

“Those people have already proven they can win in those districts in the most unfavorable environment for Republican candidates in decades,” said Julie Shutley, an NRCC spokeswoman.

Nonetheless, Borntrager said Democrats are looking past seats that they tried to pick up last year.

Regula, who has been the subject of retirement rumors, could find himself in a real race if state Sen. John Boccieri (D) decides to challenge him.

Regula, who is 82, secured an 18th term in November in the Northeastern 16th district after spending $1 million. He captured 59 percent of the vote, but his Democratic opponent, Thomas Shaw, received 41 percent without spending enough money to require filing a report with the Federal Election Commission.

LaTourette is another GOP incumbent who Borntrager said has been skating by without any real opposition in his 12 years in Congress.

LaTourette spent $1.4 million in the 14th district, which sits in the far Northeastern corner of Ohio, to win a seventh term. He took 58 percent of the vote while Democrat Lewis Katz received 39 percent and only spent $227,000.

With the presidential candidates pouring money into Ohio and no other statewide races on the ballot in 2008, Borntrager said the state “is going to see a lot of attention on its Congressional races.”

Borntrager declined to name potential challengers for either Tiberi or LaTourette but said party officials have “been talking with folks down there” in LaTourette’s district.

Tiberi, “with the right candidate,” also could be vulnerable, he said.

Tiberi spent $3 million last year and received 58 percent of the vote. Ex-Rep. Bob Shamansky (D) spent $1.7 million and took 42 percent.

“The DCCC is now throwing darts at a Congressional map and calling them targets,” the NRCC’s Shutley said. “The reality is that the Republican Party has a much more favorable political landscape for pickups in ’08 and with the record that [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s (Calif.) Democrat Party is tallying up, they are going to have some real problems on their hands.

“They should focus on their own Members instead of our incumbents that have proven they can survive even the most debilitating of political climates,” she added.

Borntrager acknowledged that his party will have to work hard to defend Rep. Zack Space (D), who won the heavily Republican 18th district, formerly held by disgraced Rep. Bob Ney (R), with 62 percent of the vote. Many voters undoubtedly took their anger with Ney out on Space’s GOP opponent, Joy Padgett.

Correction: March 30, 2007
The March 27 article “DCCC Targeting Chabot in Ohio” gave the incorrect name for Rep. Steve LaTourette’s Democratic challenger in 2006. It was Lewis Katz.

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