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Ohio: In a Coup for Boehner, Stivers to Run for House

State Sen. Steve Stivers (R) has decided to seek his party’s nomination in the 15th Congressional district after initially turning down overtures from national Republicans to run.

The seat previously has been viewed as a recruitment failure for national Republicans, who have been searching for a candidate since Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) made her surprise retirement announcement in August. Many Republicans — including Stivers — turned down opportunities to run, but the state Senator changed his mind Monday and said he would run for the swing district’s seat.

Pryce won her west Columbus district by 1,000 votes in 2006, beating Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D), who is running again this cycle.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, which broke the news Monday, Stivers was the first potential candidate whom House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to recruit after Pryce’s announcement.

“Oddly enough, it’s almost like Mary Jo Kilroy is the incumbent this time,” Stivers told the Dispatch. “It will be a very different race than in 2006. The voters know her and they need to get to know me.”

Stivers is an Iraq War veteran and also worked as a lobbyist for a bank before entering state politics. He initially wanted to be Ohio Senate president, which was one of the reasons he reportedly declined to run the first time Republicans asked him. But Boehner in particular leaned hard on Stivers to change his mind.

“The record low approval rating of the Democrat-led Congress continues to be a motivating factor for Republican candidates,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain. “Mary Jo Kilroy’s negatives are comparable to Hillary Clinton’s and with Steve Stivers in the race, the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s] grandiose plans for picking up the seat just got a whole lot tougher.”

Stivers first was appointed to his state Senate seat in 2003 and won a full term the following year. Randy Borntrager, a spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party who plans to take the reins at Kilroy’s campaign next month, said Ohio voters don’t want another Republican lobbyist or legislator in Congress.

“He certainly doesn’t have his heart in [the Congressional race],” Borntrager said. “He had to be persuaded by state and national Republicans to get in. But more importantly, Mary Jo Kilroy represents change in central Ohio.”

— Shira Toeplitz

Special House Primary to Replace Gillmor Is Today

Republican voters today will choose their nominee for the Dec. 11 special election to replace the late Rep. Paul Gillmor (R).

State Rep. Bob Latta (R) and state Sen. Steve Buehrer (R) are the top contenders running to represent the likely Republican district, which went 61 percent for President Bush in 2004. Because of the district’s strong Republican tilt, the GOP primary contest today is expected to produce the next Congressman.

In a race that has been marred by negative campaigning, Latta — the son of former Rep. Del Latta (R), who held the seat before Gillmor — is banking on his father’s name identification to win the seat. Buehrer has been endorsed by the Club for Growth, which has cut multiple ads on his behalf.

The Republican nominee is expected to face 2004 and 2006 Democratic nominee Robin Weirauch.

— S.T.