It’s a pretty safe bet that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has former Ohio state Sen. Steve Stivers (R) on speed dial. His calls to the man who came within 2,312 votes of winning the Central Ohio seat now held by freshman Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) are a frequent occurrence.
“I recognize his number when it comes across, let’s just say that,— Stivers said. “He’s made his intentions and interest in my doing this again very clear.—
Stivers is contemplating running again, and if he does so, he’ll join former Rep. Steve Chabot as the second Ohio Republican to have a rematch of a 2008 race next year. Without President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, national Republicans believe Stivers and Chabot are their best shot to defeat freshman Democrats as the party seeks to regain some of the territory it has lost recently in the Buckeye State.
Chabot will try to win his seat back from Rep. Steve Driehaus (D), who was boosted by increased black turnout in Cincinnati last year. The former seven-term Republican staved off tough challenges in the past in his urban/suburban district, but he said Obama brought out Democrats in droves last year.
“I think one of the significant differences will be the turnout,— Chabot said. “It will be an off-year election. I think there was so much enthusiasm on the left because of the Obama campaign. If you were in a district like mine, it was like a tsunami.—
Chabot also said he saw a 10 percent drop among Republican suburban voters in his district between 2004 and 2008 — a result of Republicans’ “lackluster— presidential campaign and “minimal— voter turnout operation in the state.
Stivers is also banking on a different turnout model next year in the 15th district, where Kilroy won by 2,312 votes in 2008. He said he will decide by the end of the second fundraising quarter this year if he’s going to run again.
“I’m in that process now,— Stivers said. “Because the race was so close in a pretty tough year for my party, it’s obviously pretty tempting to think about it.—
Stivers said he’s looking to the 2006 midterm election as his hypothetical turnout model for this cycle. That year, Kilroy lost to then-Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) by only 1,055 votes as a major Democratic wave was sweeping the country. Without Obama boosting turnout among urban and Ohio State University voters, the former state Senator is confident he can win the seat if he decides to run.
“The urban turnout would be much lower, the university would be much, much lower and the suburbs would stay about the same,— Stivers said.
Those close to Kilroy also point to her 2006 loss to Pryce as their own turnout model for 2010. This time around, they said, Kilroy will be boosted by incumbency, and Stivers will have to run a challenger campaign. Kilroy’s supporters also note that now that Stivers is out of office, he will have to raise money without his prime spot on the state Senate banking panel. Kilroy raised $278,000 in the first quarter of this year. Stivers, meanwhile, had zeroed out his campaign account balance as of March 31.
“We’ve been working hard. She’s done everything right so far. She’s been back in the district every weekend talking to voters,— said Randy Borntrager, Kilroy’s chief of staff. “As we push to 2010, people in Central Ohio will realize that she is exactly the kind of Representative they want in Congress.—
Mike Fraioli, a Democratic consultant who works with several Ohio Members, said that Kilroy and Driehaus should be prepared for tough re-election campaigns in 2010.
“Both of them are going to be difficult campaigns for the incumbents in Ohio,— Fraioli said. “They’re well-positioned. Having said that … there are not going to be any surprises. These folks know from Day One that they’re going to have challenging, competitive races.—
Plus, Fraioli has his doubts that national Democrats would let their Ohio operation slide in 2010 — especially with Obama’s re-election just around the corner in 2012.
“I expect the Obama campaign is going to play a role in terms of turnout,— he said. “The president needs a strong Democratic turnout in Congress.—
But instead of Obama at the top of the ticket, the gubernatorial race will be leading the ballot in Ohio next year. Republicans argue that former Rep. John Kasich’s (R) gubernatorial campaign could boost other candidates running in Central Ohio, a region he represented in Congress. They also argue that former Rep. Rob Portman’s (R) Senate bid could aid any other Republicans running in the vicinity of his former southwestern Ohio Congressional district.
And Boehner is doing his part for Chabot as well. Not only did he promise the House GOP leadership’s full backing if Chabot ran for his old seat, he also hosted a fundraiser for the former Congressman’s campaign in Washington, D.C., on April 27.
“He’s a friend, and he would certainly like to have this district, which is right next to his, right back in Republican hands,— Chabot said.
Chabot outraised Driehaus in the first quarter of the year, taking in $232,000 from January until March. Driehaus raised $198,000 in that same time period.