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Many Ohio Democrats Assess Comeback Bids

New Map Is Appealing to Defeated Former Members

Ohio Democrats might not have to look hard to recruit House candidates in 2012.

At least four of the five Democrats who lost their seats last cycle are considering comeback bids under the state’s new Congressional map. 

Republicans crafted a new map that puts at least two current Democratic Members in peril next year. But the map might have some unintended consequences.

One former Member already announced she’s running next year, and at least three others expressed interest in making a comeback.

Former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) is the first candidate to announce she’s gunning for the new 3rd district in downtown Columbus. She obtained the endorsements of the co-chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) — this week.

But Kilroy will have lots of company.

State Sen. Charleta Tavares (D) said in a phone interview that she’s “very interested” in the 3rd district and she’ll make a final decision “probably within the month.”

Former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s media consultant, David Heller, confirmed Brunner is also “looking at it very seriously, and if she decides to make the run, she won’t be waiting too long to make that decision.”

Former state Treasurer Kevin Boyce and Columbus City Councilman Zach Klein are also considering bids for the safely Democratic seat.

But insiders can cross at least one prominent Democrat off the list of interested candidates in the 3rd district. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s spokesman, Dan Williamson, confirmed “the mayor is not running for Congress.”

Meanwhile, at least three former Members from eastern and northern Ohio say they’re considering comeback bids.

“One of the unintended consequences that Republicans gave Democrats is to build our bench and put Congressional candidates on the ground who have experience running campaigns,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said.  

Ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) said in a phone interview that he’s “pretty serious” about running for his former 6th district seat. He visited Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the race with campaign consultants and said he’s “right on the verge” of hiring his team.

Wilson emphasized that the changes to the 6th district were not too drastic.

“I think the changes are moderate because it’s still the same 12 counties, there’s just some adjustment and tweaking that’s been done,” he said. “I don’t think it will be any major index change.”

edfern confirmed that former one-term Rep. John Boccieri (D) is “very interested in running for Congress” — perhaps in the 6th, 7th or 16th district. Boccieri’s home of Stark County includes territory close to or inside all three districts. 

Former Rep. Zack Space (D) is also looking at the 6th, 7th or 16th districts, Redfern said.

But one former Democratic Member will likely not be coming back in 2012. After former Rep. Steve Driehaus lost the Cincinnati-based 1st district seat to now-Rep. Steve Chabot (R) last year, he moved his family to Africa to work with the Peace Corps on a multiyear assignment.

An email request seeking comment from Driehaus was not returned Monday. 

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