Ohio primary battles loom for Senate, Boehner’s seat

CINCINNATI (AP) — Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has made it clear from the start that his focus in his U.S. Senate run is on the Republican incumbent, but he still has a Democratic primary in his path to their anticipated showdown.

Most of the time, Strickland has treated a spirited primary challenge by Cincinnati councilman P.G. Sittenfeld as a pesky annoyance. He has declined repeated calls for debates, although Strickland, Sittenfeld and candidate Kelli Prather, a Cincinnati occupational therapist, were together three weeks before the March 15 primary at an editorial board meeting for The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com.

Strickland, 74, insisted then that he hadn’t been “a ghost candidate … hiding from the people,” and that he didn’t think he needed to give Sittenfeld, 31, a platform. While the Democratic Party leadership rallied early around Strickland, would-be ghost-buster Sittenfeld has picked up the endorsement of former Gov. Dick Celeste and some other veteran Democrats.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden this month announced their backing of Strickland and in another example of looking ahead to the fall, the Strickland campaign has scheduled a post-primary March 22 fundraiser in Cincinnati with Biden.

Recent polls indicated Sittenfeld wasn’t making enough headway to put a big scare into Strickland.

Republican Rob Portman also has a primary, against a former legislative service commission employee, Don Elijah Eckhart of the Columbus area. But his campaign has also been anticipating a race with Strickland as he seeks a second term. It went immediately on the attack against Portman’s fellow former congressman as “Retread Ted,” tossed out by Ohio voters in favor of John Kasich in 2010 as the nation was emerging from recession.

Matched up in a mid-February Quinnipiac University poll, Portman and Strickland were in a virtual tie, portending a tough, high-spending general election race that could help decide if Republicans keep their majority in the Senate.

In the U.S. House races, incumbents appear to be comfortable in districts that are mostly drawn to suit their party affiliation.

House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to retire last year touched off a GOP free-for-all in the western Ohio district he held since first winning in 1990. Fifteen Republicans are running in dual races in the nomination for a June 7 special election to finish Boehner’s term and for the general election to the Congress that takes office next January.

Two state legislators, Sen. Bill Beagle of Tipp City and Rep. Tim Derickson of Hanover Township, started with bigger names and bases than the rest. Beagle got the endorsement of Richard Jones, the popular sheriff of the 8th District’s largest county of Butler, while Derickson was backed by Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds, who was considered a strong contender for Boehner’s seat himself, but surprisingly withdrew from the contest.

A late-emerging contender has been Warren Davidson, a Miami County businessman and Army veteran backed by Boehner critics including the Club for Growth and the FreedomWorks PAC, which said in its announcement “that the icing on the cake of John Boehner’s resignation will be to replace him with a true freedom fighter like Warren Davidson.”

All but a handful of the challengers in Ohio’s other House districts are political novices.

Former state Rep. Matt Lynch is trying to unseat northeastern Ohio Congressman Rep. Dave Joyce in the GOP primary.

Another former state lawmaker is trying to return to politics after being removed from the Ohio House of Representatives last year following a felony theft conviction

Republican Steve Kraus, who is appealing his conviction, is seeking the GOP nomination in the heavily Democratic district that stretches from Toledo to Cleveland and is now occupied by longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur.


John Seewer in Toledo contributed.


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Associated Press