Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Saturday, March 11

Ohio Sen. 1st, 13th, & 31st: Republican Open Seats

The Ohio Senate has 33 seats, and the Republican Party holds 22 of them. Based on that proportion, you'd expect about 11 or 12 of the 17 odd-numbered seats that are up for election this year to be held by Republicans, right? Not so. In this year of opportunity for the Democrats, they find the deck stacked against them in their quest to gain seats in the Senate. Only nine of this year's Senate races are being defended by the Republicans, eight by the Democrats. By way of contrast, if the even-numbered seats were in contention, the Republicans would be defending 13 seats and the Democrats only three.

Of the nine Republican-held seats that are up for election, six are being defended by incumbents and three are open due to term limits: the 1st, 13th, and 31st Districts. (On the Democratic side of the equation there are also three open seats, likewise due to term limits: the 21st, 25th, and 33rd Districts.) In this post I will profile the three races for Republican-held open seats.

1st District. This is a largely rural and heavily Republican district in Northwest Ohio, located in Fulton, Williams, Defiance, Henry, Paulding, Putnam, and Van Wert Counties. Term-limited incumbent State Sen. Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) defeated opponent William Flanary (D) in 2002 by 67.94% to 32.06% of the vote. Contending for the Republican nomination are two term-limited State Representatives, Jim Hoops (R-Napoleon) of the 75th District and Steve Buehrer (R-Delta) of the 74th District. (Sen. Wachtmann is running for Hoops' current seat in the House.) Each is a veteran legislator with established name recognition in the area.

The Democratic candidate for Senate in the 1st District is Ben Nienberg, owner of Nienberg Investments & Insurance LLC in the Putnam County community of Glandorf. As a political newcomer, Nienberg ran for the 75th District House seat in 2004 and lost to Hoops by 30.81% to 69.19% of the vote. As highlighted in this recent story in the Putnam Times, Nienberg's views are strikingly conservative. Nienberg is pro-life, supports the National Rife Association, and strongly advocates local control over public affairs. He assails his Republican opponents for failing to reduce Ohio taxes and for voting to take control over public affairs away from counties and townships. He also harshly attacks their connection to the Bureau of Workers' Compensation/Tom Noe scandal:

"There is another $400 to $500 Million dollars still lost from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, in addition to the $10 to $12 Million dollars alleged to have disappeared to an indicted fund manager. I want the voters to know who got all of that money, and I want to help get it back for them. My two opponents’ campaign funds have received large donations from this indicted state fund manager. The tax paying businesses that paid into the State fund, and the disabled workers who will need this money, deserve to have their money back. I am committed to see that this will be done.

"Steve Buehrer and Jim Hoops, my opponents, may have experience in the legislature; but neither of them have a record of accomplishment. They have supported Bob Taft's failed agenda of mismanagement and corruption, and now they want to be promoted to the Senate. If elected, I will represent the best interests of the hard working people in this district."

I expect that Nienberg will fare better in this race than he did against Hoops in the 75th District House race two years ago because he will have more name recognition and more campaign experience this time around. His conservative views are well-suited to the 1st District, and his attacks on Republican corruption and mismanagement of government should register with voters. However, given the heavily Republican tilt of the district and the established political connections of his Republican opponents, it seems like Nienberg has a big hill to climb to prevail in the fall.

13th District. This district, located in Huron, Lorain and Seneca Counties, represents the Democrats' best chance for gaining a seat. Term-limited incumbent Jeffry Armbruster (R-North Ridgeville) defeated political newcomerer Sue Morano (D-Lorain) in 2002 by only 50.20% to 49.80% of the vote (a difference of only 372 votes). Morano is running again in 2004. She faces City Council Member Diana Huska (D-Sheffield Lake) in the Democratic primary. Unopposed on the Republican side is the longest-serving current member of the Ohio Board of Education, Martha Wise (R-Avon), who is President of the Republican Club of Avon and Avon Lake.

Martha Wise recently made headlines by leading the Ohio Board of Education in removing creationism/intelligent design from Ohio's Science Standards and Model Curriculum. She explains her position in an editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer here. In that piece she argues that her action was in harmony with her personal belief in divine creation and her conservative values. Her argument may not resonate in some of Ohio's highly conservative districts, but probably plays well in the moderate 13th District.

I have found little information online about Diana Huska, but Sue Morano's story is detailed in this article in the Lorain Morning Journal. Morano, pictured, is a registered nurse specializing in intensive care. Her desire to make a bigger contribution to her community and to improve health care, education, and the quality of jobs in Ohio led her to become a State Senate candidate:

"Like most nurses in America, Sue is concerned about changes taking place in the health care system and their impact on the quality of care patients receive. In 1999, Sue helped her co-workers form a nurses' union as a way to participate in the decisions that affect their patients and their profession. She now serves on the Executive Board of District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union and the leadership council of the SEIU Nurse Alliance, the largest national union of nurses."
Assuming that Morano is the Democratic candidate, her name recognition and experience from her strong showing against Armbruster four years ago will help her in the general election. Wise will be a strong opponent but I expect Morano to fare well against her.

31st District. This is a Republican-leaning district located in mostly rural Licking, Fairfield, Perry, Pickaway and Hocking Counties. Incumbent Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) is term-limited and is running for the Ohio House of Representatives in the 71st District, in Licking County. He was unopposed in his last Senate race in 2002.

In the Republican primary are veteran State Representatives Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) of the 5th District (Fairfield County), Ron Hood (R-Ashville) of the 91st District (Pickaway, Hocking, Perry and Licking Counties), and Village Council Member Jeff Furr (R-Johnstown). Furr, pictured, ran against incumbent State Rep. David Evans (R-Newark) in the Republican primary in 71st District (Licking County) in 2004 and lost by 29.29% to 70.71% of the vote.

On the Democratic side are City Council Member Bob Bensonhaver (D-Circleville) and an emeritus associate professor of economics at Ohio University-Lancaster, Dennis Lupher (D-Pickerington). I have not found any indication that Bensonhaver has previously run for the General Assembly, but Lupher ran for the Ohio House of Representatives against Schaffer in the 5th District in 2000 and lost by the fairly respectable margin of 40.2% to 59.8% of the vote. The Republican lean of the district and the disparity of name recognition and political credentials in favor of the Republicans make this seem like a very difficult race for either Democrat to win.


At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Publius said...

The 1st is safely Republican.

The 13th will cost some money to win, but it will be extremely difficult for the GOP to maintain.

The 31st is safely Republican.

Probably the best opportunities for Democrats will be in the 13th and 3rd Senate Districts.

The 3rd District in Eastern Franklin County, should be a slam dunk for the GOP index-wise, but incumbent Sen. David Goodman is pro-choice and a notoriously poor campaigner. His opponent is pro-life and could have a shot in the 3rd if she has the necessary financial backing from the Senate D caucus.

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2:02 PM, Blogger MCDAC Blog said...

Interesting site. Keep up the good work.

At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Earl from Ohio said...

I got to meet Sue Morano the last time that she ran- I think she will do an very good job with her campaign.

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous offer said...

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At 10:05 PM, Anonymous bill in camp hill said...

Over the weekend, I received a robo call from Jeff Furr asking for my support for his candidacy for State Senate. I live in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. I mentioned this to a friend and he said he had also received a Furr call. Perhaps the contractor for the robo calls used our 717 area code. Neither of us voted for him.

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