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Thursday, April 27

Ohio House 5th: Farmer (R) and Stebelton (R) in Close Race; Kirk (D) Awaits

The 5th District of the Ohio House of Representatives is composed solely of Fairfield County, just southeast of Columbus. It has been represented since 2001 by Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), now running for the Ohio Senate 31st District seat of term-limited Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark).

The three Republicans vying to replace Schaffer are high school teacher and party official Kyle Farmer (R-Baltimore), attorney and former school board and city council member Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster), and former school board member Doug Leith (R-Pleasantville). According to this story from the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, the Republican primary has come down to a close race between Farmer and Stebelton:
"I think we have a real horse race between Stebelton and Farmer," said Fairfield County Executive Committee Chairman Steve Davis. "I think Kyle Farmer will be stronger in the northern end of the county, while Jerry Stebelton will do better in the southern end of the county," Davis said. "I think Doug will also pick up some votes around the county. But Doug hasn't been active in the party that I can remember. I think the voters are going to have a great choice and it will come down to election day."
The winner of the Republican primary will face an interesting sort of Democratic candidate in Robert Kelly Kirk (D-Stoutsville). The owner of Sleep Care of America LLC, he is a member of the New Beginnings Assembly of God (an evangelical Christian church in Columbus), the National Rifle Association, and Democrats For Life. As quoted in this article reprinted from Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, Kirk said when announcing his candidacy:
"I'm an evangelical Christian Democrat. Some people hear that and say I'm in the wrong party, but I don't think so. I agree with many of the social positions of the Republicans, but my Christian values teach me I should look after the little guy, the poor people, and the Democrats do that better than the Republicans. I think that the Democratic Party is big enough for evangelical Christians, and I think their policies toward the less fortunate are more in line with Christian teaching."
Kirk is running in a county that is home to conservative megachurches and where Republicans greatly outnumber Democrats, but he thinks that "a real change" is coming, as evidenced by Democrats having a majority in the Lancaster City Council for the first time im years. "I think I have a real chance of getting elected with a strong grassroots organization," Kirk said. "I think the people are tired of the same old people in power." Also, Kirk thinks that "the time has come for us to look at how lobby money influences decisions," because "all you have to do is look around and see all the scandals going on around and know something needs to be done."

Lancaster City Councilman Dyke Andrews, a Democrat, is thrilled about Kirk's campaign:
"In the last 16 years, we in the party have had trouble getting people to run for office in Fairfield County," Andrews said. "I'm just tickled pink about a young man like Kirk who is willing to run. I think we have been able to show that with a strong grassroots campaign, Democrats can win elections, and now we are seeing good candidates like Kirk willing to run."
Kirk is just the kind of candidate the Democratic Party needs to field in order to make inroads in conservative areas like the 5th District, where Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) was unopposed in 2002 and 2004.

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