Ohio Republicans aren’t backing down

COLUMBUS – After a tumultuous 59 days in which three members of Ohio’s Republican congressional delegation have retired and a fourth has died, the Democrats’ goal of taking back the majority of Ohio seats in Congress may look like a cake walk.

Not so fast.

Three of the vacated seats are in longtime GOP strongholds, and Republicans have not given up hope for retaining the fourth, Rep. Deborah Pryce’s central Ohio seat, using the prowess of their Ohio political operation.

In the pro-Democratic climate left over from 2006, they even entertain the idea of picking off freshman Democrat Zack Space, who represents the district once served by imprisoned ex-Rep. Bob Ney.

Ken Spain, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he doesn’t believe the retirements of Reps. Ralph Regula and David Hobson and the death of veteran Rep. Paul Gillmor have left the GOP vulnerable in those areas.

Regula’s district is anchored in Canton in northeast Ohio, Hobson’s is from Springfield in western Ohio and Regula served a northwest Ohio district.

“If you take a look at those districts, all of them have proven to be reliably Republican in the past,” Spain said. “Any Democrat attempting to compete in these reliably Republican districts in a presidential year will find themselves in an uphill battle.”

In the anti-incumbent atmosphere expected to color the 2008 elections, open seats where three representatives ranging in age from 68 to 82 once served may actually end up being a plus for the party.

Democrats believe, however, that defending the seats that Gillmor, Hobson and Regula handily won election after election will make a significant dent in the GOP’s campaign reserves.

Ryan Rudominer, midwest spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said many of the Democratic candidates being recruited also will benefit from the popularity of Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

He said the Ohio Democratic Party’s reputation as financially strapped and disorganized is a thing of the past.

“Democrats have learned how to win in the Midwest,” he said. “Obviously, Ted Strickland is doing a terrific job now and a lot of these candidates we’re seeing [recruited to run in 2008] fit that Ted Strickland mold in terms of their positions on issues.”