ODB Line: Ten Most Likely Ohio House Pickups

We all know the math. The Ohio Democratic Party needs a net gain of four seats to take control of the Ohio House of Representatives. To be safe, the party probably needs to pick up six or more seats now held by Republicans. Where are those pickups going to occur?

Here is my current ranking of the ten best opportunities:

92nd District - City council member Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) battled incumbent Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) to a recount last year and wound up losing by only 865 votes. Stewart is running for Ohio Senate and Phillips faces county auditor Jill Thompson (R) for the open seat. The district leans Democratic (D+2.9.) Phillips is an intelligent, articulate, and dedicated campaigner and last year's experience will help her this time around.

42nd District - City council member Mike Moran (D-Hudson) is a terrific candidate and he is ideally situated to take out John Widowfield (R-Cuyahoga Falls), who lost his bid for Cuyahoga Falls Clerk of Courts in 2005.

22nd District - Health law attorney John Carney (D-Columbus) is a smart, tough, appealing candidate who outperformed the partisan voter index in this Republican-leaning district by more than 5 points in winning 46.91% of the vote in 2006 against entrenched incumbent Jim Hughes (R-Clintonville), now running for the Ohio Senate. Carney will probably face city councilman Michael Keenan (R-Dublin).

85th District - Ray Pryor (D-Chillicothe) won 48.59% of the vote against John Schlichter (R-Washington Court House) and returns to build on his strong showing.

94th District - State Board of Education member Jennifer Stewart (D-Zanesville) did well in the 18th Congressional District primary last year (won 25.59% to finish behind Zack Space at 38.69% but ahead of Chillicothe mayor Joe Sulzer at 24.04%), and will probably face either an ideological extremist, Dr. Patrick Johnson (R-Zanesville), or a small businessman, Troy Balderson (R-Muskingum County), each running his first campaign.

46th District - There are a half dozen possible candidates for this open seat, but the partisan index is fairly close (R+2.8) and some of the possible candidates look very promising, such as former county commissioners Harry Barlos (D) and Sandy Isenberg (D). Political newcomer Mark Dansack (D-Monclova Township) won just 39.51% against well-funded incumbent Mark Wagoner (Ottawa Hills) last year, but Wagoner is running for the Ohio Senate so the opposition figures to be much less formidable, probably City Council President Barbara Sears (R-Sylvania) or Township Trustee DeeDee Liedel (R-Sylvania).

63rd District - Rep. Tim Cassell (D) only lost this Lake County seat last year because of a horrible hit-and-run DUI arrest, and Cassell still won 48.07% of the vote against accountant Carol-Ann Schindel (R-Painesville). Either promising young former legislative aide Doug Nagy (D-Mentor) or assistant prosecutor Mark Schneider (D-Mentor) will make a strong run at this seat.

19th District - Long-time activist Marian Harris (D-Columbus) won 45.06% of the vote against popular incumbent Larry Flowers (R-Canal Winchester) last year. It is a strongly Republican-leaning district (PVI R+11.5) but Harris will build on her experience and name recognition in this open seat race against county coroner Bradley Lewis (R).

38th District - Newcomer Carolyn Rice (D-Kettering) worked exceptionally hard and won 44.36% against established veteran John White (R-Kettering) in this heavily Republican (PVI R+11.2) district last year. Rice has been appointed county treasurer and White is term-limited. City council member Susan Lienesch (D-Centerville) recently lost a township trustee race by less than 100 votes to Terry Blair (R-Washington Township), the likely GOP candidate. Lienesch is described as a great campaigner and hard worker, so I expect a very competitive race.

28th District - Connie Pillich (D) ran an energetic campaign against incumbent Jim Raussen (R-Springdale) and nearly won, getting 48.04% of the vote in a district that leans Republican (PVI R+7.8). She returns to challenge Raussen again, with the benefit of campaign experience and better name recognition.

This list is likely to change as new candidates emerge in the next few weeks.

Good List....

Except I would swap out the 19th and replace it with the 20th. Franklin County Dems like to talk about the 19th, and Harris is a solid candidate, but she has not yet shown more than a mediocre ability to raise money, and the index here is just awful for Dems. Jim McGregor won the 20th by less than 400 votes last time, and while I'm surprised the Dems didn't find a higher-quality candidate, Bev Campbell is back for another run. She's got some good qualities, but is very flawed (GOP hammered her for two law license suspensions). McGregor has trouble getting votes outside of Gahanna, where he was a former mayor.

20th

I would say Bev has a better chance of taking the 20th in '08 than '06. (I don't think she has declared yet, or at all??) She needs to better understand the mechanics of her campaign, i.e. fundraising, stumping, field, however she is very persistent at conveying her message. Look for her to take this district by a slim margin as last time she lost by 387 votes, less than 1% after a recount. McGregor's numbers continue to diminish after every election.

Good point

I left off the 20th because I wasn't sure if Bev Campbell would run again. If she's in and gets a good campaign manager then I think this becomes a top tier race.

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