Sharen Neuhardt Running for Congress Again
Sharen Neuhardt:The sunflowers are from her campaign website. I did not add them!
In 2008, Dayton-area attorney Sharen Neuhardt ran against Steve “Who?” Austria for the congressional seat in what’s now Ohio’s 7th district and lost. Now Austria himself is on his way out of Congress after two terms. Redistricting pitted him again fellow Republican incumbent Mike “Who?” Turner, and Austria agreed to step aside (It will be interesting to see what cushy gig he gets as a reward). But Neuhardt has decided to try to take on Turner, who has inexplicably skated to victory since 2002, despite doing virtually nothing of note.
Turner’s current district is the 3rd, which is now the number assigned to the new Democratic-leaning district in Columbus. The new Dayton district, which includes Montgomery County, Greene County (where Neuhardt lives), and northern Fayette County, is the 10th, now the number of the northeast Ohio district currently served by Dennis! Kucinich.
“The way the new district is drawn is the reason I’m in this race,” says Neuhardt. “When the original maps were proposed, they changed the landscape down here in ways that were even more favorable [to Republicans] than they were in the last decade. I watched the process closely. I think I ran a great race in 2008, but winning in a race gerrymandered for Republicans is hard. Then in the middle of December when the final map was approved, I looked at where my congressional district was, and I thought, “Wow, look at this change!” The new Ohio 10 puts Montgomery County with Greene County and northern Fayette. I was born and raised and come into Montgomery County every day, which was the strongest fundraising area for me last time. My husband & I have owned a farm in Greene County for last 17 years. So this is the perfect district for me.”
She points out that Montgomery County is currently split between Turner and John Boehner; it’s united under the new map, comprising 75% of the district’s voters. And while Neuhardt points out that all three commissioners and all other county officials except the sheriff are Democrats, Turner has completely buried all of his opponents five times in a row.
But Neuhardt insists that with the new lines, the district could be competitive.
“I don’t think he’s considered to be undefeatable,” she says. “I know he has high name I.D. because he was mayor of Dayton before he was elected to Congress, and he has been in Congress for the last ten years. But the district has been so gerrymandered to elect Republicans. Remember, he lost his last bid for mayor of Dayton. It was after that they drew the congressional district so he could run. And he has not run in Greene or Fayette County; they are not in the district now.”
As for her campaign focus, she says it’s all about jobs. “This is a district that has bled jobs. It’s time for a change, for somebody who will work with the President, work with Sherrod Brown. He [Brown] has a heavy lift in this community because there are no Democrats [in Congress] in this part of the state. I hear time and time again from people I think of as Republicans, ‘Sherrod Brown is there for us, he’s helpful, his people are great.’”
She continues, “We deserve more from our representative than we have been getting. A businessman told me, ‘I’ve always given money to Mike Turner. He called me this fall and I told him you and the other Republicans should be ashamed for what you have done to the country in the last year. You have hurt the country so badly with the fight over the debt ceiling, the fight over the payroll tax. You hurt business. So don’t come to me and ask for money.’”
On her website, she says simply,
This election will be about saving jobs, protecting jobs, and bringing more jobs to the Miami Valley.
It’s a radically different focus from some of the other five people also vying in the March 6 primary to be the Democratic candidate in this district. They include three political novices, Olivia Freeman, Ryan Steele, and Mack Van Allen; Republican Tom McMasters, who ran in the 2010 primary against John Boehner in the 8th district as a “centrist” and got about 10 ½ % of the vote; and outspoken Dayton blogger David Esrati, who has run in other races.
At least two of those candidates are laboring under the twin delusions that what’s missing in Congress is blissful bipartisanship and that the deficit — an obsession ginned up by right — is the country’s top problem and needs to be reduced despite the likely loss of jobs that would result and the damage it would do to the economy for regular working people.
I don’t know why Democrats do this. It should be obvious that when one side says it needs things 100% its way, there isn’t any middle ground to be found. And it should be equally obvious that a voter who actually ranks the deficit and debt reduction as his top issues, as few do, is probably going to vote Republican in anyway.
Naturally, this is McMasters’ obsession.
He calls himself a “fiscal conservative” who wants to “lower the debt at all cost” — a cost that would include a stalled economy and widespread job loss and, like Neuhardt’s businessman said, hurt business. McMasters also wants to “change the political atmosphere” and “bridge the partisan divide.” Good luck with that.
Van Allen, a Clevelander and a retired teacher, also seems to be laboring under the idea that there is a stalemate in Congress caused by “both sides” being unreasonable. And he seems to be another one who thinks Democrats should unilaterally move to the right. His Facebook page says his priorities are “deficit reduction, tax reform and entitlement reform,” priorities he probably doesn’t share with most of the voters in the district.
Olivia Freeman’s campaign page isn’t functional and Ryan Steele doesn’t appear to have one, so I can’t tell you much about what they are campaigning on. Freeman is an African-American businesswoman who has worked in sales. Steele is a 28-year-old pizza deliveryman, which would seem to give him enough time to at least create a campaign Facebook page. But hey, it’s a great country — anyone can run.
As for Esrati, you can find out what he thinks straight from the horse’s mouth at http://esrati.com/. His blog is a fountain of complaints and beefs about everything, including his opponents. When I talked to Neuhardt, she mentioned that one of her opponents “lives to make Mike Turner’s life a living hell.” I’ve got to think it’s the mouthy Esrati. But he can tell you what he thinks better and at greater length than I can. Check out his blog.
One edge Neuhardt has is that she is the outstanding fundraiser of the group. She’s also landed the endorsement of the state AFL-CIO and this week, she got the endorsement of the Montgomery Party Democratic Party. She’s working to get Emily’s List behind her again.
A side note: Neuhardt was involved as a sort of innocent bystander in the trainwreck that was the Democrats 2010 race for secretary of state. After the party tapped the anti-choice, anti-gay Jennifer Garrison for the slot, who evoked widespread resistance from activists, they were told to go out and recruit their own candidate. They recruited Neuhardt, who was given the cold shoulder by the party once it realized that Garrison was a liability and pushed her overboard, apparently wanting to keep the prerogative of picking the candidate all to themselves. Neuhardt stepped up for the Democratic women in Ohio when they needed her, and hopefully, this won’t be forgotten.