The November 6 special congressional primary election and
follow-up general contest on December 11 to replace recently deceased Ohio
House of Representative member Paul Gilmoor will give a good indication on
where each major political party stands in the hearts and minds of the American
voter in anticipation of the 2008 general election.
Voters in the Buckeye State�s 5th Congressional District
will be choosing a replacement for the conservative leaning ten-term Gilmoor,
who died September 5 after an alleged fall inside his Washington residence.
The district is located in all or part of 16 counties in the
northwest part of the state, bordering Indiana and Michigan, in addition to the
southern tip of Lake Erie. It has long been a Republican stronghold for the
last seven decades, with just three different GOP congressmen serving the area
since 1938. Gilmoor was first elected there in 1988 and was re-elected nine
Nine candidates filed paperwork with Ohio�s Secretary of
State by the September 28 deadline to seek the open seat. The two best known
candidates of the six declared on the GOP side are State Representative Bob
Latta of Bowling Green and State Senator Steve Buehrer of Delta. Latta seems to
be the most likely nominee for the Republicans since he has the best name
recognition for voters there, being the son of the previous occupant of the
seat and losing to Gilmoor to replace his father back in their 1988 party
primary by just 27 votes.
The three aspirants seeking the Democratic nomination are
led by Robin Weirauch, that party�s 2004 and 2006 unsuccessful candidate for
the same seat in which she lost to Gilmoor in last November�s contest by 31,000
But the participants in the constitutional process in that
district will be doing more than merely selecting a new representative to serve
out the remainder of Gilmoor�s present term.
They will also be giving an important indication to pundits
on both sides of the political spectrum on which party will win control of the
White House in 2008 by winning the Buckeye State.
It�s no secret that Ohio�s 20 electoral votes to Republican
George W. Bush gave him the national win over Democrat John Kerry in 2004 and
the opportunity to become a second term chief executive, something that eluded
his father, George H.W. Bush. Yet many on the losing side cried foul by
claiming tens of thousands of voters were denied their right to participate in
the election that year.
Just how influential is Ohio to winning general elections?
The political clich� �As Ohio goes,� is an apt description
on figuring out who will the presidency because the state has gone with the
winner in 43 out of 51 elections its citizens have participated in since
getting statehood in 1803. They have also voted for the winner every time since
1896 with the sole exception of choosing Richard Nixon over winner John Kennedy
in the 1960 campaign.
And Ohio famously used to send their native sons to live in
the White House, having had eight presidents from that state and earning the
nickname �The Mother of Presidents.� But through a string of bad luck or
amazing coincidence, four of those eight died in office, two by an assassin�s
bullet and the other pair by natural causes while another three of those chief
executives only served just one term in office.
But the last president to come from the Buckeye State was
Warren Harding, who was elected in 1920. The last serious contender for
America�s top job from that region was John Glenn in 1984 for the Democrats
until Dennis Kucinich�s present long-shot bid for the same party to capture the
And not many people will remember the fact that Gerald Ford
came close to winning election to a four-year term as chief executive in 1976,
despite getting a million fewer popular votes across the nation than did his
challenger, Jimmy Carter.
How close did Ford come to winning a full term as president
that bicentennial year?
That appointed chief executive, who replaced the disgraced
Spiro Agnew in December 1973 as vice president and then took over the top spot
on August 9, 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned the presidency over the
Watergate scandal, lost to the Democratic challenger and former Georgia governor
by an electoral vote of 297-241 in the 50 states plus District of Columbia
But, if Ford had made up an 11,116 vote deficit in the
Buckeye State with its 25 electoral votes and another 7,372 votes in Hawaii
with four more electors at stake there, he would have won the presidency,
despite getting a million fewer public votes than his opponent that year.
Ohio was also the �decider� state for George W. Bush in 2004
to clinch his re-[s]election and, based on tradition and current voter moods,
should again be the swing state for whomever eventually wins the presidency
next year. That is why the vote tally in this special race will be very
important to both parties to indicate what could potentially happen to their
respective nominees in the 2008 contest.
If the Democrats can win the 5th District race or get
extremely close this time around for a seat they lost by 13 percentage points
in the last election and haven�t won there in 69 years, it would give them a
big boost into thinking they can win the state�s electoral votes in the
presidential match-up next year.
But the bad news for whichever candidate does win the seat
is that they won�t have much time to celebrate since Ohio�s primary for the
2008 general election will take place next March and one can presume that many
of that winner�s same opponents will be interested in seeking another try at
the seat and its two-year term in Congress.
the vacancy is filled, the GOP holds a 10-7 lead in House membership in the