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Elections & Voting Last Updated: Oct 9th, 2007 - 01:16:46

As Ohio goes . . . again!
ByTerry Heath
Online Journal Guest Writer

Oct 9, 2007, 01:15

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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 additional times.

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 votes.

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 2008 nomination.

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 matchup.

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.

Until the vacancy is filled, the GOP holds a 10-7 lead in House membership in the state.

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