Columbus, Ohio — There’s a lot for conservatives to keep track of today, but they might want to keep an eye on the House race in Ohio’s 15th district. Comprised of parts of Columbus and its western suburbs, Ohio’s 15th is the kind of bellwether district Republicans have to win if they want to be a majority party again.
Ohio’s 15th has not sent a Democrat to Congress since the mid-1960s. Moderate Republican Deborah Pryce, who is retiring this year, has represented the district since 1993. Last year, Pryce barely won re-election, beating Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by just over 1,000 votes.
Almost immediately, Kilroy announced that she would run again in 2008. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sensed a pick-up opportunity and started pouring resources into her campaign. Her opponent is state senator Steve Stivers, a lieutenant colonel in the Ohio Army National Guard who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It is a sign of how bad things are for Republicans that this race is even close. Stivers is a strong candidate whose positions are a good match for this center-right, urban/suburban district. He favors a pro-growth tax policy, free trade and spending restraint. He would evaluate Iraq based on the conditions on the ground. (“I want to make sure we bring our soldiers home the right way, so that we don’t have to send them right back,” he says.) He supports drilling so that we’re producing more of the oil we use, but he also drives a hybrid and wants the U.S. to invest in alternative energy. He’s a moderate on social issues; he supports restrictions on abortion but not a total ban.
Kilroy, a Franklin County (Columbus) commissioner, is a doctrinaire left-winger. She has adopted Barack Obama’s platform in this race, but in a former life she edited a left-leaning alterna-weekly (the Columbus Free Press) and was featured in a French documentary as one of the director’s “former leftist companions” in America. In a profile of the race, Time magazine referred to her as an “uncharismatic liberal.”
Despite the apparent mismatch, Kilroy leads in the polls heading into Election Day — the latest Survey USA poll has her up by six. It doesn’t help Stivers that pro-life Independent Don Elijah Eckhart is siphoning off conservative support — between 5 and 7 percent, according to the polls. Ohio Right to Life endorsed Eckhart over Stivers, even though Stivers routinely gets a score of zero from Ohio NARAL and Kilroy would vote for the Freedom of Choice Act.