Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ohio Will Never Be A Congressional Battleground Until The House Dems Dump DCCC Chair Steve Israel


Incapable of learning from past mistakes; doomed to endlessly repeat them

Jessica Wehrman's analysis of Ohio's congressional election for the Columbus Dispatch this morning, could have been in almost any newspaper anywhere in America. Beltway conventional wisdom has it that none of the 16 seats are in jeopardy-- and the DCCC isn't competent enough to understand a two-cycle strategy for winning a district-- but the incumbents "have raised a combined $32 million for their re-election bids-- 15 times what their upstart challengers have this election season. You’ve heard the tale of David and Goliath? Try Goliath versus an ant."

The nature of Ohio's gerrymandering sees large numbers of Democrats packed into a few super-safe, unassailable districts while 2 GOP-held districts, OH-10 and OH-14, are the only real swing districts in the state. (The DCCC is essentially ignoring both seats.)
Despite safe seats and novice challengers, lawmakers are padding their campaign accounts with the financial equivalent of a security blanket, raising millions to scare off any future challengers or outside-money groups that might be tempted to weigh in.

“Sixteen seats open, and none of them with a real race,” said Sarah Bryner of the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based campaign-finance research group.

Watchdogs say that despite an era when the public’s approval of Congress is polling at historic lows, tossing incumbents out of office is a nearly impossible task. In Ohio, for example, lawmakers represent districts that have been overwhelmingly drawn safer for them over the past few decades. Add to that mammoth fundraising advantages, and few challengers even bother to run.

“I’m sure this deters good candidates,” said Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio, a liberal-leaning government watchdog group. “Let’s put it this way-- it certainly deters sensible people.”

Of the current congressional challengers, only four had more than $100,000 in the bank as of June 30-- Democrats Fred Kundrata, Jennifer Garrison, Michael Wager and Marek Tyszkiewicz. They are opposing, respectively, Republican Reps. Steve Chabot of Cincinnati, Bill Johnson of Marietta, Dave Joyce of northeastern Ohio and Brad Wenstrup of Cincinnati.

…That incumbents have so much more than their challengers appears to give them a healthy advantage going into November. With few exceptions (such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his primary to an underfunded political novice this year), money matters because it allows candidates to buy TV ads and spread their message to voters.

“Statistics certainly show that most races are won by the candidate who has more money than the person they’re running against,” said Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, a campaign-fundraising watchdog.

But Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, said it is possible. He beat Democratic incumbent Mary Jo Kilroy in 2010, out-raising her slightly.

“It can be done,” he said. “There are challengers out-raising incumbents all over the country. It just doesn’t happen to be happening in Ohio. … It’s not like incumbency is insurmountable.”

Stivers plans to use his campaign money on TV ads and mail to “tell voters who I am.”

“I feel like part of the contract I make with voters is I’ll communicate with them,” he said.

Without an apparent contest, many Ohio members end up donating to their party. Tiberi gave the NRCC $582,000 this cycle. And Stivers donated $215,000 to the NRCC, but also gave $10,000 to the Boehner for Speaker Fund. Stivers said Boehner challenged Ohio Republicans this year to donate to more vulnerable House Republicans.
The most obvious district for a Democratic takeover is Dayton's 10th CD (R+3), currently represented by Mike Turner, a former Dayton mayor first elected to the House in 2002. Obama narrowly beat McCain there in 2008 and Romney narrowly beat Obama in 2012. Steve Israel has aggressively ignored the district, didn't recruit a candidate at all and isn't backing the local Democrats' primary winner, Bob Klepinger. Klepinger, a first-time candidate with a populist bent, hasn't raised the $5,000 FEC threshold that triggers a finance report. Turner has already spent $592,044 on the race and has another $375,315 cash-on-hand.

The other district the DCCC should be trying to win is OH-14 (R+4), just east of Cleveland, a district Sherrod Brown won last cycle and where Obama narrowly lost both times. Blue America has endorsed Michael Wager and this is certainly the best shot the Democrats have for picking up a seat in Ohio-- or would have, if not for Steve Israel's foot-dragging and sabotage. Wager's progressive politics-- similar to Sherrod Brown's-- is not approved of by Israel, who has decided to put all the DCCC's power behind Ohio's Sarah Palin, right-wing, anti-Choice, anti-gay, pro-NRA, pro-fracking corporate shill Jennifer Garrison instead. He recruited her, facilitated an endorsement from his Blue Dog allies, and has funneled money into her pointless campaign, while urging donors yo not contribute to Wager. Her district, OH-06 is an impossible R+8 conservative bastion where Obama was beaten badly booth times.

Even without any help from the DCCC, Wager has raised nearly a million dollars, while Garrison, who has had Israel, Pelosi and Hoyer all campaigning for her, has raised only $571,064. She's the archetypal Steve Israel candidate and the OH-06 race explains why Pelosi's and Hoyers's disastrous decision to keep Israel on as DCCC chair after he botched the 2012 elections so badly, explains why 2014 is likely to be another catastrophe for the House Democrats.

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