Saturday, October 21, 2000

Dems see 1st district as vital

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Democrats see the 1st Congressional District race between incumbent Republican Steve Chabot and Democratic challenger John Cranley as a political Little Big Horn — possibly, their last stand.

        If the Democrats don't recapture the seat they lost to Mr. Chabot and the GOP six years ago, they could wake up two years from now without an incumbent in a district that could contain a lot more Republican voters. It might be hard for a Democrat incumbent to hold on to such a seat, but a Democrat challenger to a Republican incumbent would have any even bigger task.

        Republicans in the Ohio Statehouse will control next year's re-drawing of Ohio congressional district lines and one of the items high on their agenda will be making the 1st District a lot safer for Mr. Chabot, who has never won with more than 53 percent of the vote.

        “We had it before and we can get it again,” said House Minority Whip David Bonior, D-Michigan, as he stumped for Mr. Cranley Friday at a lunch-hour rally of labor union members at the Letter Carriers Union Hall in Northside. “We'll get it back before (the Republicans) can do that.”

        In the 2001 redistricting that will be based on the new census numbers, the 1st District — which includes most of the city of Cincinnati and western suburbs — is likely to pick up a number of Republican areas in Hamilton County that are now in U.S. Rep. Rob Portman's 2nd Congressional District.

        Mr. Portman's district is considered one of the most Republican in the country. GOP leaders believe he can afford to give up some of his Republican votes to Mr. Chabot, who is in his third highly competitive re-election campaign. Two years ago, Mr. Portman won re-election with 76 percent of the vote.

        Democrats' hopes of winning the seat were not high early this year, when they settled on Mr. Cranley, a 26-year-old lawyer and Price Hill resident, as their candidate. He had never been on a ballot before. Two years earlier, a much better known candidate, then-Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls, failed to defeat Mr. Chabot.

        But the Cranley campaign has raised nearly $500,000 — far more than expected — and has $180,000 worth of TV ad time bought so far.

        “We'll be focusing resources on this race over the next two weeks,” Mr. Bonior said.


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