Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Republicans will run in all 99 districts

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Republicans will field candidates in all 99 Ohio House districts this year, rare in the 35 years since the current system of electing representatives was put into place, Speaker Larry Householder said in a memo to his caucus.

        Even though the GOP holds a 59-40 advantage over Democrats and had $3.1 million in its campaign bank at the end or last year, the Glenford Republican said he expects “this year to be the most difficult for our party since 1982.”

        The Republicanshave to work hard because of recent events that have unfolded while they have controlled state and national offices, Mr. Householder said.

        “With a struggling economy, unemployment on the rise and our troops overseas, the political environment will not be in our favor,” Mr. Householder said in the memo to House Republicans dated Friday.

        Adding to this year's elections are new district boundaries and term limits. Seven Republicans and two Democrats will lose their seats because of term limits, although that is nowhere near the 45 incumbents forced from the House in 2000, when the limits kicked in. The redrawn House districts contain 25 percent to 50 percent new territory, said Brett Buerck, chief of staff for the House Republicans.

        “You can't take any chances,” Mr. Buerck said. “You end up spending money in what were safe seats.”

        Mr. Householder claimed the Democrats had found candidates for only 88 districts. Minority Leader Dean DePiero did not dispute that, but Mr. DePiero added that he was recruiting Democrats to run as write-in or independent candidates.

        A candidate for the Ohio House can qualify as a major-party candidate in November by gaining 50 write-in votes in the May 7 party primary, as long as that person is the winner. The deadline for declaring a write-in candidacy is March 18. Independent candidates do not have to file until May 6.

        It's rare for one party to field candidates in every House district. The only time the Republicans have done it since the House was contracted in 1967 from 137 seats to 99 was in 1990.

        The Republicans who so far are unopposed by Democrats include Mr. Householder, Speaker Pro Tem Gary Cates of West Chester and Assistant Majority Floor Leader Stephen Buehrer of Delta, Mr. Householder said.

        John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron, said there are almost-safe seats for each party, but if a candidate stumbles, an opponent can take advantage of it.

        “Having a name on the ballot is psychologically important, but it's also important to have someone there if lightning strikes,” Mr. Green said.


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