By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer
As the nation watched for a tip in the balance of power in Congress, Southwest Ohio voters maintained heavy support for the Republican Party by re-electing three incumbents.
Voters also added Republican and former Dayton mayor Mike Turner to represent Dayton and northern Warren County.
U.S. Reps. Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park), Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) and John Boehner (R-West Chester) all handily defeated Democratic challengers. That means Greater Cincinnati politicians likely will continue to play high-profile roles on Capitol Hill.
Democrats credited Republican victories to incumbency, advantages of statewide redistricting by a GOP-controlled legislature, an overwhelming edge in campaign funds and an electorate more focused on possible war with Iraq than the struggling economy.
"You would think the economy would have been more of an issue, but people didn't vote their pocketbooks," said Tim Burke, Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman. "If people had been focused on the economy, the results might have been dramatically different."
Mr. Chabot defeated challenger Greg Harris 65 percent to 35 percent to win his fifth term. The 49-year-old from Westwood is expected to continue as one of the most strident anti-abortion voices in Congress, as well as a leader against pork-barrel spending and increased taxes.
Mr. Portman, who has risen to significant party leadership roles in Congress, beat challenger Charles Sanders 74 percent to 26 percent with 97 percent of 772 precincts reporting to win his sixth term.
Mr. Portman, 46, is chairman of the House GOP leadership and a liaison to the White House, and was recently named to a special committee to write the law to create the new Department of Homeland Security.
As long as Republicans control the House, Mr. Portman is expected to be a powerful figure in issues including homeland security, Social Security reform and Medicare policy on prescription drugs.
Mr. Boehner, another powerful figure who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, easily won re-election to his seventh term in Congress. He beat challenger Jeff Hardenbrook 71 percent to 29 percent.
Mr. Boehner, 52, enjoyed a national spotlight in January when President Bush traveled to Hamilton to sign a major education reform bill Mr. Boehner helped guide through Congress.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Republican Mike Turner, former mayor of Dayton, beat Democrat Rick Carne, former chief of staff for longtime Rep. Tony Hall, 59 percent to 41 percent.
The district includes Dayton and nearly all of Montgomery County, plus Mason, the northern half of Warren County and all of Clinton and Highland counties.
Mr. Hall resigned after holding the seat for more than two decades to accept a position as a U.N. ambassador. Mr. Turner benefited from state lawmakers redrawing the 3rd Congressional District to include more Republican-leaning areas.
The funding disparity in the three incumbent victories was staggering. Mr. Chabot had raised $505,526 through the end of June, compared with $5,820 for Mr. Harris.
Mr. Portman and Mr. Boehner have raised a combined $2.26 million, compared with about $10,000 each for their opponents. In fact, Mr. Portman and Mr. Boehner gave more than $350,000 of their campaign money to other Republicans this fall.
Links to Enquirer stories
Complete results for Greater Cincinnati elections