Low interest, high stakes in House race to replace Boehner

WEST CHESTER, Ohio (AP) — The stakes are high, even if attention and interest are low.

Voters in six western Ohio counties will decide the successor in Congress to former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner in a special election Tuesday. Boehner’s decision to step down last year left a rare open seat in Ohio, where districts are incumbent-friendly and, in this case, one held by the incumbent nearly 25 years.

The March primary was a highly competitive campaign in which 15 Republicans ran dual races for nomination in the GOP-dominated district for the June 7 election to complete Boehner’s term and for the Nov. 8 election to the next Congress. Warren Davidson, an Army veteran and businessman, won both GOP nominations with about 32 percent of the vote in each.

The numbers are all in Davidson’s favor, in what should be a safe GOP seat in a state where all 16 incumbents won re-election in 2014. But unlike the high-profile primary with a ballot topped by presidential contenders including Ohio Gov. John Kasich and businessman Donald Trump, the Tuesday election is alone on the ballots.

“It’s very different in a lot of respects,” said Davidson said. He said that with less interest, “we’re really wrestling … to make sure people are aware of it.”

The Miami County resident, who had not previously won an election, ran as a conservative non-politician and topped two incumbent state legislators. He got boosts from the backing of GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and the conservative advocacy groups Club for Growth and FreedomWorks.

Davidson and low-key Democrat Corey Foister, 26, a childhood cancer survivor who says he can do something about issues facing the nation’s youth such as the high cost of education, offered contrasts during a recent forum at Miami University’s Hamilton event center.

Davidson spoke out strongly against abortion and new restrictions on gun ownership. Foister said he’s “pro-choice” and that more needs to be done to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Joyce Ferrell, 74, of Somerville, attended a candidates’ forum, admitting she knew little about the contenders and saying she was a bit wary of Davidson because of his outside backing. But she came away planning to vote for him.

“He was well-informed, and he stays focused on the issues,” Ferrell said. “I was very, very impressed.”

Davidson, 46, said he’s confident that he’s the kind of representative that the people of the district want.

But while he has a biographical campaign commercial running on cable TV, the district’s airwaves otherwise have been largely quiet about the race after weeks of frequent radio and TV commercials by the GOP primary candidates.

John Forren, a Miami University political scientist who has moderated forums in the House race, said the apparent low interest — turnout projections at best are for low double-digit percentages — leaves a door slightly cracked open for an upset.

“The fact is that we haven’t elected a person to office yet,” Forren said.

Also on the ballot is Jim Condit Jr., a frequent candidate running this year under the Green Party banner although Green Party members in Ohio have disavowed him.

Condit blames 9/11 on a conspiracy involving Israel to keep the United States involved in the Middle East and to take Americans’ freedoms away in the name of national security. He also has voiced suspicions about the accidental death in 2014 of James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat expelled from Congress after being convicted of taking bribes and kickbacks.


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